Press Release
November 28, 2006


Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago, continuing her war against alleged unconstitutional budget insertions, denounced the House of Representatives for increasing by some P7.7 billion the budget of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).

She said that while the President's budget allocated some P65 billion to public works, the House version increased it to some P73 billion.

The senator said that the House increases resulted in: appropriations for locally-funded projects, P40 billion; appropriations for various infrastructure, including local projects, P14 billion; including lump-sum funds for nationwide projects, P 1.9 billion.

She said that the two increases alone resulted in a total of some P54 billion that could serve as additional pork barrel for Congress members, in addition to the regular pork barrel known as Priority Development Assistance Funds (PDAF).

"Contrary to the Constitution, the House increased appropriations for locally-funded projects by 83.1%. Contrary to the Constitution, the House increased the appropriations for various infrastructure, including local projects, by 129.7%. And contrary to the Constitution, the House increased the lump-sum fund for nationwide projects by 208.5%," she said.

Santiago said that in the original budget, President Arroyo requested for P1.9 billion as lump-sum fund for nationwide projects, but she said that the House increased the President's appropriation to P5.9 billion, a whopping increase of P4 billion.

"The first interesting question is: who will allocate the P5.9 billion lump sum funds? The second interesting question is: how much of this fund will go to the pork barrel of favored legislators? The third interesting question is: how much of the fund will go to favored local officials?" Santiago said.

Santiago was particularly incensed by a Special Provision which gives the public works secretary the authority to realign funds.

"This Special Provision is a clear violation of the Constitution, which provides that no law should be passed authorizing any transfer of appropriations. Not even the President is allowed to make such a transfer without express authority of the General Appropriations Act," Santiago fumed.

Santiago said there are three reasons for deleting the controversial Special Provision.

The first reason is that the congressional power of the purse is diminished, thereby changing the balance of power as contemplated in the Constitution.

The second reason is that the concurrence of the legislator not Congress gives an individual legislator or congressman veto power over the proposed realignment.

The third reason is that it would create an opportunity for corruption.

Santiago explained that under the Special Provision, projects already bidded out could still be taken away from the winning bidder, if the outcome of the bidding process is not acceptable to public works officials or the sponsoring congressman.

"Since the released funds have not yet been obligated, the district engineer or legislator may request for a change in the project. The process will continue until the favored contractor is chosen," Santiago said.

Santiago also denounced in the House version, and recommended the deletion of, proposed new appropriations for Contractual Obligations in the sum of P1.2 billion.

"These Contractual Obligations are new. If they are accounts payable, then they should not be included in the budget as new appropriations. Congress has a duty to the public to explain who will be the beneficiaries of this new appropriation, and DPWH should specify who will be the payees," she said.

Santiago also questioned new appropriations of some P141 million for Value Added Tax, on the ground that VAT payment is the responsibility of the contractors.

On Santiago's request, Sen. Juan Flavier read into the record her interpellation on the DPWH budget, because she was busy drafting her official statement.

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