Members of the Senate minority lament what they call the noncompliance of government agencies with the oversight requirement for projects funded from the pork barrel—a lapse that they say has resulted in opposition members getting “pilloried and scorned by the media and by the public.”
In a statement, the Senate minority led by Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile said the current General Appropriations Act (GAA) and those for previous years provide for the channeling of Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) allocations to nongovernment organizations (NGOs).
Guidelines not followed
The statement, issued on Wednesday, said the national budget provisions also tasked government agencies and local governments with ensuring that the NGOs that will handle the billions of pesos in pork barrel funds are legitimate.
“Precisely, the provisions of the budget law have already established the parameters within which our PDAF must be implemented by the concerned government agencies. Unfortunately, however, these guidelines and standards were evidently not followed,” the statement said.
“It is even more unfortunate that members of the Senate minority group have been pilloried and scorned by the media and by the public for this lapse in the implementation of the law,” it said.
The Senate minority is made up of Enrile, Deputy Minority Leader Vicente Sotto III and Senators Jinggoy Estrada, Gregorio Honasan II, JV Ejercito and Nancy Binay.
Enrile, Estrada and Honasan have figured in the Commission on Audit (COA) report presented by COA chair Grace Pulido-Tan to the Senate blue ribbon committee two weeks ago.
Along with Sen. Ramon Revilla Jr., the three were said to have endorsed their PDAF entitlements to dubious NGOs, including those of alleged scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles.
The minority cited the COA report that said “NGOs are not included among the IAs [implementing agencies] of the PDAF as identified in the GAA, hence, such transfers are without legal basis.”
COA report wrong
Members of the Senate minority said they wanted to point out that the COA report is wrong.
“General Appropriations Acts of previous years and even the GAA of the current year contain provisions allowing the transfer of funds to civil society organizations, nongovernment organizations, and people’s organizations, subject to certain conditions,” the minority statement said.
It said the practice of allowing NGOs to participate in the implementation of government projects was first introduced in 2007, when a special provision in the budget of the Department of Education was inserted to “encourage the participation of nongovernment organizations in the construction of school buildings….”
Not legislators’ responsibility
The minority also cited the 2009 GAA that said, “The government agency and local government units shall ensure that the nongovernment organizations and people’s organizations that they deal with are legitimate.”
It added that 2013 GAA also requires the liquidation of at least 70 percent of the latest fund transfer received by the NGOs, before additional fund transfers are made to them.
“The above-mentioned provisions clearly support our stand that, first, the transfer of funds to NGOs does have legal basis; and, second, that it is not the responsibility of the legislators to ascertain the legitimacy of the NGOs that the IAs work with in the implementation of our projects,” the minority statement said.
“That burden falls on the IAs and the local government units concerned as provided by law,” it added.