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2015 budget padded with another pork for Aquino, solon bares.

Byline: Marc Jayson Cayabyab

MANILA -- ACT Teachers Representative Antonio Tinio on Wednesday bared another kind of President Aquino's supposed "pork barrel" fund in the form of the miscellaneous personnel benefits fund (MPBF) intended for government workers.

During the Development Budget Coordinating Committee hearing at the House of Representatives on Wednesday, Tinio said the MPBF refers to "authorized salaries, associated premiums, and other singular benefits of the employees of national government in constitutional offices enjoying fiscal autonomy."

These government workers come from such bodies as the Commission on Elections, Commission on Audit, among others, Tinio said.

But under the proposed P2.6 trillion national budget for 2015, these funds from the MBPF will be considered appropriations under the executive department and thus "may be used to augment deficiencies in appropriations for programs and projects in the executive branch subject to the rule on savings and augmentation."

"Ang nangyayari it allowed the executive to directly control savings. Hawak siya directly ng presidente at kayang directly i-realign ng president," Tinio said in explaining the MPBF.

"This is why we are saying MPBF is part of the presidential pork barrel," he added.

Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, who is present in the hearing, explained: "All the agencies of government, regardless of the executive or constitutional body, can access these funds. These are meant for unfilled positions for personnel benefits, for example, in the middle of the year, the Sandiganbayan opens a new division."

Tinio also pointed out that under the new budget, savings should be prioritized for the payments of compensation, year-end bonuses, cash gifts, retirement gratuity, terminal leave benefits, and the pension of veterans among the government workers.

Tinio said this seems to be a similar practice of using savings that is an outlawed practice of the Supreme Court under Aquino's Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).

"It is clear that the mandate of Congress is if there are savings, it will be spent for salaries and benefits," Tinio said in Filipino.

Tinio also said savings may also be prioritized for "other activities and projects covered in this act."

This means while some government workers still have not received their benefits, savings may also be spent on other DAP-funded projects, Tinio said.

"Pagkaganyan, lusot ang DAP dahil kahit hindi pa bayad ang maternity leave ng teachers, pwede na dalhin sa, for example, stem cell research," Tinio said.

But Abad defended that they do not "put any value or priority" to such DAP-funded projects.

The budget committee, chaired by Abad in representing President Aquino's finance team, is composed of the country's main economic managers, among them Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, Internal Revenue chief Kim Henares, Neda chief Arsenio Balisacan, and Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Governor Amado Tetangco Jr.

The committee aims to assess the overall economic targets, expenditure levels, revenue projection and the financing plan in relation to the proposed P2.6 trillion national budget for 2015.

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Publication:Philippines Daily Inquirer (Makati City, Philippines)
Date:Aug 6, 2014
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