Budget scheme reeks of pork, says watchdog
A budgeting scheme that allowed each lawmaker to identify pet projects worth up to P80 million in the proposed P3.35-trillion national budget for 2017 “reeked” of traditional politics, an economic watchdog said on Thursday.
Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC) said the government priority toward social development and the people’s welfare should be no excuse for the budgeting mechanism that resembled a “repackaged” pork barrel system.
“The proposed 2017 national budget, with its provision for lawmakers to identify projects for budgetary funding, reeks of traditional or ‘trapo’ politics that perpetuate patronage relations between public officials and their constituents,” FDC vice president James Matthew Miraflor said.
In a statement, Miraflor said the legislature must not undermine by mere technicalities the Supreme Court decision striking down the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), which previously allowed senators and congressmen to control discretionary funds after the enactment of the budget law.
He said members of Congress should also be aware of the distinct and separate roles of the executive and legislative branches of government.
“The Duterte administration must stop in its attempt to further weaken the integrity of the budget process just to ensure the loyalty of its allies in Congress and maintain the ‘supermajority’ through political favors involving public funds,” Miraflor said.
FDC criticized Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno for defending the P80-million allocation for each legislator and for claiming it was different from pork barrel as it did not involve any post-enactment intervention.
The group was not convinced by Diokno’s explanation.
“Instead of trying to go around constitutional restrictions, members of the Development Budget Coordinating Council and backers of this repackaged PDAF should look into improving the budget formulation process,” it said.
“There must be something wrong with the government’s priorities and allocations if they still have to set aside a substantial portion of the budget and leave this to the discretion of members of Congress,” Miraflor said.
“Otherwise, it’s pure and simple accommodation to the whims and caprices of the trapos in our midst,” he said.
Sen. Panfilo Lacson also slammed the budget mechanism that allowed House members to propose their respective projects worth P80 million.
Per Lacson’s estimate, up to P24 billion has been made available for lawmakers’ projects.
He said it did not matter whether the projects were proposed pre- or post-enactment. “What’s important here is that the legislator should not meddle with the function of the executive,” he said.
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