Senators eye P300-M pork to be sourced from savingsBy Gil C. Cabacungan
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Senators are setting their sights on getting P100 million each in extra pork this year, on top of the P200 million they are already getting in annual pork barrel allocations, or the priority development assistance fund (PDAF).
Sen. Franklin Drilon said a number of senators were looking to get additional fund allocations for their pet projects. He did not say how much the senators would get in extra pork.
But one senator who asked not to be named said most of his colleagues were looking forward to getting up to P100 million.
Drilon did not see anything wrong with senators getting additional pork as he said the funds would be sourced from the savings of the Senate this year.
Besides, the money would be used to fund “meaningful” projects nationwide which would benefit a wider population, he said.
“Any senator can ask for additional funds on top of their pork barrel but this is subject to the approval of President Aquino,” said Drilon.
Drilon could not say how much savings the Senate had generated this year. Based on the General Appropriations Act of 2012, the Senate has a budget of P2.853 billion of which P1.3 billion was for personnel services and P1.462 billion for maintenance and other operating expenses.
The reported grant of extra pork came after senators voted to oust Chief Justice Renato Corona in March and approved the sin tax bill earlier this week, right in the midst of the crucial vote on the reproductive health bill—to mention three of Malacañang’s most desired outcome from the Senate.
Not an entitlement
Budget Secretary Florencio Abad Jr. stressed that the extra pork was not an “entitlement” since the additional funds would not only need a clearance from Malacañang but also would be subject to the availability of funds.
But he said no senator had so far made a request for additional pork.
“As far as I know, no senator has received more than the P200 million each is allocated as PDAF,” Abad said.
As for the unused annual pork allocations of Senators Panfilo Lacson and Joker Arroyo who have consistently declined to touch their P200 million PDAF, Abad said the Senate could not declare these unused PDAF as savings and divide it among the rest of the senators.
That is, unless Lacson and Arroyo give their go-ahead for the other senators to divide their unused PDAF, he said.
But the budget secretary said the government could certainly put the two senators’ unused PDAF to good use.
“If left unused, the unused PDAF will bring down the deficit by the [same] amount. That’s good for our fiscal consolidation program,” he said.
The senators’ plan to utilize as savings the unused portion of their budget is similar to the judiciary’s practice of using their excess funds arising from money allotted for new job positions that went unfilled that year.
Ironically, Abad’s budget department frowned on this budgetary practice of the judiciary. Its attempt to transfer the allocation for unfilled positions in the judiciary in the 2012 budget triggered protests from judiciary employees last year.
Abad had proposed the establishment of a Miscellaneous Personnel Benefit Fund (MPBF) where all the unused hiring funds not only of the judiciary but also the Congress, the Commission on Elections, Commission on Audit, Office of the Ombudsman and the Civil Service Commission would be collected. The MPBF would be under the control of the President.
The bicameral conference committee vetoed the MPBF mainly because of fears that it would undermine the fiscal autonomy of these institutions.
DBM records showed that eight senators have PDAF releases of at least P200 million this year—Pia Cayetano with P260.185 million (P127.061 million continuing funds from last year’s allocation); Antonio Trillanes IV with P253.591 million (P53.591 million continuing funds ); Teofisto Guingona III with P224.4 million (P37 million continuing funds ); Francis Pangilinan with P222.85 million (P33 million continuing funds ); Gregorio Honasan; Lito Lapid; Miriam Defensor-Santiago; and Vicente Sotto III (each with P200 million).
If the senators get the P100 million extra pork, they will be able to use the funds into the next year, which is, crucially, an election year.