‘Premature’ poll ban robs lawmakers of P11.6 billion

THE government may have “cheated” senators and congressmen of their combined pork barrel allocation of P11.69 billion when it prematurely effected its own election ban last September 10, 2010 or 45 days before the scheduled Barangay and Sanggunihang Kabataan (SK) elections late this month.

This developed after the Commission on Elections (Comelec) issued a clarification last week that the election ban on the release of infrastructure funds starts on October 15, 2010 or 10 days before the polls and not September 10, as imposed by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).

DBM Secretary Florencio “Butch” Abad announced over the weekend that the election ban for the Barangay and SK elections, indeed, took effect October 15.

The premature election ban denied lawmakers of their pork barrel releases. From September 10 to October 15, the DBM have exactly more than a month to process and release the lawmakers’ pork barrel.

Abad earlier disclosed that the budget agency has adopted September 10 as the start of the election ban and consequently withhold the release of pork barrel funds already cleared for release.

He said based on the Omnibus Election Code, the election ban on fund releases for government projects should start 45 days before any electoral exercise.

“In the absence of a Comelec resolution, we adopted an election ban effective September 10, 2010, which is 45 days before the October elections,” Abad has said.

The P11.69 billion was included in the second half schedule of pork releases under the 2010 national budget.

Among those affected by the “premature” election ban were the P9.590 billion pork of congressmen numbering 274 entitled to P35 million each and P2.1 billion allotted for 21 senators with allocation of P100 million each for a total of P11.69 billion.

Abad said the DBM could only resume releases of pork funds after October 25 or worse, after the Halloween break in November.

The DBM has allocated P70 million each for congressman and P200 million for every senator as their pork barrel share under the P1.645 trillion budget for next year.  Dino Ng

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