Global Policy Forum

Philippines: Three reasons why the 2014 national budget is prone to misuse

Briones2011Prof. Leonor Magtolis-Briones from Social Watch Philippines gives three reasons why the Philippines 2014 national budget is prone to misuse. Social Watch Philippines analyses the government’s annual spending budgets and releases alternative budgets through its Alternative Budget Initiative to influence the national budgets to become more supportive in creating a sustainable environment and more equitable society for the Philippines. The following is an edited version of a piece originally entitled Speaking for Myself: The 2014 National Budget, Special Purpose Funds, Pork Barrel, at Iba Pa.

22 October, 2013 | socialwatch Philippines

Philippines: Three reasons why the 2014 national budget is prone to misuse

In the Philippines, Social Watch Philippines monitors the MDG programs as implemented by the government. Its main advocacy is more government spending for health, education, agriculture, the environment, and for social protection for all. It has organized the Alternative Budget Initiative (ABI) which proposes alternative budgets for these MDG-related expenditures.


1) Special funds in the 2014 National Budget don't go through the same rigorous examination as those allotted for agencies and departments.

As a social development organization, Social Watch conducts briefings upon request. We have done this for senators, congressmen, civil society organizations, media, and the general public. We have already conducted several briefings based on public information from concerned government agencies. Our power point presentations are available to the public.

Our supposed public statements can be tested against our published documents. What are the vulnerabilities in the proposed 2014 budget? During the press briefing last year for the proposed 2013 budget, one member of the press angrily demanded, "why don't you say outright that the president is corrupt"? 



Out of the total expenditure of Ph 2.268 trillion, only the budgets of the departments and agencies have details which can be examined lengthily by Congress, totaling P 1.162 trillion. 

The balance composed of special purpose funds of P 310.047 billion (programmed) and P 796.02 billion--a total of P 1.106 trillion--don't go through the same rigorous examination as the departments and agencies.

Unprogrammed funds of P 139.9 billion is not included. The above explains why I consider this budget vulnerable. 

Another source of vulnerability is the fact that the Constitution allows the President to transfer funds in "the office of the President." 

The term "office" has been interpreted to mean the entire national government system, and not just the office of the President.

The former interpretation has led one leading member of Congress to observe that "while Congress has its pork barrel, the President has his beef barrel." 

2) The Budget department has failed to submit a report on how it spent special purpose funds.

Since 2006, Social Watch Philippines has been calling for the reduction, if not the abolition of lump sum appropriations as exemplified by the Special Purpose Funds. 

We have to bear in mind that this is not provided for in the Constitution. While there is mention of Special Funds, nothing is stated about Special Purpose Funds. 

NONETHELESS, programmed special purpose funds are included in the proposed General Appropriations Act. The one-line items in this fund are expected to be approved by Congress along with the detailed budgets of departments and agencies. 

In 2009, the Commission on Audit issued a report on Special Purpose Funds, pointing out abuses related to the utilization of these funds. In its 2010 Audit Report, COA advised DBM to" refrain from transferring funds from one lump-sum/special purpose fund (SPF) to another, or utilizing the appropriation of one Fund for purposes of another Fund, otherwise the intentions of the appropriation law will be circumvented." 

Because of their vulnerability, the Department of Budget and Management is required to report quarterly to the House Committee on Appropriation and the Senate Committee on Finance, regarding releases from the Special Purpose Funds, Supplemental Appropriations, Continuing Appropriations, and Automatic Appropriations. 

Last year, we inquired from the House Committee on Appropriations if this requirement was fulfilled. We received a negative answer. 

In this year's proposed General Appropriations Act, this requirement is reiterated in Section 86. Again, another vulnerability. 

3) The pork barrel distorts the constitutional definition of what a legislator and an executive official is.

At present, the most controversial item in the programmed Special Purpose Funds is the Priority Development Assistance Funds of P 25.240 billion.

While public protests about pork usually escalate during the budget season, the calls for abolition of the Fund are getting louder. At present, public disgust is at its highest and is exacerbated by the Janet Napoles and other related pork scandals. When I was eight years old, I used to read cartoon editorials in the Philippine Free Press excoriating members of Congress on the pork barrel. 

Now, 65 years later, abuses have become more shameless and open, even as the public repeats its annual denunciations of pork during the budget season. Both the Executive and the Legislature have sung paeans and hosannas to the noble intentions of the pork barrel. 

We all know by standard definition, that it is the use of national funds to benefit the constituency of a representative or a senator for patronage purposes. 

We also know that we picked up this practice from the spoils system of the American government which has long abandoned it.


 (Leonor Magtolis-Briones is a Professor Emeritus of the University of the Philippines National College of Public Administration and Governance. Besides being the former president of the Freedom from Debt Coalition, she has also served as the Philippines' national treasurer under then-President Joseph E. Estrada.)

(This is a edited version of a piece originally entitled Speaking for Myself: The 2014 National Budget, Special Purpose Funds, Pork Barrel, at Iba Pa.)


For the full article please click here:

FAIR USE NOTICE: This page contains copyrighted material the use of which has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. Global Policy Forum distributes this material without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. We believe this constitutes a fair use of any such copyrighted material as provided for in 17 U.S.C § 107. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.