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Roxas’ P13-B pork/campaign kitty

Very few of this newspaper’s readers, I’d bet, have heard of this Administration’s “Pamana” program, and it’s probably the way they want it to be.

In billions of pesos. (Pamana funds include P1.5 billion from the budget item “Socio-Economic Component of the Normalization Process”

Pamana” stands for the “Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan,” purportedly intended, as an interior and local government department paper claims, to fund programs aimed at “addressing the root causes of armed conflict through interventions on the ground.”

The 2015 budget allocated it a huge amount of P7.3 billion. Add to that a related program called “Socio-Economic Component of the Normalization Process,” costing P2.5 billion, and this Administration has a further P9.7 billion kitty that it can use in any way it wants, just as long as the funds are spent in “seven Pamana zones,” supposedly where the problem of insurgency exists.

These are, as they appear in a government list, the “Cordillera, Bicol-Cordillera-Mindoro, Samar, Negros-Panay, Davao-Compostela Valley-CARAGA, Central Mindanao, Zamboanga-Basilan-Sulu-Tawi-Tawi.”

“Conflict areas” they certainly are, but any political analyst would recognize them as regions that are not only the country’s vote-rich areas but also – such as Central Mindanao – where “traditionally” the political bosses deliver the votes.

That P9.7 billion fund is larger than the budgets of such departments as tourism, science and technology, and trade and industry. It is nearly the equivalent of the P10 billion allocated for socialized housing.

It doesn’t seem coincidental that the Pamana funds of the Interior and Local Government department, headed by Mar Roxas – still the President’s likely candidate in 2016 – have steadily increased from P1 billion in 2012 to P1.5 billion in 2014 to a huge P3.1 billion this year.

The DILG received under the 2015 budget law another P1.5 billion for its
participation in the “Socio-Economic Component of the Normalization Process.”

What does the DILG Pamana funds finance? According to its report, “(small) local roads, evacuation centers, water supply systems, community infrastructure projects, as well as “capacities of LGUs.” How are the funds released? Mainly through the municipalities.

That is, Pamana is just like pork-barrel funds, the only difference being, that here, they are utilized in the “conflict” areas. Who decides which municipalities receive the Pamana funds? Not Congress, but the Interior and Local Government secretary, Roxas.

The Commission on Audit could have enlightened us if Pamana funds, indeed, are “addressing the root causes of the conflict.” Its latest publicly-available audit report on the DILG proper (i.e. the department itself, not its attached agencies), however, is only for 2012.

Strangely, it reviewed all the DILG programs such as that on implementing the “Performance Challenge Fund” and on protecting senior citizens. Nothing, though, on its Pamana funds – whether it used these funds appropriately, or even if it used at all the P1 billion given it in 2012. Does that mean that COA would provide the public with a report on the DILG’s use of its 2015 Pamana fund of P3 billion, two years later, in 2017?

The P3 billion DILG Pamana funds, together with the P1.5 billion for the “normalization process,” aren’t the only pork-like money Roxas can disburse at his whim.

The bigger one actually, is the DILG’s P5.7 billion allocation from the P21-billion Bottom-Up Budgeting Projects (BUB), as I discussed in my column on Friday (“The new pork is BUB, boys”, Jan 20).

The DILG’s BUB allocation, in fact, is the biggest, followed by that of the Agriculture department, with P4.3 billion worth of BUB projects. DILG under the 2015 budget also has P1.8 billion for its Potable Water Supply project and P1.2 billion “Housing Program for Informal Settler Families.” (Why is the DILG involved in such tasks that are really those of other departments?)

Noble the purported intentions of these programs are, they take on a diabolical motive if one realizes that it will be Roxas who will determine which municipality or even barangay would get a BUB project, a potable water well, or a housing unit.

Altogether, this pork-like kitty directly under Roxas’ control this year amounts to P13.3 billion. Support his bid for the presidency in 2016, or promise to do so, and you’ll get your share of these funds for your town.

I bet that amount will increase to P15 billion in 2016, as nobody is protesting such scandalous de facto campaign funds being given by Congress to Roxas.

No wonder that despite his consistently low voter-preference ratings (despite the efforts of mercenary pollsters to boost them), Roxas isn’t giving up. Why, he even exudes an inexplicable confidence.