Fiscal dictatorship and pork in the 2015 Aquino budget

Written by Jaq Eroles, as originally posted at the Philippine Online Chronicles.

After the continuous exposes of corruption and year-long protests against pork barrel and Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) , a close attention into how the national budget will be allocated is now of the utmost importance.

2015 Budget as presented by Rep Antonio Tinio

Pork-like lump sum funds and increased executive control over the budget grew immensely unpopular due to sustained protests along with the Supreme Court decision declaring unconstitutional Aquino and Abad’s DAP.

Despite these blows on the “pious and incorruptible President,” the P2.06 trillion budget for 2015 has only whetted the appetite of Aquino and his allies for more pork. They were quick to approve the pork-laden budget that will allow for the fiscal dictatorship of Aquino on its second reading during the wee hours of September 27.

Congress is set to resume its deliberation on the budget on October 20.

Fiscal dictatorship

To accommodate and “legalize” DAP, Malacanang took the initiative to re-define “savings” long before the budget deliberations commenced in the House of Representatives.

By inserting vague qualifiers such as “non-commencement” and “unforeseen modifications,” Aquino tries to do away with the requirement of finality in the budget to expand his discretion over public funds, vastly clipping the congressional power of the purse.

The re-definition is not a simple matter of semantics. Aquino and Department of Budget and Management (DBM ) intends to expedite the re-alignment of funds and funnel these under their discretion. The purpose is to legalize the hijacking of the nation’s budget and overrule the power of the Congress over the public purse just like what they did with DAP.

Multi-billion pork funds

Meanwhile, a P501-billion budget is to be allocated as Aquino’s Special Purpose Fund (SPFs), a lump sum fund whose special purpose has not been defined. Its fine print, however, indicates that the said appropriation is meant to augment deficiencies in the appropriations for programs, projects, and activities under the Executive branch. Clearly, it is a multi-billion personal pork for Aquino.

Meanwhile, a total of P31.1 billion of lump-sum allocations for support to Local Government Units (LGUs) will be concentrated under the discretion of DILG Secretary Mar Roxas. Hailed as the most likely presidential candidate of the Liberal Party for 2016, Mar Roxas can get his hands on a 27.9 billion Special Shares from Proceeds of National Taxes, a P3 billion Local Government Support Fund (LGSF), a P2.8 billion allotment for Grassroots Participatory Budgeting (GPB) and a P200 million “financial assistance to support various priority programs and projects”.

Pork conduits and foreign investors are also to benefit from a P57.2 billion pork. There is a total of P30 billion for the Regulatory Management program, or the subsidy given to private contractors and investors to cushion the impact investment losses.

Agencies hailed as pork conduits will also have their respective lump sum funds for projects to be auctioned off through Private-Public Partnerships (PPP) and other programs that were recently found anomalous by the Commission on Audit. These agencies include the DPWH, DSWD, TESDA, DA and Department of Health.

New type of pork

A new way to milk the public funds dry in the guise of “inclusive” governance, the “Grassroots Participatory Budgeting” will be implemented in full swing.

grassroots particpatory budgeting process

Aside from the fact that billions of pesos under the GPB program will be routed to the DILG (Mar Roxas), those who will be allowed to participate in the process needs the approval and recognition of the National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC), chaired by Joel Rocamora of Aquino’s most favored party-list, Akbayan.

At the time of committee and plenary interpellations, several projects to be funded through GPB were still unidentified and disaggregated, rendering these as lump-sum funds that could be prone to misuse and abuse. The disaggregation of projects tagged as “various projects” translate to undefined programs and projects and could be funneled into the discretionary funds of Aquino with the savings and augmentation provisions of the budget.

Military pork

With the growing public discontent, for Aquino, it pays to pay the military. Aside from the usual budgetary allocations for the Department of National Defense (DND), NICA funds accorded for “intelligence” (P833 million) and “confidential” (P638 million), the total budget for military will amount to P41.27 billion. This budget includes the controversial PAMANA and KALAHI-CIDDS National Community-Driven Development Project that are being used for corruption and counter-insurgency programs.

Increase in Taxes and Government Debt

debt servicing 2015

The P2.06 trillion national budget for 2015 is based on ambitious projections of economic growth and increase in government revenues. Despite the absence of strong economic fundamentals, the government wants people to assume the same level of ‘growth’ as in the past years when US’ artificial stimulation of economy caused an influx of money for construction and real estate in the country.

The Aquino government also based the budget on the illusions of an increased revenue from P2.01 trillion to P2.34 trillion next year. Considering the yearly deficit, the government plans to increase revenues through the imposition of new taxes and higher non-tax collection, collections remitted to the Bureau of Treasury such as its own income, fees and charges, National Government shares and dividends and the sale of government assets.

The Aquino government plans to borrow P700.8 billion from local commercial banks and through concessional agreements with “development partners.” From this amount, P283.7 billion will be earmarked for the projected budget deficit in 2015. While P390.4 billion will be used to for the amortization of the principal of the outstanding national government debt.

Meager spending for social services

While the government plans to spend hundreds of billions on pork conduits and programs that do not benefit the people, the budget for social services remain scarce. Health, education, housing and other social services are being auctioned off to private entities through PPP contracts.

The 2015 budget is, ironically, themed “Paggugol na Matuwid: Kaunlaran para sa Lahat”. Aquino’s kapamilya, kaalyado, at kabarilan (KKK, Inc.) will be the beneficiaries of government spending. The budget remains favorable to Aquino’s purse, to his allies and wannabe allies, and to different local and foreign investors at the expense of the Filipino people.

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