DBM won’t let lawmakers get hold of P11.69-B ‘pork’

THE Department of Budget and Management (DBM) has withheld the release P11.69 billion in congressional allocations or “pork barrel” of lawmakers in compliance with the election ban.

Budget Secretary Florencio “Butch” Abad said the scheduled releases were deferred starting September 10, 2010, 45 days away from the Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections on October 25.

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 said.

Abad said DBM is still seeking a clarification from the Commission on Elections (Comelec) as to when the actual ban should start.

He said others believed that for local elections, the ban should start 10 days before the actual polling day or, in this case, on October 15, 2010.

“We’re seeking a clarification from the Comelec,” he said.

Abad said the Comelec is expected to issue a clarification this week or early next week.

He said whether the ban starts October 15 or had begun last September 10, it would be “moot and academic” since the releases of pork funds would remain frozen with barely two weeks to go before the elections.

Abad disclosed that among those affected by the 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.

He said the pork funds were earmarked for the second semester release.

The budget chief said about 25 percent of the programmed disbursements for infrastructure projects in September and October would be affected by the election ban.

The budget chief said the infrastructure projects include those being or to be implemented by senators and congressmen, local government units (LGUs) and other locally-funded projects.

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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