MANILA, Philippines – Shots were fired against Interior Secretary Manuel “Mar” Roxas II on Wednesday, August 27, during the House hearing on his department’s proposed 2015 budget.
Responding to questions, Roxas affirmed at the DILG budget hearing that the administration’s Grassroots Participatory Budgeting Process (GPBP), a “bottom up” approach to budget allocation, is free from politics.
“No political color,” said Roxas. GPBP is designed to allow local government units (LGUs) to decide on projects in their areas after consultation with communities and civil society organizations.
But Roxas’ answer failed to convince ACT Teachers party-list Representative Antonio Tinio.
He grilled Roxas over “various projects” listed under the GPBP and the P5-billion ($114.5 million*) increase in the DILG Office of the Secretary’s proposed 2015 budget.
“Patuloy kong kukuwestiyonin ang times 10 na increase sa office of the Secretary ng DILG…na P5 billion ang idinagdag. Malinaw na ang papel lang ng DILG dito ay siya ang tagapagmudmod sa iba’t ibang LGUs sa bansa,” said Tinio.
(I will continue to question the 10-fold increase for the budget of the DILG’s Office of the Secretary where P5 billion was added. It’s clear that the department’s role here is just to fund the LGUs.)
The DILG has a P104.571-billion proposed budget for 2015. Tinio questioned why there was a decrease in the budget of the Philippine National Police but a 56.2% increase in the Office of Secretary’s budget under the 2015 proposal.
The DILG is the fourth highest-funded department under the proposed 2015 budget.
“Kung ang DAP (Disbursement Acceleration Program) ay tinatawag nating presidential pork barrel, itong P5.7 billion na ito tatawagin kong ‘presidentiable pork barrel,’” Tonio added.
(If the DAP is called the presidential pork barrel, I’ll call this the presidentiable pork barrel.)
Roxas, president-on-leave of the ruling Liberal Party, is the LP’s presumed standard-bearer for the 2016 elections.
Tonio’s comment elicited laughter from officials and media in the hall. Roxas thanked Tonio for his questions but denied he would use the funds to his advantage.
“Itong mga projects na ito, hindi DILG namimili. Mga mamayanan. Mga tao, mga LGUs. Wala pong itinatago dito kaya nilalabas itong lahat. Pwede niyong tignan sa papel, sa Internet….Puwede ‘nyong suriin kung ano ba talaga rito ang nararapat o hindi,” said Roxas.
(The DILG does not choose these projects. It’s the people, the LGUs. We are not hiding anything here and that’s why it’s all out in the open. You can check the paperwork, the Internet. You can check which projects are justified and which aren’t.)
Roxas added: “Bahala kayong tanggalin ‘yan. Kung ayaw ninyo, tabasin po ninyo (It’s up to you if you want to delete it. If you’re not in favor of it, Sir, you can trim it). Just pick which LGUs will not be given funding.”
He also urged the lawmaker not to impute malice in the budget proposal.
“‘Wag po natin lagyan ng malisya ang wala namang tinatago o walang malisya (Let’s not put malice into these things especially if we aren’t hiding anything, or there is no malice involved),” Roxas added.
Roxas earlier explained during the interpellation of Gabriela paryt-list Representative Luz Ilagan that the “various projects” were not lumpsums or discretionary sums.
Under the GPBP, LGUs listen down their priority projects and are given a budget of P15 million. But whereas before, 1,200 LGUs shared the P20 billion-allocation for the GPBP, now 1,600 have to share it.
As a result, LGUs only had around P12 million to fund their projects, said Roxas. Most of the LGUs had yet to return to the DILG the final list of projects they want funded, but Roxas promised they would have those projects listed down before the plenary hearings on the proposed budget.
Despite the heated exchange between the two, Roxas said he wasn’t slighted by Tinio. “Karapatan naman ng lahat na magtanong. Nililinaw ko lang…’yung premises ng mga katanungan ay inilagay ko sa tama,” he told reporters.
(It’s everyone’s right to ask questions. I’m just clarifying and putting the premises of his questions in the right context.) – Rappler.com
*$1 = P43.6