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Santiago chides at pork in 2015 budget

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Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago cannot hide her disappointment on Monday as she scoffed at the 2015 budget, which she described as the kind of budget that administration candidates can benefit from come election time.

In a privilege speech, Santiago said a redefinition of savings and the retention of pork barrel allocation are “two dangerous minefields” that have put into question the constitutionality of the proposed budget for next year.

“It gives too much money where it should not be placed. It does not give enough to where it is needed,” Santiago said in a press briefing after her speech. “It’s a very lopsided budget.”

Santiago called on her colleagues to revert to the old definition of savings and to stick to Section 91 of the general provisions requiring the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to submit a report on compliance with reportorial requirements on lump sums.

The feisty senator also slammed Budget Secretary Butch Abad for crafting a budget that gives the executive branch much leeway to juggle funds.

She coined the term “hyper-presidentialism” to describe the executive department’s alleged usurpation of congressional authority over the purse.

“This is a disservice to the President,” she said, saying she was referring to the DBM, the only job of which for the year was “writing budgets.”

“Why do they write it like that,” she asked.

Santiago also slammed reports that congressmen were asked to submit a list of their priority projects for their districts prior to the submission of the national budget to the House of Representatives.

“That’s the very essence of pork barrelism, when you give a huge lump sum to a person and say ‘well, tell us what you want it for but you are free to decide where to spend it on’,” she said.

“It seems to me very much reminiscent of the old pork barrel practices. So if that is the case, then they’re getting ready to institute the same pork barrel practices under the 2015 budget. Otherwise what’s the point?” Santiago said.

While complaining of difficulty in breathing, Santiago still posed some questions on the budget of the DOH, which was being deliberated on yesterday.

In her speech, Santiago also urged that the P2.69 billion for the socio-economic component of the Bangsamoro normalization process be placed under “Unprogrammed Appropriations” because Congress has not yet passed the Bangsamoro Basic Law.

Quoting Article 6, Section 25 of the Constitution, Santiago said, “No law shall be passed authorizing any transfer of appropriations; however, (certain government officials) may, by law, be authorized to augment any item in the general appropriations law for their respective offices from savings in other items of their respective appropriations.”

She said the old definition of savings was “better” because it “allowed savings only after final discontinuance or abandonment of the work, activity or purpose.”

The senator said the “new broader definition allows savings during discontinuance or abandonment at any time.”

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