Press Release
September 21, 2008

Arroyo govt asked explain non-release of P118 billion
of last year's natl budget

Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Q. Pimentel, Jr. (PDP-Laban) today challenged the Arroyo government to respond to the allegation that it has impounded the release of P118 billion of the authorized appropriations of some departments last year and transferred part of the "imaginary savings" to favored agencies and state corporations without securing congressional approval.

Citing a published statement of former Budget and Management Secretary Benjamin Diokno, Pimentel said the supposedly unreleased funds were equivalent to 17 percent of the total national budget excluding interest payments for public debt and assistance to local government units.

"This is a grave allegation and if true, this means that the government is unnecessarily scrimping on its spending to generate savings to the detriment of programs meant to stimulate the economy and to deliver essential services particularly for the poor," he said.

"The President cannot unilaterally withhold the release of funds and realign the same to other agencies or projects without impairing the integrity of the appropriations law and trampling upon the power of Congress over the purse."

Diokno, in an article in the September 11 issue of BusinessWorld, revealed that among the unreleased funds were the following: Department of Education (P29.9 billion), Department of Health (P3 billion), Philippine National Police (P7.l billion), Philippine Army (P7.9 billion), Philippine Air Force (P7.9 billion), Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao P2.5 billion), Department of Public Works and Highways (P4.6 billion) and Department of Transportation and Communications (P2.9) billion and Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Program under the Department of Agriculture (P3.8 billion).

Pimentel said the supposed failure to utilize huge chunks of money for education and health is unconscionable in the face of the perennial problems of dilapidated classrooms and facilities, lack of classrooms and teachers, lack of medicines and other supplies in state hospitals and non-implementation of the salary increase for doctors and nurses under the Magna Carta for Public Health Workers.

He said the alleged impounding of funds earmarked for the Armed Forces of the Philippines would partly explain why many government troops are ill-equipped in the battlefield.

The minority leader said this also cast doubts on the administration's claim that it has improved efficiency in revenue collection and has achieved fiscal stability.

Diokno also found that P6 billion in Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) for senators and congressmen had been frozen.

He said that the lion's share of his PDAF is apportioned among government hospitals but the Department of Budget and Management had not released the funds for medicine and medical assistance.

Pimentel said the purported accumulation of enormous unspent funds, as the disposal and discretion of the Chief Executive, gives rise to suspicion that it may be used to neutralize any renewed impeachment attempt against her or to fatten the administration's war chest in the 2010 elections.

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