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Did Aquino ‘veto’ Jinggoy Estrada’s controversial P200-M pork barrel?

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President Benigno Aquino III. AP FILE PHOTO

President Benigno Aquino III may have effectively vetoed the P200 million in pork barrel funds under the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) that Sen. Jinggoy Estrada realigned to the local governments of Manila, Caloocan and Lal-lo, Cagayan province.

The President placed under “conditional implementation” the amendment introduced by Estrada—containing the provision realigning Estrada’s P200 million PDAF to the three LGUs—in the budget, or the General Appropriations Act of 2014.

Explaining his reason for doing so in his veto message, Mr. Aquino said the earmarking of specific appropriations for selected LGUs “may not be consistent” with the objectives and prioritization of the Local Government Support Fund.

“I hereby direct the DBM [Department of Budget and Management] to issue the guidelines in the equal availment of the fund by the LGUs,” he said.

“National government support ought to be responsive to the actual requirements of LGUs in the interest of genuine local development,” Mr. Aquino said.

Estrada’s insertion went into a lump-sum item in the budget called the Allocation to Local Government Units (ALGU), specifically in the ALGU facility known as the Local Government Support Fund.

Budget Secretary Florencio Abad was noncommittal when asked whether the allocation to the three LGUs would be released at all, except to say that Estrada should first justify his choice of LGUs.

Abad said “conditional implementation” was “not necessarily” a presidential veto.

“That’s why the amendment was placed under ‘conditional implementation,’” he said.

“(We) will have to confer with the legislators to understand the underlying legislative intent. Remember, this was their amendment,” he said.

Marikina Rep. Romero Quimbo said, however, that the President had effectively vetoed Estrada’s realignment of his PDAF.

“To me, that’s effectively a veto,” said Quimbo, a member of the ruling Liberal Party (LP).

According to Quimbo, Mr. Aquino was clear in his veto message to Congress on Dec. 20, the day the President signed the budget.

“(The veto message) says if conditions are not met—that, in effect, is a veto,” he said.

Caloocan City Rep. Edgar Erice said that what the President did with Estrada’s budget insertion was “a brilliant move.”

The President’s decision not to veto Estrada’s realignment but instead place it on “conditional release” was the best he could do under the circumstances,” said Erice, a member of the LP.

“I think President Aquino did the right thing by putting conditions for its release such as the details of the expense to provide transparency. The President does not want to be seen as intervening in the budget process which is Congress’ turf. It’s a brilliant move,” the congressman said.


Constitutional but…

On Thursday, Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma explained that allocations given “conditional” approval would need to be “justified” first by the LGU or implementing agencies.

While Estrada’s realignment to the three LGUs was “constitutional since it’s part of Local Government Support Fund,” the President directed the DBM to “issue guidelines on the use of the fund,” so the funds would be distributed equitably to all LGUs, Coloma said.

The President wants that “it will not be seen as favoring certain constituents,” he said.

Estrada yesterday said Manila should not be treated differently just because his father, deposed president and convicted plunderer Joseph Estrada, is the mayor of the city.

“Why discriminate just because the mayor is my father? It’s on record that Manila is deep in debt,” he said.

However, he said he was deferring to the executive department whether or not to withhold the funds.

“That’s their call,” he said. With a report from TJ Burgonio

First posted 1:35 am | Saturday, January 11th, 2014

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Tags: Benigno Aquino III , Cagayan province , Caloocan , General Appropriations Act of 2014 , Jinggoy Estrada , Lal-lo , Manila , PDAF , Pork barrel , pork barrel funds , pork barrel scam , President Aquino , Priority Development Assistance Fund , Senator Estrada , veto , “conditional implementation”

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