MANILA — Some infrastructure and anti-insurgency funds for 2021 are “open to corruption” and might be used to boost the election war chest of politicians in the succeeding year, a senator said Monday.
Several lawmakers have said they were “frustrated” by the lump sums in the Department of Public Works and Highways budget that lack “any specification of the projects to be funded,” said Senate Majority Leader Franklin Drilon.
“I would like to attribute good faith, but you cannot discount that this is part of the preparation for 2022,” he told ANC.
“I have been in Congress long enough that if there’s anything we should exercise extra vigilance on, it is called 'election year budget' because that would be the source of favors that those in power will be dispensing.”
Drilon also noted that the P16.4 billion anti-insurgency funds included "soft projects" such as medical assistance, burial, transportation, food, cash for work; and educational assistance.
“These are precisely the items which in the past enabled the corruption,” said the senator, citing as example the P728-million fertilizer fund scam.
The scam had “ghost trainings” where only the names of beneficiaries were listed down, making it difficult to trace and audit them, he said.
With the anti-insurgency funds, state auditors will have difficulty checking how more than 800 barangays will allocate this, Drilon said.
"It is open to corruption and abuse for the 2022 elections," he said.
"Given the corruption issues that the Senate has unearthed, we should rid the budget of every opportunity for corruption,” the senator added in a separate statement.
The anti-insurgency funds will be monitored by the interior department. Local officials will have to proposed projects before they could get the budget, House appropriations panel chairperson Eric Go Yap said.
“Dahan-dahan pong ire-release iyon,” Yap said in a separate ANC interview.
(That will be released gradually.)
The budget department, he said, has also submitted a breakdown of projects under P369 billion worth of lump sums that Sen. Panfilo Lacson earlier flagged.
Another P135 billion in supposed redundant entries under the DPWH funds, meanwhile, are projects that are “for later release.” This means that they should have been implemented this year and were postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic, he said.
The House on Tuesday will proceed with the DPWH budget briefing.