Abad: 2015 GAA not an ‘election budget’

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Wednesday, August 6, 2014


BUDGET Secretary Florencio Abad denied that the P2.606-trillion proposed General Appropriations Act (GAA) for next year will be used by the Aquino administration in preparations for the upcoming 2016 presidential polls.

In Wednesday's budget hearing of the House committee on appropriations, Abad said P1.19-billion Special Purpose Fund (SPF) allotment "are not presidential pork" as alleged by Kabataan Party-list Representative Terry Ridon.

He said the Executive's proposed budget for 2015 "was crafted using Budget Priorities Framework" to pursue inclusive and sustained development.

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"I'm surprised that SPFs are called presidential pork when in fact, the President [Benigno Aquino III] has no full discretion over it," Abad said.

The Budget chief explained that most SPFs are disaggregated with the exemption of the Calamity Fund, Contingent Fund, Rehabilitation Fund, and allocations to local government units (LGUs).

Abad said the proposed budget is focused on social inclusion and job creation.

"We need to intensify and sharpen the focus of our poverty reduction interventions to substantially reduce poverty," he said.

He said the Aquino administration's good governance reforms must continue to ensure that each peso spent makes an impact to the lives of the poor.

"Our Budget Priorities Framework ensures that public funds are focused on the right priorities & where these are needed the most," said Abad.

He further said that next year's budget "is in favor of localities where the most poor and vulnerable are."

He noted that the country's performance now leads Southeast Asian region. In 2013, the country's economy grew by 7.2 percent.

"[The recent] historic credit rating upgrades we've received from the international community show that our reforms are recognized," he said.

Abad added that the country's "stellar economic performance has provided us enough resources to expand the budget by 15.1 percent year-on-year."

He said that the National Government seeks to bring down outstanding debt to 45.6 percent of Gross Domestic Products (GDP) in 2015, from 51.7 percent in 2010.

In response, Ridon said Abad was "lying through his teeth" when he told the committee on appropriations that the President does not meddle with the SPFs and that the Grassroots Participatory Budgeting (GPB) is different from the unconstitutional Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).

In same hearing, Caloocan City Representative Edgar Erice asked Abad if the P501 billion under the programmed and unprogrammed SPFs can indeed be considered as "presidential pork barrel." Abad explained that lump sum appropriations amounting to P45.1 million, comprising the SPFs, have specific uses, such as the Pension and Gratuity Fund, which is for retirement benefits of government employees.

Abad explained that the President cannot dip his hands into such funds, as it is already allotted for certain purposes.

Ridon, however, dismissed Abad's explanation on SPFs as "half-truth".

"To truly see the President's subtle yet full control of the SPFs, one needs to read the fine print," the youth legislator said, adding that several "troubling special provisions" governing the SPFs are "buried in the NEP's fine print".

The lawmaker said that one such provision are supposedly repeated in several SPFs, including the Contingent Fund, the International Commitments Fund, the E-Government Fund, the Miscellaneous Personnel Benefits Fund, the Pension and Gratuity Fund, and the Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Fund.

"The amounts appropriated herein shall be considered as appropriations under the Executive branch which may be used to augment deficiencies in the appropriations for programs, projects and activities in the Executive branch and other special purpose funds, subject to the rules on savings and augmentation," the SPFs read.

"Take a look at what is stated in Special Provisions for the Pension and Gratuity Fund, for example. It's a small detail that can easily be missed, but it enables the president to tap the PGF for his discretionary use," Ridon said. (Sunnex)

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