‘Pork’ back in budget, hints solon
Pork barrel-like “lump sum” appropriations are back in the P3.767-trillion proposed budget for 2018, an activist lawmaker said on Tuesday.
In examining the Department of Health (DOH) budget, ACT Teachers Rep. Antonio Tinio cited what he called “centralization of funds” for vital programs of the DOH that would suffer nearly a 100-percent cut next year.
Health Secretary Paulyn Jean Ubial told lawmakers during Monday’s budget hearing that this was a result of an instruction of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to centralize funds for the “soft component” of these programs, such as training and seminars, into one lump sum item for “Public Health Management Program.”
Tinio said this was a reversal of previous government policies geared toward line-item budgeting.
Reversal of efforts
“This centralization of funds previously broken down in specific programs into a single lump sum is a reversal of efforts towards itemized budgeting since the pork barrel system became an issue in the past administration,” he said in a statement.
“This is also a complete turnaround of the stand of [Budget Secretary Benjamin] Diokno. He was a vocal critic against lump sums in the previous administrations but now that he is in the helm of the DBM, he resorts to the same practice,” Tinio said.
The Makabayan bloc member said vital health programs would suffer 99.55-percent cuts in 2018 “in the face of the continuing practice of lump sum budgeting.”
This was on top of the 28.45 percent reduction in the maintenance and other operating expenses (MOOE) for the 66 regional and special hospitals nationwide.
Other “drastic cuts” identified by Tinio in the MOOE included the following:
Epidemiology and disease surveillance (from P14.2 billion this year to P63.7 million next year, down by 99.55 percent); environmental and occupational health (from P74.9 million to P3.7 million, 95.01 percent); noncommunicable diseases prevention and control (from P2.2 billion to P381.7 million, 82.81 percent);
Elimination of diseases as public health threat such as malaria, schistosomiasis, leprosy and filiariasis (from P894.7 million to P372.5 million, 58.37 percent), and prevention and control of other infectious diseases including HIV-AIDS, dengue, food and water-borne diseases (from P1.97 billion to P1.69 billion, 13.9 percent).
“We in Congress and the public in general are not shown the specifics of this lump sum so we also can’t see later on if these funds are spent for whatever they are intended,” Tinio said.