Discretionary funds likened to ‘pork’

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Thursday, February 20, 2014


DISCRETIONARY funds are like ‘pork barrel’ funds that are utilized by the executive branch for political patronage in the guise of intelligence operations, a political party leader said Wednesday.

“Intelligence funds have been used by the local government unit executives as means to propagate their being ‘pork’ king and queen—in the guise of intelligence works,” said Lorelyn Dumaug, District I chairman of the Centrist Democratic Party of the Philippines (CDP).

Dumaug was also a signatory during the launching of the People’s Initiative to Abolish Pork Barrel System on Monday.

She said to abolish the ‘pork’ is a piece-meal reform of the Constitution to make the elected officials unable to use the "discretionary funds" for political patronage.

Dumaug added that the slashing by the City Council’ majority bloc of Mayor Oscar Moreno’s discretionary funds only confirms the conclusion that these are used for political patronage.

“If indeed this intelligence fund is used for what it is intended, why such huge difference approved by the city council?” Dumaug said.

She added the original intention of intelligence funds or discretionary funds is to give executive officials a leeway (in terms of money) in tracking the activities of suspected lawless groups and individuals.

Dumaug observed that the discretionary funds in the local government are likely used to personal matters like the "perpetuation of one’s political career." However, Dumaug is not against discretionary funds because it is needed to prevent the proliferation of crimes in the city.

She added: “Intelligence funds are needed but a limit must be set, and the City Council must not approve as high as it deems and as low as it deems.”

City council’s fears

City hall accused the majority members of the legislature of reducing Moreno’s executive budget for this year on suspicion that he will use it the way former mayor Vicente Emano did.

City information officer Maricel Casiño-Rivera said the previous administration withdrew their discretionary funds sometime in January last year.

Rivera said the Emano administration took around P55 million four months before the election.

She said that the discretionary funds should be released on a quarterly basis but Emano took the funds in a single transaction.

“What was compelling at that time that the previous administration withdrew P55 million?” asked Rivera.

She added that the previous administration returned P7 million after the May elections last year, leaving Emano a non-liquidated amount of P48 million.

Rivera said at the time when the discretionary funds were withdrew there was no security threat to the city.

“Giunsa kaha nila ang intelligence funds nila sa una nganong mahadlok sila?” Rivera asked.

Meanwhile, city councilor President Elipe said what pains the administration was the big slash on the discretionary funds that cover the confidential funds and intelligence funds, among others.

Elipe said the discretionary funds were more important to the administration compared with its flagship programs like the PhilHealth insurance, because it comes first on the list on Moreno’s veto message to the City Council.

Elipe said he wondered how the Moreno administration would use the discretionary funds.

He said the City Council has no hold on the discretionary funds after the legislators had approved it.

Clear programs

Graciano Mejares, acting city director of the Cagayan de Oro Police office (Cocpo), said the budget intended for them is in the approved budget.

He said the request of the office for their daily operations was granted through the approved budget.

Rivera said the present administration has a clear program in terms of peace and development.

She said it was through an executive order that the Cagayan de Oro Peace, Development and Security Council was established.

Rivera said that the Security Council involves representatives from the interfaith groups like Catholics, Muslims, and Protestants.

She added that Balay Mindanaw, a non-government organization, is also part of the Security Council that was created.

Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on February 20, 2014.

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