Lawmakers grill Roxas over multi-billion peso GPBP

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Wednesday, August 27, 2014


INTERIOR and Local Government Manuel Roxas II was grilled Wednesday by militant lawmakers on the issue of lump sum funds under his office.

During the budget briefing by the House committee on appropriations on the proposed P104.57-billion budget of Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), Kabataan party-list Representative Terry Ridon confronted Roxas over the multi-billion peso Grassroots Participatory Budgeting Program (GPBP) projects in the 2015 proposed budget.

Ridon asked Roxas if the GPBP process is being used to prepare for the Cabinet official's presidential bid in the 2016 elections.

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"With DILG at the helm of implementing and monitoring of the implementation of GPB projects, there are some quarters that allege that the projects are meant to boost the expected presidential candidacy of the Interior Secretary. This observation is highlighted by the fact that in recent months, no less than Secretary Roxas has been touring the country to inaugurate several projects under the GPB, which some see as premature campaigning. Can you explain your side on this, Mr. Secretary?" Ridon told Roxas during the hearing.

Ridon noted that according to the DBM-DILG-DSWD-NAPC Joint Memorandum Circular 4 dated November 26, 2013, DILG has a pivotal role in the implementation of the GPB process.

Particularly, the DILG heads the monitoring of the progress of the implementation of Grassroots Budgeting Projects and undertake internal evaluation of the program.

For 2015, there is a P20.9 billion budget for GPBP projects in 1,633 cities and municipalities, of which P5.67 billion is directly under DILG to provide for the "provision of potable water supply and other poverty reduction priority projects in pre-identified LGUs."

Ridon also asked Roxas if he is aware of GPBP's similarity to DAP, and the mechanism's possible unconstitutionality.

"Is the Interior Secretary aware that under National Budget Memorandum No. 121 issued on March 18, projects under GPBP can be cancelled and replaced even after the enactment of the GAA? That means that the GPBP, like DAP, is patently unconstitutional as it allows the cancellation and replacement of projects already identified in the General Appropriations Act," the lawmaker said. `

Meanwhile, ACT Teachers party-list Representative Antonio Tinio asked Roxas to justify the proposed 56 percent increase in the budget of the Office of the Secretary due to the allocation of P5.6 billion for "Provision for Potable Water Supply and Other Projects" under the GPBP.

Under the proposed 2015 budget of DILG of P105.7 billion, P5.6 billion is for GPBP, which will be used for the provision of potable water and other various projects.

The GPBP establishes a mechanism for Local Government Units and government-accredited civil society organizations (CSOs) to identify programs, activities, and projects to be implemented by National Government agencies in their communities.

Tinio also described the P5.6 billion GPBP fund proposed for the DILG as another form of pork barrel.

"If DAP (Disbursement Acceleration Program) is called the Presidential pork barrel, then I call this P5.6 billion GPB fund a presidentiable pork barrel," said Tinio, alluding to the DILG secretary's plan to run for president in 2016.

But Roxas said the GPBP aims to assist about 1,488 cities and municipalities nationwide by giving them P30 million and P12 million each, respectively, for various projects identified by local executives through consultations with different sectors.

"We will be submitting to you the menu of projects proposed by these LGUs so that Congress can scrutinize," the secretary added.

Tinio, however, said while other agencies have to "pass through the eye of a needle" before being granted small budget increases, the DILG has been granted a dramatic increase "in the blink of an eye."

"Pero kung mararapatin po ni congressman Tinio tangalin na po ninyo nakalista po dito lahat ng P5 billion [GPBP] na yan so kayo na po magsabi, ginawa na po namin ang aming trabaho kinunsulta namin ang aming mamayan tungkol dito. Kung ayaw n'yo ibigay ito ok lang po sa 'min," Roxas told Tinio.

"Thank you for your [Tinio] propaganda… Sa kaso na ito kayo na po mag sabi kung anong bayan, anong project ang tatanggalin," he said.

Roxas also told the lawmaker that the program is not tainted with political color.

"The poorest of the poor, kahit saang political party pa sila nabibilang ay mabebenipisyohan dito… wala pong ibang 'other projects' huwag po natin lagyan ng malisya ung wala namang malisya," Roxas said.

Tinio, however, said he was not satisfied with Roxas' answer since "he (was) supposed to defend his agency's budget, not wash his and point fingers."

Tinio said many of the projects to be funded by DILG are not itemized, but are simply described as "Various DILG Projects."

"As originally proposed by Malacañang, GPBP, then known as Bottom-Up Budgeting, was supposedly part of the poverty-reduction program of this government. Hence, the participating LGUs were the poorest 4th to 6th class municipalities and those with high levels of poverty incidence. But in 2015, a year before Presidential elections, the coverage has been expanded to all LGUs, including even the wealthiest ones in Metro Manila," said Tinio.

"Is this about poverty alleviation or making sure that the DILG secretary has something for everyone? It appears that government funds are being frittered away on local projects with doubtful long-term impact on addressing poverty, for the sake of political expediency," the lawmaker added. (Sunnex)

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