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Miriam wants to end President’s pork

Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago (photo courtesy of www.en.wikipedia.org)

Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago (photo courtesy of www.en.wikipedia.org)

MANILA (Mabuhay) – Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago on Monday filed a resolution that seeks to end the President’s alleged off-budget or “pork barrel” funds including the funds from the Malampaya gas project, the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) and the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR).

Santiago, chairwoman of the committee on constitutional amendments and revision of codes, said all off-budget funds, particularly the funds from Malampaya, PCSO, and PAGCOR should be included in the Budget of Expenditures and Sources of Financing (BESF) submitted annually by the President to Congress.

She said so-called “off-budget funds” are unconstitutional, because such funds violate the constitutional provision which states: “No money shall be paid out of the treasury except in pursuance of an appropriation made by law.” (Constitution, Art. 6, Sec. 29, para.1)

The senator said that these off-budget funds were created during martial law and excluded from the national treasury, violating the “one-fund” concept, which she called a “sound concept that should not admit of any exception.”

“At present, these off-budget funds are under the complete control of the President, without an appropriation made by Congress. The practice of off-budget funds is an evil that should be struck down on its face for violating the Constitution,” she said.

Santiago said it is Congress that possesses the sole power to appropriate the revenues earned by government.

She noted that the BESF report from Malacañang is supposed to contain the sources of government revenues and their corresponding amounts, and a proposal on how these funds shall be spent for the next fiscal year.

She said the BESF report does not include the off-budget sources of revenues, such as the Malampaya Fund, the PCSO Charity Fund, and the PAGCOR Social Fund.

“These three major sources of national revenues are used, distributed, and disbursed, outside the budget process. The Constitution reserves the budget process for Congress, which consist of elected public officials. But under the off-budget process, it is non-elected public officials, principally the budget secretary, who decide, on instructions by the President, how these public funds should be spent,” she said.

Santiago said the Malampaya Fund, consisting of royalties collected by the government from the Malampaya Deep Water Gas-to-Power Project, has reportedly earned P170 billion.

The senator said that while P.D. No. 910 provides that the Malampaya Fund is intended for energy development projects, the Fund can also be spent “for such other purposes as the President may deem necessary.”

“This allows the President to use the Malampaya Fund to finance projects not related to energy, by merely issuing an executive order without consulting Congress,” she said.

Santiago said the second example is the PCSO Charity Fund under R.A. No. 1169 as amended.

Santiago gave as a third example the PAGCOR Social Fund under P.D. No. 1067-A, which is intended to finance infrastructure and socio-civic projects.

“All three funds – Malampaya Fund, PCSO Charity Fund, and PAGCOR Social Fund – are not included in the annual budget and therefore, are not deliberated upon by the Congress. Such funds do not go through the national treasury, contrary to the clear mandate of the Constitution,” Santiago said. (MNS)

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