28 AUGUST 2009

Makati Mayor and United Opposition (UNO) president Jejomar C. Binay today said Mrs. Arroyo should set the example and also cut her own “presidential pork barrel” in the proposed 2010 budget.

“If Malacanang says senators and congressmen should give up a portion of their pork barrel to tame the deficit, then it follows that Mrs. Arroyo should set the example and also cut her own pork barrel,” he said.

Binay said Malacanang should be transparent enough and reveal how much has been earmarked as “presidential pork” in the 2010 budget.

In the 2009 budget, Binay said a study made by the Alternative Budget Initiative (ABI) showed that Mrs. Arroyo was allotted P835.97-billion in “pork barrel” funds.

Assuming that Mrs. Arroyo’s pork barrel remains unchanged, Binay said cutting the amount by half would provide windfall savings of around P418 billion to the deficit-ridden administration.

“Malacanang doesn’t have to look beyond the Office of the President for savings. Even if we assume that Mrs. Arroyo will receive the same pork barrel funds for 2010, slashing it in half would easily give the administration almost P418 billion in savings,” he said.

Quoting the ABI study, Binay said the 2009 budget did not contain details on how Mrs. Arroyo’s pork barrel funds will be disbursed and for what purpose. Malacanang, he said, should provide Congress a detailed list of how she intends to disburse her pork barrel in 2010.

“When you have such an amount to be disbursed at Mrs. Arroyo’s discretion during the election period, we can expect a repeat of the misuse of funds reported during the presidential 2004 election,” he said.

The ABI study of the 2009 budget showed that Mrs. Arroyo’s Special Purpose Fund and unprogrammed funds alone total to P835.97 billion.

The opposition leader noted that such funds are released solely on the discretion of Mrs. Arroyo. “Unlike PDAF which are covered by guidelines, the disbursement of Mrs. Arroyo’s pork barrel is totally left to her discretion,” he said.

And while legislators are entitled to PDAF, Binay said the “disbursement has been tainted by politics that only those who have professed loyalty to Malacanang are given priority in fund release.”

“Whether its pork barrel or the Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) of local governments, Malacanang considers these public funds as the personal kitty of Mrs. Arroyo which she disburses in return for political loyalty,” he said.

Budget Secretary Rolando Andaya Jr. had said the allocation for legislators’ Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) – referred to as pork barrel funds – has been slashed by almost 30 per cent, from P9.666 billion in 2009 to P2.725 billion in 2010.

Binay also said the ABI study showed that Mrs. Arroyo’s SPF totaled to P760 billion or 56 percent of the 2009 budget and contains lump sum funds which are subject to the discretion of the president. The unprogrammed funds, meanwhile, totaled P75.97 billion.


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