TO maintain the loyalty of the military brass, the Palace has inserted a special provision that allows the Armed Forces chief to “realign and re-prioritize” some P26.25 billion of its budget without congressional approval, turning it into one huge discretionary fund, Bayan Muna Rep. Isagani Carlos Zarate said Tuesday.
During a budget hearing of the House committee on appropriations, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin admitted it was not the Defense Department’s idea, but the Budget Department’s initiative to make the insertion.
The special provision would disregard the appropriation made by the Defense Department as proposed for approval and scrutiny by Congress, Zarate said.
In effect, it would allow the Armed Forces chief to disregard projects already approved by Congress and realign the budget by second quarter of the year, with realignments needing only the approval of the President, as recommended by Budget Secretary Florencio Abad.
“The insertion by the Budget Department of a special provision allowing the AFP chief of staff to re-prioritize and realign any item in its proposed 2015 budget will give the chief of the Armed Forces his own share of the anomalous pork barrel system,” Zarate said.
This is the second time that the Makabayan bloc has demanded that special insertions in the budget be deleted.
In the previous panel hearing, the Palace was also discovered to have inserted similar special provision on the budget of the co-equal branches – Congress and the judiciary and other constitutional bodies – directing them to report to the President the disbursement for unfilled positions amounting to P7.2 billion.
The lawmakers said the President is violating the judiciary’s fiscal autonomy and Congress’ power of the purse.
“This is not only the balkanization of the graft-ridden pork barrel among the heads of the different departments, but, this porky share is apparently to also ensure the loyalty of the AFP chief to the present administration,” Zarate said. “In short, the AFP chief of staff is given his own pork barrel in the budget.”
Zarate said no previous budget bills carried such a special provision.
“If that provision is approved, a total allocation of P26.25 billion from the GHQ, AFP and AFP Wide Service Support Units appropriations can be transformed by the AFP chief of staff into his own pork barrel since he can realign the items covered in the second quarter of the year, without need for congressional approval,” Zarate said.
“The commander-in-chief, without regard for congressional scrutiny, legitimizes all the realignments in billions of [pesos in] public funds,” Zarate lamented.
Zarate also noted during the budget deliberation that the allocation for these appropriations increased by 131.6 percent compared to last year’s P11.316 billion.
Under the P26.25 billion allocation, the AFP general headquarters and the AFP wide service support units have a budget of P2.28 billion for personnel services or PS and P3.8 billion for maintenance operating and other expenses or MOOE for 2015.
The allocation for PS and MOOE of the Air Force is at P7.3 billion and P6.4 billion, respectively. The Army has P3.4 billion and P6.6 billion, and the Navy, P8.3 billion and P4.5 billion.
Budget Assistant Secretary Tina Canda said the similarly worded special provision was present in the budgets of all government agencies.
But Zarate insisted that the AFP’s new special provision insertion was not present in the budgets of previous years.
The Defense Department is asking Congress for a budget of P141.85 billion for 2015.
COMMENT DISCLAIMER: Reader comments posted on this Web site are not in any way endorsed by Manila Standard. Comments are views by manilastandard.net readers who exercise their right to free expression and they do not necessarily represent or reflect the position or viewpoint of manilastandard.net. While reserving this publication’s right to delete comments that are deemed offensive, indecent or inconsistent with Manila Standard editorial standards, Manila Standard may not be held liable for any false information posted by readers in this comments section.