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FACT CHECK: PH senators’ annual budget not P6 billion


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FACT CHECK: PH senators’ annual budget not P6 billion
Allocations for each senator in the national budget vary, but a look at recent budget documents belie a video’s claim that senators each receive between P3 billion to P6 billion annually

Claim: Senators receive an allocated budget of P3 billion to P6 billion annually throughout their term.

Rating: FALSE

Why we fact-checked this: The Facebook video bearing the claim was posted on January 27. As of writing, it has 515,000 views, 5,900 reactions, and 1,200 comments.

The video claims that because senators feared losing their annual budget of P3 billion to P6 billion, they opposed the recent bid for charter change by the House of Representatives through a people’s initiative.

The facts: While senators have access to various funds used for legislative activities, staff salaries, and office expenses, there is no set amount of P3 billion to P6 billion individually allocated to each senator. 

A report by the Commission on Audit (COA) on the itemized list of expenses of the Senate in 2020 – the latest report available – reveals that the offices of all 24 senators spent a total of P2.26 billion. Of that amount, over P1 billion was allocated for staff salaries while P78.5 million was earmarked for the lawmakers’ salaries, with former Senate president Tito Sotto earning the highest with P3.9 million. 

The report also shows that each senator spent between P65 million to P116 million in 2020. Additionally, the General Appropriations Act (GAA) for 2020 shows that the Senate was allocated a budget of P9.45 billion, covering general administration and support and operations, including locally-funded projects.

In the 2024 budget, the Senate has an allocated budget of P13 billion. This covers the implementation of regular programs and locally-funded projects. This debunks the video’s claim that each senator receives P3 billion to P6 billion annually, which would have meant an allocation of P36 billion to P144 billion for all 24 senators.

Funding source: Historically, senators have obtained funding for their projects through two primary mechanisms: the GAA and the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).

The GAA is the national budget passed by Congress, which includes funding for various government programs and initiatives. Senators do not receive individual separate allocations within the GAA; rather, they must propose projects that fall within existing budget lines and pass through the appropriate committees. Once approved, the projects are administered by relevant government agencies.

On the other hand, PDAF provides senators with a lump sum allocation, allowing them to select projects without going through the regular budget process. Unlike the GAA, senators have sole discretion in their allocation and use. After the “pork barrel” scam scandal in 2013, however, the PDAF was abolished and deemed unconstitutional. 

Senators’ salary: In 1989, under the administration of former president Corazon Aquino, the Philippines enacted Republic Act 6758, which set the salary grade system that determines the appropriate compensation for government personnel, including officials and employees.

According to the budget department, senators fall within the Salary Grade (SG) 31 category, with monthly salaries ranging from P278,434 to P318,806. Meanwhile, the Senate president, who heads the upper chamber, receives a monthly salary of between P331,954 to P381,748 within the SG 32 bracket.

Bid for charter change: All members of the Senate signed a manifesto last January 23 rejecting the bid of the lower chamber to push for people’s initiatives (PI) in amending the Philippine Constitution.

It was reported that the PI signature-gathering process was marred by allegations of vote-buying and misuse of government resources. Senators worried that the initiative was tainted and did not reflect the genuine will of the people.

The Senate further asserted that the House was trying to bypass existing constitutional amendment processes, such as a constitutional convention or Congress voting jointly. This raised concerns about transparency and adherence to the rule of law. – Jerry Yubal Jr./Rappler.com

Jerry Yubal Jr. is a campus journalist from the Visayas State University (VSU) in Baybay City Main Campus. The executive editor of Amaranth, he is also an Aries Rufo Journalism fellow of Rappler for 2023-2024.

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