Miriam hits lopsided budget for DILG, other agencies

Bea Cupin
The senator says the proposed 2015 national budget gives 'much more money' to 'agencies with grassroots connections' even if the projects are outside their mandates
'SLOPPY, EMBARASSING.' Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago holds nothing back in criticizing the proposed 2015 budget. File photo by Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – A “bored” and still recovering Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago on Monday, November 24, blasted the proposed 2015 national budget for favoring the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) and a few other agencies.

“[The 2015 budget] gives money to where it is not needed to be placed,” Santiago told reporters in a press conference held after she delivered a privilege speech on the proposed budget.

Asked if she thinks Malacañang had a hand in the “lopsided budget,” she said, “Absolutely.”

“I think it’s a disservice for President Benigno Aquino III to be given such a sloppy budget,” she added.

Santiago earlier criticized the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) for preparing an “embarrassing” budget whose definition of “savings” is unconstitutional.

Under the 2015 General Appropriations Act (GAA), the executive branch may declare savings “at any time” and may reallocate funds meant for projects that are not implemented within 6 months.

“[The budget] is meant to give heads of certain agencies with grassroots connections or relations much more money for topics that are not necessarily governed by their mandate,” said Santiago.

DILG and its ‘Salintubig’ project

Santiago criticized a chunk of the DILG’s budget which allocates funds for the “Salintubig” project.

“How come they get money for patubig (water supply)?” asked Santiago, who said it was not part of the DILG’s mandate. The DILG’s budget was scheduled to be discussed before the Senate plenary on Monday, November 24.

The DILG is headed by Manuel Roxas II, the presumed 2016 presidential bet of the ruling Liberal Party.

But Santiago stopped short of accusing the administration of using the budget to help would-be 2016 candidates. She, however, hinted at the DILG being remiss in its priorities.

“[The] DILG should focus on its mandates, which are: to supervise local government units and to secure the life and property of every Filipino, no matter where they live, in urban centers or rural areas, and no matter what their political colors are, whether they are friends or foes,” she said in her speech.

Pork barrel all over again?

Santiago also criticized P37.3 billion in “lump sums” in the budgets of the Department of Public Works and Highways, Department of Health, Department of Social Welfare and Department, Department of Labor and Employment, Commission on Higher Education, and the Bureau of Customs.

These lump sums are stipulated in a voluminous “errata” submitted by the DBM just before the House of Representatives approved the 2015 GAA.

The senator did not spare the President’s own “lump sum” which, she said, amounts to over P500 billion in 2015.

“The errata is solid proof that the DBM has been haphazard with the budget,” added Santiago.

Citing sources, Santiago said slips of paper were being passed around the House of Representatives to ask lawmakers to list down the projects they intend to implement in their areas.

“It seems to be reminiscent of old pork barrel practices…if that is the case, then they are getting ready to institute the same pork barrel practices in the 2015 budget,” said Santiago, referring to the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or pork barrel, which had been declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.

The senator said she hoped someone would question the proposed 2015 budget’s definition of savings before the Supreme Court as well. (READ: Redefinition of ‘savings’ can lead to corruption) – Rappler.com