VP Binay gives up P200M 'pork'
MANILA (1st UPDATE) - Vice President Jejomar Binay announced Wednesday that he is giving up his P200 million social services fund amid a public outcry over the misuse of lawmakers' pork barrel funds.
In a statement read by his Chief of Staff Benjamin Martinez Jr., Binay requested the Senate Finance Committee to remove his P200 million allocation in the 2014 national budget.
However, he also noted that removing his social services fund will affect projects under the Office of the Vice-President such as scholarships, free medical assistance and construction of buildings for senior citizens.
"Ngayong araw na ito, pormal kong hinihiling na tanggalin sa 2014 budget ng OVP ang P200 million na nakalaan sa locally-funded projects. Batid ko na may mga proyektong maaapektuhan ng desisyon kong ito, katulad ng college scholarships sa mga mahihirap na estudyante, ang pagbibigay ng gamot at tulong sa mga nangangailangan nating mga kababayan, at ang pagtatayo ng gusali para sa senior citizens, ngunit alam ko na maiintindihan ito ng ating mga kababayan," Binay said.
The Vice-President said he made the decision even before the Department of Budget and Management could answer questions if the fund is considered a form of pork barrel.
"Nagdesisyon ako kahit hindi pa man sinasabi ng kinauukulan kung ano ang katangian ng pondong ito, para maiwasan ang ispekulasyon at pamumulutika sa usaping ito. Umaasa ako na sa desisyong ito, muli nating maipararating sa ating mga kababayan na tayong mga nasa gobyerno ay laging nakikinig sa kanila at handang maglingkod ng tapat, hayag at may pananagutan," he said.
Martinez said the OVP will explain to their beneficiaries what Congress is doing with priority development assistance fund (PDAF) allocations. He said he hopes the public will understand the move.
Martinez said Binay has no record of irregularities in the past three years of having the fund. "Naka line item kami for the past years. Naka identify ang mga LGUs, ang mga scholars at yung mga binibigyan ng medical equipment," he said.
He said they leave it up to President Aquino on where to use Binay's funds since their office is still part of the Executive Department.
The P200 million allocation is given to the OVP for projects in line with a menu of projects that is similar to that used by lawmakers for their priority development assistance funds or pork barrel funds.
The P200 million was given to the OVP starting 2011 and was drawn from the unused senatorial PDAF of Benigno Aquino III. Aquino was elected president in 2010.
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Francis Escudero, meanwhile, took notice of the request and told Martinez during the hearing that it will still be a subject of deliberations among members of the Senate finance committee.
He said the committee will come up with a proposal for the Senate plenary to decide eventually.
"Pwedeng iawas yan sa kabuuang budget tulad nang dati ko nang ipinapanukala o pwedeng ire-align sa ibang pondo na may kailangan tulad ng edukasyon at kalusugan," Escudero said.
If the P200 million budget is removed, the OVP will only have P217 million in total budget for 2014 from the original P417 million proposed budget. The social services fund is 50% of the OVP's total allocation for next year.
The Senate Finance Committee has approved for plenary session the budget of the OVP.