Drilon bares Arroyo’s P13-B pork barrel in 2009 budget

By Carla Gomez
Visayas Bureau
First Posted 18:50:00 09/28/2008

BACOLOD CITY — Former Senate president Franklin Drilon bared on Sunday what he called a P13-billion pork barrel allocation for President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in the 2009 national budget proposal.

Drilon said the P13 billion was inserted into the social service sector budget.

The former senator said the funds to be placed at the President’s disposal consisted of cash assistance, rice subsidies, feeding and nutrition programs under the Department of Social Welfare and Development and the National Nutrition Council.

“It is like writing a blank check (in favor of the President),” said Drilon, currently the president of Liberal Party, who was here to speak in Saturday’s meeting of the Rotary Club of Bacolod Central.

Drilon said that under the 2009 proposed national budget currently being debated on in the House, the “Malusog na Simula, Yaman ng Bansa (Healthy Start, Wealth of the Nation)” Nutrition Program would get a lump sum of P4.3 billion.

A cash dole-out program called Pangtawid Pamilya Pilipino (Cash Subsidy for the Filipino Family) Program has been allocated P5 billion, also in lump sum, he said.

The budget would also include lump-sum allocations of P1 billion for a National Targeting System; P1 billion for the Kalayaan Barangay (Freedom Village) Program Fund; P1 billion for the Kilos Asenso (Movement for Progress) Support Fund; P375 million for the core shelter program; and P2.8 billion for the President’s calamity and contingent fund, he said.

Drilon warned the public that the Department of Agriculture, which has been mired in big-budget irregularities under the Arroyo government, has been allocated P7 billion for the Ginintuang Masagana Ani (Golden Bountiful Harvest) Program, or GMA, including P3.3 billion for fertilizers.

“This is the famous GMA rice and corn program which Jocjoc Bolante transformed into a P728-fertilizer scam during the 2004 election,” he pointed out.

Drilon also revealed allocations of P4.3 billion for farm to market roads, P12.5 billion for irrigation, and P9 billion for seeds, he said.

“The issue here is transparency and accountability. These are blatantly huge sum appropriations, where accountability becomes very difficult, especially considering that 2010 is an election year,” he said.

“There is so much discretion here that the President can use this to favor her political allies and to even to give them as dole outs for amendments to the Constitution,” he said.

Drilon called for a stop to this style of budgeting, which spawned the multi-million-peso fertilizer scam in 2004 that allegedly favored administration candidates and which has been continuing until today as what the Commission on Audit recently revealed.
“Fictitious foundations were made conduits in 2007 for releases of funds, resulting in massive corruption,” he said.

The issue of corruption has been hounding the Arroyo administration, he said, citing the recent survey of the Social Weather Station that placed the President’s popularity rating at negative 38 percent.

“To my mind this is due to corruption and blatant disregard of the rule of law,” he said.

Drilon also took note of a Makati Business Club study, which showed that as much as P29.5 billion in government capital spending was lost annually to corruption.

Citing reports of the World Bank and Transparency International, Drilon said retired Supreme Court Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban wrote that the “Philippines is perceived as the most corrupt in Asia and among the worst in the world.”

Drilon echoed Panganiban’s assessment that massive corruption in government has been aggravating poverty and social inequities in the country.

He cited the government’s Family Income and Expenditures Survey showing that no less than five million Filipino families have been living below the poverty line, compared to only four million Filipino families in 2003.

This means that for every 100 Filipinos, at least 33 are very poor, according to Drilon.

No less than 10 million of the country’s labor force is unemployed and underemployed today, and 7.5 million Filipinos are abroad for lack of employment opportunities in the Philippines, official figures cited by Drilon show.

The national budget, which has been pegged at P1.4 trillion for 2009, would be critical to solving poverty and it would be important for the public to be vigilant about where their taxes would go, the former senator said.

Drilon warned about the growing frustration, hopelessness and disappointment among the people because “nobody gets jailed for the well-documented corrupt deals” and the administration “consistently displayed a knack for ignoring the rule of law just to have a firm grip on power.”

This, he said, was manifested in the recent outcry over the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

Drilon has gone to the Supreme Court to question the legality of the MOA. The Supreme Court might decide on the case by next week, he said.


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