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Legislator warns of possible budget delay over unequal ‘pork’ distribution

legislator warns of possible budget delay over unequal pork distribution - Legislator warns of possible budget delay over unequal ‘pork’ distribution

A MINORITY legislator warned Friday of possible delays to the 2021 budget due to a looming dispute in Congress over what he described as the “unequal distribution of pork.”

In a statement, Deputy Minority leader and Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos I. Zarate pointed to the P4.5 billion worth of confidential and intelligence funds and the P19.1 billion earmarked for the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict – which are both under the supervision of the Office of the President. He alleged that these funds constitute “presidential pork” and “generals’ pork,” respectively.

“The unprecedented P4.5 billion confidential and intelligence funds of the Office of the President is of course presidential pork. The P19.1 billion budget of the NTF-ELCAC parked in different departments are generals’ pork. Even the apparent disparity in the allocations of funds by the different departments, mainly the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), are of course a matter of pork,” Mr. Zarate said.

Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo M. Ano has said that part of the NTF-ELCAC’s funds for 2021 amounting to P16.44 billion is intended for the development of 822 barangays, with itemized spending plans due in October.

The Interior department belongs to the NTF-ELCAC, which was formed in 2018.

Mr. Zarate and other Makabayan legislators have held that “unitemized” projects should be considered “pork,” which was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 2013. The court struck down a previous practice of distributing funds through a fraud-ridden channel known as the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), which lacked transparency in its distributions of unitemized lump-sum funds.

“This is also the reason why many lawmakers are questioning the supposed huge allocations of projects to some areas while others did not get as much,” Mr. Zarate said.

He said the alleged “pork-like allocations” should instead be channelled to health, education, and social pensions.

“As it is, it would indeed be better to realign all these pork-like allocations in, among others, the fight against COVID 19, in aid to those displaced and now jobless workers and help our children study under these current conditions,” he said.

The Commission on Audit told the House at a hearing that it is planning a special audit of funds allocated to NTF-ELCAC. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza

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