Press Release
July 6, 2008


Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Q. Pimentel, Jr. (PDP-Laban) today asked President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to explain how the multibillion peso calamity, social, contingent, confidential and other discretionary funds under her control have been spent by her government.

Pimentel issued the call in the wake of widespread complaints from areas ravaged by Typhoon Frank, particularly those in Panay Island, about the undue delay in the delivery of emergency relief assistance from the national government that has aggravated the sufferings of disaster victims.

But even in provinces and cities that have already received relief goods from Manila through the National Disaster Coordinating Council and Department of Social Weather and Development, the common gripe was that the quantities of the aid were too inadequate in proportion to the huge number of victims and the enormity of the damages and losses inflicted by the typhoon.

Pimentel said there is no reason why the government could not provide adequate assistance to the typhoon-damaged areas and the calamity victims specially because the government is expected to generate about P20 billion in incremental revenues this year on account of the soaring prices of imported of petroleum products which are subjected to the 12 percent Value Added Tax.

He said Mrs. Arroyo has an obligation to account for the funds intended for calamities and other contingencies that were entrusted to her office this year. He said these funds include the P9 billion calamity fund, P4.7 President's Social Fund (P1.7 billion from the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation and P3 billion from the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office), P800 million Contingent Fund and P650 million intelligence fund.

In addition, he said the President has the discretion to disburse the P30 billion unprogrammed fund, the P5 billion Kilos Asenso Fund and the P3 billion Kalayaan sa Barangay Fund under the 2008 national budget.

"With these ample funds that are under the disposal and discretion of the Chief Executive, the government is capable enough to extend emergency relief and rehabilitation assistance to the communities that were battered and devastated by Typhoon Frank and other calamities," Pimentel said.

"There is no reason for the disaster-stricken towns and cities and the affected residents to feel they are neglected by the national government - deprived and starved of much-needed funds, as well as food and medical assistance."

The minority leader stressed the need for a full accounting of these funds - in keeping with the rule of transparency - if only to ascertain that they are being used judiciously and for the purposes for which they were intended.

Considering that Mrs. Arroyo wields control over these huge amounts of funds and has the discretion to release them and choose their recipients, Pimentel said he is appalled by the President's insistence on having the final say even in the release of the Priority Development Assistance Fund that is earmarked for projects that are identified by the senators and congressmen.

He said the selective freeze on the development funds of lawmakers has made a mockery of the so-called congressional power over the purse.

He said the President is abusing her power by arbitrarily withholding the PDAF allocations to lawmakers from the opposition - which is obviously meant to get back at them for exposing and denouncing the scandals, venalities and misuse of power by her administration. In other words, he said the President's critics in Congress are being punished for discharging their inherent task of checking the actuations of the political leaders and party in power.

With the yearly PDAF allocations of opposition legislators impounded for the last three years, Pimentel said they have been rendered inutile in lending a helping hand to their constituents who come to their office to seek assistance, specially the victims of the series of typhoons and other calamities that have struck the country.

News Latest News Feed