OPPOSITION lawmakers accused the Palace Sunday of playing Santa to its allies with some P23.34 billion that must be spent by the end of the year, at the expense of victims of super typhoon Yolanda.
In an interview over radio dzBB, Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares said the Palace was rushing the distribution of P23 billion before the year ends since there is a “no carry-over policy” that would send unspent funds back to the national treasury.
“This is a last-minute midnight allocation and the amount involved is not peanuts for distribution this Christmas. But the Palace is being cruel as it plays Santa to lawmakers, it also plays Scrooge to the victims of Yolanda, considering that we knew the allocations for them remained unaccounted for,” Colmenares said.
Administration ally Senator Francis Escudero, chairman of the Senate committee on finance, said the Senate would demand that Budget Secretay Florencio Abad disclose to Congress where the P23 billion will go.
“The Palace has no choice but to disburse the P23 billion on or before Dec. 31 this year. The Palace is playing Santa and the lawmakers would seek Christmas gifts. The problem is, it is not the Filipinos that would benefit from this,” Colmenares said.
“We have to guard against this Palace scheme. These are multi-billion-peso projects. There is a danger that this will be distributed to administration allies because 2016 is just around the corner, and that’s an election year,” Colmenares added.
Colmenares said the opposition lawmakers would demand that Abad be summoned by Congress to explain why the P23 billion in supplemental budget was not included in the regular budget deliberations for 2015.
He branded as “unfair and unjust” the Palace’s move to invoke the welfare and well-being of the Yolanda victims in seeking the supplemental budget.
“It was unfair for the Palace to use the Yolanda victims because we know for a fact that the funds don’t reach them. Up to now, there has been no accounting for the P14.8 billion in supplemental budget for 2013,” Colmenares said, referring to the extra funding that Congress had granted to deal with the effects of super typhoon Yolanda.
In a statement on Tuesday, the Department of Budget and Management said in its bid to develop a more responsive budget plan for the next fiscal year, the DBM is pushing for a P23.34 billion supplemental budget to ensure sufficient funding support for crucial development initiatives, including various infrastructure projects for post-Yolanda rehabilitation and government preparations for the 2015 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit.
A total of P16.4 billion—comprising the bulk of allocations under the supplemental budget—has been earmarked for new priority initiatives, Abad said.
Of this amount, Abad said, the administration’s Yolanda reconstruction and rehabilitation program will get P9.5 billion and another P1.44 billion will support key projects in preparation for the APEC Summit, which the Philippines will be hosting next year.
Abad said the supplemental budget would cover liabilities arising from obligated infrastructure projects worth P1.85 billion under the Department of Public Works and Highways.
He said a total of P5.08 billion would be coursed to a number of priority projects under various government agencies that have not been implemented or have been partially implemented.
“The funds will account for the budgetary requirements of priority projects that were partially implemented or previously approved for implementation this year,” he said.
“Most of these projects have already been completed, are on-going, or are urgently needed to sustain our socio-economic development. The passage of the proposed supplemental budget will allow us to allocate funds accordingly so we can complete these projects right away,” Abad said.
If approved by Congress, the 2014 Supplemental Appropriations will fund a number of priority projects, ranging from the rehabilitation of the LRT lines 1 and 2 to the construction of permanent housing for the victims of super typhoon Yolanda.
“We are not being unreasonable but I believe using Yolanda victims, who had been victimized many times over, would be too much already,” Colmenares said.
Colmenares said the supplemental budget would allot some P5.08 billion for projects that were previously funded by the Priority Development Assistance Funds and DAP.
“Why would P5.08 billion be allotted for the completion of projects that have been funded by the DAP and PDAF?” Colmenares said.
He demanded that these DAP and PDAF releases be accounted for first.
“This supplemental budget is like the insertion of errata after the debates to avoid scrutiny. They said that the DAP has already served its purpose but why are they now saying that it still needs funding? They should first account for the P142 billion they spent in DAP before asking for more funds,” Colmenares said.
“If the DAP projects are unfinished Malacanang should have included it in the 2015 budget and not merely inserting it as a supplemental budget. We will guard against attempts to insert funding for projects which could be used by politicians in the 2016 election,” Colmenares said.
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