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Wednesday, August 23, 2017 26° Cloudy

‘Pork’ issue raised anew in search for SUC funds

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For years before 2013, members of Congress allocated for themselves funds for their special projects, such as medical assistance to needy constituents, barangay halls, farm roads, health centers, even basketball courts.

The rationale was that the use of government funds need not be limited to big projects such as airports and seaports, municipal buildings, schools, and hospitals. The needs of small ordinary citizens, as relayed through their congressmen and mayors, may also get government funding. These small projects bring the people closer to the government; they also bring them closer to their officials, especially around election time.

In 2013, however, the Supreme Court ruled the concept of “pork barrel” – then carrying the name Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) – unconstitutional. The legislators’ role in government is to legislate; they should not be involved in implementation of approved projects.

Today, four years later, there is nothing marked PDAF in the National Budget. But around this time, when congressmen and senators study the proposed expenditures as listed by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), the planners of the executive department want Congress to approve their proposals with a minimum of change. Perhaps to make them more agreeable, legislators are invited to suggest some favorite project for inclusion in the budget somewhere – a schoolroom, perhaps, in the Department of Education budget or a small barrio bridge in the Department of Public Works and Highways budget.

Last Tuesday, Sen. Panfilo Lacson revived this old dispute over “pork barrel” when he told DBM Secretary Benjamin Diokno to use the “hidden” pork funds of legislators to fund the new free college education program of the government.

Lacson brushed off denials that there are no longer such funds. “Then why are legislators being asked to submit lists of their projects just before the period of amendments of the appropriation bill?,” he asked. Lacson said there are allocations totalling P29.3 billion intended for legislators’ projects in the proposed 2018 budget. This is more than enough to cover the P25 billion needed for free college education next year, he said.

Senator Lacson never accepted his own allotment – it was P200 million for senators and P70 million for congressman – in the old days of PDAF. Some of his colleagues in Congress today may not be ready to carry on without their pork in its new guise and may insist on the “SOP” devised by DBM. Then they must find, somewhere else in the bowels of the appropriation bill, the P25 billion needed for the new program of free college education.

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  • tarikan

    A rose in any other name is just as sweet…PDAF, DAP, SOP. PDutitits is just a smelly as PaNoT.

  • told youso55

    Where gov’t hides excess funding, continuation of Part – I
    & II commentary “WAYS GOV’T CAN PAY FOR FREE PUBLIC EDU.-SUCS. A
    refresher on those suggestions:

    1) Do not delay unfilled gov’t plantilla positions- prolonged no hire/no
    promotion of vacant positions is a common technicality resorted to accumulate
    office savings and divert gov’t budget, if you do, better use these excess
    funds for public education.

    2) Expand gov’t scholarship programs like that of DOST, AFP. Institutionalized
    in all gov’t offices as free schooling in return for gov’t service deal.

    3) Use generated income of gov’t offices charges/fees on public documents,
    registration, data etc., remitted to the National Treasury. These earnings
    should be re-purposed to the gov’t scholarship programs of the respective gov’t
    offices that earned them.

    4) Do away with pork barrel – no need to elaborate

    5) Transfer entire 4Ps budget to the free education program for the poor, it is
    a duplicate/redundant program of objectives anyway.

    6) Implement gov’t budget efficiency and austerity measures by correcting
    wasteful use of office resources/spending. Conduct individual spending audit
    using the yearly SALN as a pattern with cost per benefit analysis.

    7) Amended prohibition on gov’t officials to not only receive gifts (RA 6713),
    but expanded to include also using public funds to give gifts, particularly
    exorbitant or frivolous gifts, ex. election campaign T shirts/ tokens etc. The
    giving of gifts by gov’t is a bigger drain on public funds than we think.

    Other funding sources to be mentioned soon in Part – III of this commentary:

    8) The BBL

    9) Re-think the planned 20,000 PNP additional recruitment. Develop a PNP
    counterpart of the ROTC, call it College Criminology Cadet Training (CCCT). In
    exigencies, they are to be tapped as force multipliers, doing auxiliary
    para-police functions, station desk work/assistance, traffic management, police
    PR safety/talks, to juveniles in conflict with the law. Other mundane task like
    getting to know the neighborhood watch etc.

    10) The shotgun approach to corruption is not working out, prioritize
    prosecuting the top gov’t grafters first to sequester their assets. There must
    be a maximum benefit per effort objective in anti-corruption campaigns.
    Otherwise superficial objectives lead to superficial results.

    11) Raise taxes on the billionaire oligarchs, not on the poor/middle class.

    12) Lastly, solve the Php 2+Billion a day traffic problem that plagues the
    economy. There’s a do-able cost effective way that every expert in gov’t/urban
    management have overlooked. This will not produce the funding for socialized
    education directly but by indirectly revitalizing the national economy with a
    quick fix traffic solution we needed yesterday.

    To be fully outlined in the next and final part of this “free commentary”
    – “WAYS GOV’T CAN PAY FOR FREE PUBLIC EDU.-SUCS.”