MANILA - A lawmaker on Thursday said the office of President Rodrigo Duterte, who plans to run for Vice President next year, has a P385 billion worth of alleged “pork barrel war chest” in its proposed 2022 budget.
Gabriela Party-list Rep. Arlene Brosas made the claim during the interpellation on the Office of the President’s proposed 2022 budget at the House of Representatives.
“The Office of the President is sitting on a P385.77 billion pork barrel war chest in the run-up to the 2022 elections, which means that a sizeable chunk of the P5-trillion proposed budget are discretionary funds of the President," she said.
“Kasama rito ang iba’t ibang pork variants tulad ng Special Purpose Funds, at mga alokasyon sa iba’t ibang executive offices. Pork barrel variants ito na ikakalat kapag malapit na ang eleksiyon at tiyak na pagmumulan din ng korapsyon," Brosas added.
She said the P10-billion Growth Equity Fund (GEF), P28.1 billion barangay development fund of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, and the P206 billion budgetary support to government-owned and controlled corporations (BSGC) comprise the "pork barrel" fund.
“Nakakalula ang mga numero... Pero hindi naman ito direktang tutugon sa pandemya at krisis na kinakaharap natin ngayon," Brosas said.
(The figures are overwhelming... But these will not directly address the pandemic and the crisis we are facing now.)
“This is the true legacy of the President: billions of pork thrown away for electioneering while crumbs are made to fit for pandemic response programs as Filipinos reel from disease and widespread hunger," she said.
Zamboanga del Norte 1st District Rep. Romeo Jalosjos, who defended the Office of the President's P8.18 billion proposed budget for 2022, told Brosas to go to the Department of the Interior and Local Government and the Development Budget Coordinating Committee after she asked for details on how the GEF will be spent.
“Although kasama siya sa aming ahensiya, pero 'di po kasama ang budget ... ang desisyon po, ang pondo po ay nasa DILG,” he said.
“The GEF shall be released to the LGUs in accordance with the IRR to be prescribed by the DBCC. It shall be subject to the mechanism and guidelines,” he added.
Brosas however pointed out that the National Expenditure Program does not itemize recipient local government units.
”Lump sum fund siya. Paano kayo nakakatitiyak na 'yan 'yung mga kailangan ng LGU? Wala po in-identify sa NEP na LGU so therefore di natin alam kung kanino ito ibibigay," she pointed out.
“Ibig sabihin, may kinalaman sa devolution pero walang listahan, tapos wala din yung infrastructure projects [na] sinasabi diyan and you're telling me itanong ito sa (Department of Budget and Management) mamaya?” she said.
The DBM is a member of the DBCC.
“The list or the answer is nasa DBM," Jalosjos insisted.
Brosas then asked if there is any guarantee that the funds will not be used for the election campaign.
Jalosjos in response said that there are criteria for the use of the funds, which is with the DBM.
Brosas was unconvinced.
"Growth equity fund, lump sum appropriation siya sa proposed budget. Kaya po, eto talaga 'yung kwestyon namin. Akma kasi tawagin talaga ito na "greater election fund" for pandagdag sa suhol para makuha ng boto kung saka-sakali ang Pangulo sa mga manok niya sa election kasi this will be under the OP," she said.
Duterte's allies in the House earlier rushed his office's budget through committee deliberations to the dismay of opposition lawmakers.
He has certified the necessity of the 2022 national budget bill, allowing the House of Representatives to approve it on second, and final reading Thursday.
Duterte invoked Article 6, Section 25 of the Constitution in issuing the certification which would waive the 3 days usually required before chambers of Congress approve a bill on final reading after approving on 2nd reading.
Kabataan Rep. Sarah Elago, in a tweet, slammed the apparent rush in approving the budget as contained in House Bill 10153.
"Para saan pa ang mga pagdinig kung minamadali at wala ng panahong makapagtulak ng mga amyenda batay sa mga deliberasyon? Tinatanggalan tayo ng pagkakataon na ilaban pa ang pondo para sa kalusugan, ayuda, ligtas na balik eskwela, kabuhayan, imbes na pasismo, pork, at pamumulitika!" she wrote.