‘OPAPP has P5-B pork under PAMANA’- Solon

ON TOP of the P314 million allocation for the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) for 2013, the said government agency has over P5 billion under the Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan Program (PAMANA) which it can utilize in its own volition, congressmen found out in the plenary deliberation on the agency’s proposed budget yesterday.

In his interpellation regarding the 2013 budget for OPAPP, Kabataan Partylist Rep. Raymond Palatino pointed out that while the budget for PAMANA was included in the allocation for several other government agencies, the P5-billion fund remains to be under OPAPP’s control.

Under the proposed 2013 budget, various departments received allocation for PAMANA, the government’s main development program for conflict-riddled areas, including the Department of Agriculture with P1.5 billion; the Department of Social Welfare and Development with P1.5 billion; Department of Interior and Local Government with P1.6 billion; Department of Energy with P150 million; the Department of Environment and Natural Resources with P93 million; PhilHealth (P16 million); and the Commission on Higher Education (P2 million).

“During the budget hearings in several agencies with PAMANA funding, we repeatedly asked how their agencies will use the said funds, but department heads kept on referring us to OPAPP,” Palatino said.

“When we asked OPAPP what is the extent of their role in handling these funds, they said that they will only monitor and provide oversight. Yet the departments with PAMANA allocation are not sure where to use these funds, making it appear that OPAPP will directly control this budget,” Palatino explained.

In the plenary deliberations on September 18, OPAPP Sec. Teresita Deles said she was “surprised” that the agencies with PAMANA allocations are depending on OPAPP for the program’s implementation, saying that her agency is only mandated to oversee, coordinate and integrate the implementation of government’s peace programs.

The 2013 National Expenditure Program states that OPAPP shall “validate quarterly reports on the status of implementation of the PAMANA program.”

“OPAPP needs to clarify the extent of its control on PAMANA, because if it is indeed the sole manager of this P5-billion fund, then it seems that OPAPP has vast controls on funds directed towards conflict areas, which it can tap as its own pork barrel” Palatino said.

“Scholarships, health, and other social services might be used in the guise of furthering peace. There remains a fear that instead of developing communities, PAMANA funds might be tapped to further counterinsurgency campaigns that wreak havoc to communities in the rural areas, which is ironic if one thinks about it,” Palatino said.

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