Zarate: ₱5-T proposed 2022 budget a 'huge pork barrel' for 2022 polls

Published August 30, 2021, 11:51 AM

by Mario Casayuran

House deputy minority leader and Bayan Muna Representative Carlos Isagani Zarate on Monday, August 30, hit the Duterte administration’s supposed lack of transparency on the trillions of pesos in loans and savings it generated these past years.

House of Representatives

Zarate claimed that these savings could be described as a ‘’huge pork barrel’’ that the Philippine President could use to augment items in the General Appropriations Act (GAA or national budget) or given as patronage especially the upcoming current election year.

He called for a full audit of P993 billion in ‘’ghost savings’’ of the Duterte administration amid the still raging pandemic that devastated countless lives and the country’s economy, With these, Zarate said benefits for health workers should have been given long ago.

He pointed out that there was lack of transparency shown during budget presentations of the Budget Development Coordination Committee (DBCC) of the proposed 2022 P5.024 trillion national budget even as it tried to defend that it is for COVID-19 intervention.

The budget was also defended by the Department of Finance (DOF), Department of Budget and Management (DBM), ang Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) and the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA).

He said they could not frankly say where the $19.5 billion in loans and their conditions supposedly for COVID-19 interventions went.

Zarate claimed that government officials hid behind the ‘’confidentiality provision’’ in the contracts when asked how much was spent for vaccination although the one asking is Congress which has the constitutional power over the purse.

‘’Iyan ay talagang gusto pang i-castrate nung nasa executive.Ni hindi man lang naglaan ng sapat na pondo para sa mga bayani nating health workers (That was what the executive branch wanted to castrate. It did not even allocate funds for our heroes – the frontliners),” the Davao-based solon said.

‘’Yet, we pointed out halimbawa (as example)– at naging pattern na ito since pumasok si Duterte (A pattern emerged when Duterte became President) — from 2017 ang unused appropriations total to P388 billion so hindi po nagamit ito unused appro, and, in 2020 umabot pa din ito sa P200 billion (From 2017, there were unused appropriations amounting to P388 billion that was not use and this still reached P200 billion in 2020,’’ he pointed out.

‘’So napakaraming pondo na talagang hindi nagamit (There was so much unused appropriations). Bakit di agad naibigay ang special risk allowance (SRA), active hazard duty pay at iba pang benepisyo samantalang halos isang trilyon ang savings ng Duterte admin mula ng 2017? (Why were there no special risk allowances (SRA). active hazard pay and other benefits while the Duterte administration has almost one trillion pesos in savings starting from 2017?),’’ Zarate pointed out.

He rued that the executive branch did not use what Congress allocated.

‘’Finally we also pointed out, dahil since 2017 hindi na natin nakita yung entry on overall savings, kung magkano ba ang savings na nagenerate ng mga ahensya kada taon, dahil hindi naman nawawalan ng savings talaga yan (Since 2017 we have not seen entries on overall savings generated every year). Especially kung budget mo ay bloated, at the end of the year ay merong mga pondo na hindi talaga nagagasta. Pero kapansin- pansin po hindi na ito makita doon sa budget books (Especially if the budget is bloated where there are funds not used but these could not be seen in budget books),’’ he added.

Zarate said that it s “very telling” that the overall savings are again listed in the proposed 2022 budget.

He said that the proposed budget has P1 trillion in funds transferred from many agencies ‘’to the other agency.’’

‘’In 2017 pala may savings din, P334 billion…in 2018, P373 plus billion, in 2019 P286 plus billion,” the Deputy Minority leader said.

‘’We demanded ang kabuuang detalye ng budget ay nakapublish yan for transparency (We demanded a detailed publication of the budget for the sake of transparency),’’ he added.