Press Release
July 21, 2006


Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Nene Q. Pimentel, Jr. (PDP-Laban) today challenged local government executives to assert their independence and autonomy by fighting for the approval of the 2006 National Budget that entitles them to a hefty P15 billion increase in their Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) instead of lobbying with Congress for the restoration of an additional P8 billion presidential pork barrel that would supposedly benefit local government units (LGUs).

Pimentel warned that LGUs will end up as the biggest losers if Congress fails to pass the current year budget, which allocates P166.5 billion for IRA of the LGUs, compared to P151 billion in 2005.

He advised the local officials not to insist on bringing back the P5 billion Kilos Asenso and P3.7 billion Kalayaan Barangay funds which were excised by the Senate from the 2006 budget bill.

The minority leader said the Senate scrapped the Kilos Asenso and Kalayaan Barangay funds because these were created by administration to enable the President to reward local executives who are willing to follow her wishes blindly.

As such, the funds are destructive of the spirit and intent of the Local Government Code which intends to free them from being pawns of Malacañang and other powerful officials, he said.

Besides, he said the Kilos Asenso and Kalayaan Barangay funds are not in the nature of internal revenue share of LGUs.

They are plain and simple patronage funds that are meant to boost the Presidents buying power of local officials willing to be bought, he said.

Pimentel stressed that the Local Government Code was enacted to enhance the fiscal autonomy of the LGUs and ensure the local officials do not feel beholden to Malacañang for their financial needs.

He lamented that the Palace is taking advantage of its financial clout over local officials to ram down obnoxious proposals on their throats such as Charter Change designed to keep President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in power despite the prevailing public sentiments for her resignation or removal.

The administration seeks to establish a unicameral parliament during a three-year transition period to be composed of incumbent senators and congressmen. This is obviously intended to ensure that the administration will remain in control of the legislature. President Arroyo will retain her powers as head of the executive branch during the transition stage.

Pimentel said the administration is using local officials to give the illusion of political support for Charter Change although many of them have misgivings about the proposal.

He said the local executives play it safe by not questioning Charter Change for fear of Palace reprisal by way of withholding the release of their IRA and other assistance from the national government.

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