The 2015 Budget: Pork, sin and error pining
In this holy and joyous season of Advent, as if to mock our propensity to celebrate all that is good and wonderful, there are those who we’ve tasked to represent us who would continue with the deceit they’ve started early in the year and intend to continue deep into 2015 and beyond. As always, the devil is in the details. As we determine whether our officials might have been lying to us all along when they said that the recently passed General Appropriations Act (GAA) of 2015 and its supplemental budget do not contain any form of pork barrel allocation, it behooves us to check. After all, these are the same characters who first begged for our trust and our votes, and then just as soon as getting both, they went ahead and shafted us.
Only a public official totally devoid of principles would employ the Christmas rush to hide a nefarious act. In the congressional mill through which our national budget is woven and which might determine the mode and manner by which government operates in 2015 there is literal duplicity as there are effectively two budgets passed in congress – the official budget and its supplement; one declared pork-free, the other, fat, pork-laced and bloated. The first had taken months to pass amid controversies that took away our lawmakers full focus. The second, a scant few hours, or perhaps, to give solons the benefit of the doubt, one full day.
Pork barrels, lump sum allocations, patronage funds, doles and perhaps even election funds are being accumulated for the 2016 political exercise. Pork, sin and error pine and waste away our democracy. Let us remember that there are effectively two budgets passed by our honorable men and women of the legislature. The first is the GAA. The second is the Supplemental Budget. The first, Benigno Aquino III signed into law last December 23, 2014. The second has been passed, albeit sneaked in and likewise signed. When Aquino says that the budget is pork-free, he is only referring to the first GAA.
What a lie. It is on the second budget that we will focus our attention and scour for bits of pork. It appears that there are many. It is strange that the legislators with whom we entrust the duty to craft the budget and determine how our tax money is spent have missed these billions of allocations that fall under the definition of fat pork.
Of the Php 22.4 Billion in supplements within what is effectively an amendatory exercise despite its coming close on the heels of the GAA, approximately 13% (Php 2.8 Billion) in lump sum will go to the Department of the Interior and Local Governments (DILG) under the control of the Liberal Party’s presumptive candidate for 2016. Such detail is important given latent ambitions and the ever-present political zarzuela that plays non-stop before us. Note the applications.
The purported usage is for the “Operational Transformation” of the civilian police force. Given the rise in criminality under the present dispensation of the DILG this is important even where no explanations are available as to what this strange beast is. More important, however, is the provenance of such allocations that come at this time after the Supreme Court had ruled on the unconstitutionality and illegality of the generic pork barrel issue. The amount set to flow to the DILG was a former cross-border malversation originally denied under the DAP. It is hardly an economic stimulus much less a GDP driver.
Moving on to another humongous politically-motivated expenditure we see that nearly a tenth of the total supplements or Php 1.9 Billion will go to the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) to be used for targeting recipients for its cash dole-out program that was allocated Php 44 Billion in the GAA. There are legions of reasons for improving the identification process of the DSWD of those targeted for dole outs as there are legions more of leakages and multiple recipients. But an allocation of nearly two billion for administrative purposes that have no economic stimulus whatsoever and intended merely to fix operational incompetence is too high a price to pay especially where those accountable for the ineptitude are not dragged to court for criminal negligence and dereliction.
About the same amount or Php 1.85 Billion will go to completing payments from past PDAF projects under Aquino that have yet to achieve financial closure given that the whole PDAF jig was declared unconstitutional rather prematurely, or at least before the completion of old projects. Needless to say this is undeniably a PDAF expenditure. As the balance of the payments fall under the period after the SC ruling declaring the PDAF fundamentally unconstitutional then to pursue funding these using the 2015 Supplemental Budget can be construed as being in contempt of the SC ruling. To say the least.
The following can also be construed to either be in contempt of the SC ruling or are malicious attempts to skirt the statutory requisites required by the SC.
There are more of these in declining amounts albeit each substantial enough when we think of these supplemental expenditures as having been previously DAP allocations. One is an undefined lump sum amount of as much as Php 300 Million for the Department of Science and Technology. A second is a Php 250 Million amount for the completion of the House of Representatives archives and library. Another is a Php 240 Million humongous undefined allocation merely described as development assistance for Quezon Province. A fourth is Php 5.20 Million to transfer a couple of offices from the Quezon City government.
Note that to varying degrees all these violate our sensibilities. They all are DAP cross border transfers. They all are expenditures not identified by the recipient agency. They are all lump sum allocations. None are economic stimuli. None directly lead to GDP growth. None reduce unemployment and promote inclusive economic development. And finally, none are urgent.
By Dean de la Paz as originally posted on Blog Watch, Philippine Online Chronicles