MANILA, Philippines – Vice President Jejomar Binay on Wednesday asked Congress to scrap the P200 million budget included in next year’s proposed allocation for his office for local projects.
“Effective today, I am formally asking Congress to remove from the 2014 budget of the Office of the Vice President the P200 million appropriation for locally funded projects,” Binay said in a statement in Filipino read by his chief of staff, Benjamin Martinez Jr. during the budget deliberations by the Senate committee on finance.
“I am aware that my decision will affect some projects like scholarships for the poor but intelligent students, medicines for those in need, and the construction of a building for senior citizens. But I know that our people will understand.”
Binay, who was not present at the hearing, said he decided to give up the fund amid his call for the executive department to determine whether or not the P200 million budget was considered “pork barrel” funds.
“This is to avoid speculation and politicking on this issue,” he said.
“I am hopeful that with this decision, I can send a message to our people that we in government are always listening to them and that we’re committed to serve faithfully, truthfully and with conviction,” Binay said.
While giving up the fund, Binay said the use of the P200 million allocation has been scrutinized by the Commission on Audit.
He said the fund did not only pass the scrutiny of COA but the OVP was also praised for its prudent use of the amount.
Martinez said the P200 million allottment to the OVP in 2011 came from the unutilized priority PDAF of President Benigno Aquino III when he was still senator and incorporated in the office’s regular budget under the line item locally funded projects.
Even Senator Francis “Chiz” Escudero, chairman of the committee, found the P200 million in Binay’s office “unique” as it was the only office which specifically states that the use of such amount should follow the PDAF menu and rules.
“Actually, this is the first time I saw such provision,” Escudero said in Filipino.
The senator then asked Martinez if the OVP would like the amount to be deducted from its proposed P414 million budget next year or just realign it for other purposes.
Escudero though said he would prefer to have the amount deducted from the proposed P2.268 trillion national budget for 2014 to avoid any doubts or suspicion that the fund would be realigned to other agencies.
The lone senator present in the hearing then moved to approve the budget proposal of the OVP and recommended this for plenary actions.