Nancy: P300M requested after NHA programs got zero budget

The amount was requested not just by Senator Binay but other senators as well – after the DBM allotted nothing to 3 housing programs for 2014

'NO REALIGNMENT.' Senator Nancy Binay says the additional P300 million given to the NHA in the 2014 budget was not a realignment of pork barrel funds but was her "amendment" to the 2014 budget. File photo by Cesar Tomambo/Senate PRIB

MANILA, Philippines – How do you define “pork barrel”?

The question again came up as Senator Nancy Binay faces criticism for allegedly “realigning” P300 million in “pork barrel” to the National Housing Authority (NHA), where her father Vice President Jejomar Binay is chairman. 

Reacting to a Philippine Star report, Binay admitted that she proposed giving an additional P300 million to the NHA in the 2014 budget. Yet she denied that it was a “realignment” or “augmentation” or that the money was her pork barrel.

Binay said the amount was her proposed amendment to the 2014 budget prepared by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), which gave zero budget to the NHA’s 3 programs: resettlement, emergency housing, and settlement upgrading. She said she made the proposal during the period of amendments.

She stressed that the money was not pork barrel because she asked that the Senate delete her P200 million Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) allocation from the 2014 budget, along with 14 other senators.

The senator took exception to the report titled, “Nancy Binay realigns P300M ‘pork’ to NHA.”

“Disaster is the new norm so [a zero budget] will remove the NHA’s capacity to respond to the housing needs of typhoon victims, that’s why I proposed the amendment,” Binay said on Monday, February 10.

The senator dismissed questions of propriety relating to her amendment. 

“During the campaign, lagi ko namang sinasabi na one of my advocacies is housing. That’s close to my heart. I know the concerns of that sector. Porque lang my father is in charge of it, ginagawan na nila ng issue,” she added.

(During the campaign, I always said that one of my advocacies is housing. Just because my father is in charge of it, they are making an issue out of it.)

Senate finance committee chairman Francis Escudero, who supported Binay’s amendment, said the P300 million was sourced from the Miscellaneous Personnel Benefit Funds (MPBF) or lump sum allocations for pensions and new hires in government.

‘Restoring budget in past years’

The Star report said, “According to a key member of the House of Representatives appropriations committee, all realignments in the national budget are considered as pork barrel of their authors.”

Binay and Escudero though said that the additional funds were not a realignment, and were necessary for the NHA.

Escudero said Binay’s amendment was meant to “restore” the NHA budget for the 3 programs, which were funded in past years.

“In fact, in past years, the funding [for these programs] was P3 billion to P5 billion, which was removed and made zero in 2014. We just restored at least the indicative amounts so that in case the President needs to realign items in the budget during calamities, he can do so,” Escudero told reporters.

Escudero and Binay said the “restored” amount was lower than the past P3 billion to P5 billion because this was the only amount the finance committee could accommodate.

“The finance committee told me they cannot afford to give P3 billion so just P300 million. They asked if I could amend my proposed amendments in the budget to make it P300 million instead,” Binay said.

Asked why the DBM gave the 3 programs zero budget if they were funded in previous years, Escudero said, “It’s not for me to answer that, it’s for the DBM to answer that. We also just saw that in the budget.”   

Why a lower budget for NHA?

Binay said that she made the proposal after the DBM refused to give the NHA its proposed 2014 budget of P21.373 billion. Instead, the department only gave the agency a budget of P11.251 billion. She added that in 2013, the NHA had a budget of P10.5 billion.

Besides Binay, other minority senators like Vicente “Tito” Sotto III and Gregorio Honasan II proposed the amendment to the NHA budget.

Senator Jinggoy Estrada, also of the Senate minority, had questioned the DBM’s decision to give zero budget to the 3 NHA programs.

During the budget deliberations in November, Estrada accused the administration of playing politics. He contrasted the NHA’s zero budget for relocation in Metro Manila to the interior departments’ P1.2 billion budget for housing program for informal settlers. (READ: Nancy Binay questions Mar Roxas’ housing program)

Vice President Binay’s political rival is interior secretary Manuel “Mar” Roxas II, who will reportedly be the administration candidate in the 2016 presidential election. Binay has long announced his presidential ambition. 

Estrada said then, “Ano ba ang ibig palabasin ng gobyernong ito? They do not want the NHA to succeed? …. Eh function ng NHA ito, hindi naman function ng DILG ito. Just because Vice President Binay and Secretary Mar Roxas are at odds with each other, papaboran ‘yung isa?”

(What does the government want to show? This is the NHA’s function, not the DILG’s. Just because Vice President Binay and Secretary Mar Roxas are at odds with each other, they will favor the other?)

In January, Estrada drew flak for realigning his P200 million PDAF to the city of Manila, where his father former President Joseph Estrada is now mayor. Senator Antonio Trillanes IV called the move “shameless.” Estrada also faces a plunder complaint for allegedly pocketing pork barrel funds. 

Do you think Binay’s amendment is justified or improper? Let us know in the comments section below. – Rappler.com 

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