The Department of Public Works and Highways regained its slashed P8-billion “pork” in the General Appropriations Act of 2017. Not only that, it got an additional P497 million, at the expense of the Calamity Fund.
Apparently, the P8.557 billion plus another P497 million added to the budget of the DPWH, which increased by P9.054 billion (from P445.766 billion to P454.721 billion), came from the huge cuts suffered by NDRRMF (National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Fund) or Calamity Fund under the Special Purpose Fund, which was reduced from an original budget of P37.255 billion (in the NEP) to a mere P15.755 billion (in the GAA), or a reduction of P21.5 billion.
What is unfortunate is that with massive devastations brought by recent calamities starting with Pablo, Yolanda, Karen, Lawin, Nina, to name some, most of the victims might be left to fend for themselves instead of getting sufficient assistance from the government. Yolanda for example still needs at least P100 billion to fully recover. As then PARR, I recommended a funding of Php167.8 billion and up to now, looking at the annual budget being appropriated for that purpose since 2014, the amount has been a trickle in the bucket compared to the total budget required.
What is sad here is the thought of sacrificing the victims of calamities for political favors and alliances. The details of the DPWH budget and other agencies are not yet out. Once we get hold of the budget books, we will diligently scrutinize. I and my team will continue to be the watchdog to guard against abuses in the use of public funds. I tell you – it is tiring and frustrating and not a few times, I have paused and felt resigned, simply step aside or abandon this advocacy. It is a lonely crusade, to say the least.
I am quite sure that these realignments are all about pork. I’ll tell you why. During the budget plenary debates, the ARMM congressmen came to see me to plead their case. Inabot nga kami ng 10 p.m. sa office ko explaining in so many words, thus – “buti nga daw sila, tig P1.5-B lang na projects, yung iba raw mga congressmen abot ng tig P5-B.” Change is coming? Maybe, pero it’s pork allocations changing hands from LP congressmen to those from Mindanao. At least two of my colleagues commented in the lounge during session suspensions, “Sobra naman sila… tayo ngang mga senador, tig P300-M lang… “ By the way, I did not submit my P300-M list of projects. Senators Tito Sotto and Kiko Pangilinan approached me on separate occasions to inform me that they too did not submit. I don’t know who else among my Senate colleagues likewise did not submit their list. There is no saying here that those who identified their projects in the 2017 national budget, both from the Senate and the House would get commissions from contractors. What I’m trying to say is, Filipinos are made to believe that PDAF is dead after the SC ruling in 2013. I am not stupid. Filipinos are not stupid. They are just resigned, I think. After all these years that I and my staff scrutinize the budget books year in and year out, I know pork when I see it.
I believe our people, especially our taxpayers, should know the real score behind all these pretenses and denials about the existence of pork.