Aquino: Is anybody talking about misuse of President’s Social Fund?

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President Benigno Aquino III INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

President Benigno Aquino III on Wednesday scoffed at calls for the abolition of the President’s Social Fund (PSF) that is used to aid families of slain soldiers and policemen, but he vowed to account for the fund.

Mr. Aquino said the calls were puzzling because the PSF, which comes from the revenues of a state gaming corporation and not from the people’s taxes, wasn’t being misused.

“Have you noticed that nobody’s talking about the misuse of the President’s Social Fund? But they’re asking that it be stopped. You don’t understand what’s the logic there,” he told reporters on the sidelines of the East Asia Conference on Competition Law and Policy at Sofitel Philippine Plaza Hotel in Pasay City.

Besides, the President said, he was tapping the PSF to provide assistance to the spouses and children, especially those of school age, of soldiers and policemen who were wounded or killed in combat or in an anticrime campaign.

 

Where it goes

Part of it also goes to pay for the hospitalization of the wounded officers and men, and to fund the education of the children of the slain soldiers and policemen, he said.

But given the strident calls for its abolition, Mr. Aquino said he would instruct the Presidential Management Staff to disclose details of where it was spent and how much of it remained.

After all, this has been “prudently spent,” he added.

The abolition of the PSF was among the calls made by some of the tens of thousands who converged at Manila’s Rizal Park on Monday to rail against misuse of the pork barrel fund.

Line-item budgeting

The President announced the abolition of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), a pork barrel, on Aug. 23 but failed to stop the mammoth rally on Aug. 26.

He said the PDAF would be replaced by line-item budgeting in which lawmakers would identify their pet projects.

Public outrage boiled over in the wake of newspaper and state auditors’ reports about the large-scale misuse of the lump sum fund at the disposal of senators and members of the House of Representatives over the years.

Malacañang earlier said that the PSF should not be treated as a pork barrel because it was not part of the national budget but was mainly funded by revenues from the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp.

The President reiterated that the special purpose fund, estimated at P450 billion in the proposed P2.268-trillion national budget for 2014, could be itemized to a point.

“We’re open to that,” he said. “But then, for instance, how do you itemize the calamity fund before the calamity strikes? You should have a standby fund for any disaster that, of course, we can’t predict.”

The President also defended the role of lawmakers to scrutinize the national budget proposed by the executive department as part of the system of checks and balances.

“I hope I got your question right. I have heard proposals to remove the role of Congress in the budget,” he said. “That’s in the Constitution. If you remove that and perhaps entrust that to me, that means there’s trust in me. Thank you.”

“But what if my successor is abusive? Where’s the check and balance? That’s the role of Congress. Not one person dictates. And the representative should represent the interest of his constituents,” he added.

Under the Constitution, the three main branches have “division of powers” to insulate the system of checks and balances from abuse, Mr. Aquino said.

Originally posted at 09:20 pm | Wednesday, August 28, 2013

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