Senate Minority Leader Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III on Sunday flagged P544 billion in lump-sum appropriations lodged under the Department of Public Works and Highway (DPWH)’s proposed budget for 2023, which he warned can be a source of “pork barrel” funds.
“What I fear the most is it could be a rich source of pork barrel funds. That is why DPWH should disaggregate them and publicize the details immediately,” Pimentel stressed.
The Supreme Court declared in 2014 that pork barrel funds—government funds for projects designed to please voters or legislators and win votes—are unconstitutional.
Stressing this is no small amount, Pimentel noted that the P544 billion lump-sum funds are equivalent to 75 percent of the total appropriation of the DPWH for next year.
Under the proposed P5.268 trillion National Expenditures Program (NEP), DPWH has a P718.4 billion budget for next year.
“In the spirit of transparency, I call on the DPWH to provide the details of this huge allocation, down to the last centavo, so the Senate and the public will be able to scrutinize it,” said Pimentel.
“Every peso in the budget should be disaggregated. Hiding billions in lump sums is an old tune. Let’s shun this practice,” Pimentel said.
“Lump-sum amounts are prone to abuse and discretion.”
If Congress allows lump-sum appropriations in the budget, Pimentel warned this is tantamount to giving the executive a blanket authority to spend, in the case of DPWH, P544 billion at its own discretion.
The Senate chief fiscalizer and current chairman of the PDP-Laban noted that lump-sum funds are mostly lodged under the agency’s central office.
Of the lump-sum appropriation, he said P213.95 billion are for convergence and special support programs, which includes P104.82 billion for SIPAG or Sustainable Infrastructure Projects Alleviating Gap and P52.45 billion for BIP or Basic Infrastructure Program.
Pimentel emphasized that both programs—SIPAG and BIP—seem to serve duplicative functions and have purposes beyond the implementation of a national infrastructure program.
Of the P544 billion, P10.89 billion will go for widening of primary roads, P11.46 billion for secondary roads, and P6.52 billion for tertiary roads.
Pimentel also said the lump-sum funds include P86.18 billion for asset preservation program or road rehabilitation, reconstruction and upgrading.
Of these funds, P9.19 billion will go for preventive maintenance of primary roads, P12.44 billion for secondary roads, and P9.51 billio for maintenance of tertiary roads.
He also cited around P113.09 billion for network development program; P21.09 billion for bridge program; and P109 billion for flood management program.
“To what district or barangay would these billions of allocations go?”
Pimentel asked, noting they seem to violate the principle of transparency.