BANTAY BADYET | Defense budget prone to corruption, used for rights abuses
In light of the pork barrel scandal rocking the country today, Pinoy Weekly launches a series examining the proposed 2014 national budget. Here we look at how pork barrel is maintained, but also how public funds may be misused, misallocated or denied from social services needed by impoverished Filipinos. First in the series: On the budget for “defense” used for political repression and corruption.
Public anger against rampant corrupt practices in government involving pork barrel funds was unleashed in a protest gathering of hundreds of thousands in Luneta on August 26. Many of those who went to Luneta asserted their call to abolish all pork barrel, including the President’s pork barrel, and insisted that the exposed scam was just the tip of the iceberg.
By all indications, this is true in the national budget proposed by the Aquino administration for next year, 2014.
A study from Kabataan Party-list estimates the president’s pork barrel funds – meaning lump sum funds that are discretionary to the President in nature — range from PhP1.3 Trillion to a maximum of PhP1.5-T. This, of course, is equivalent to more than half of the annual national budget.
But aside from these, Kabataan was alarmed at some “hidden” pork barrel funds within budgets of line agencies. Included in these agencies are the military and the police. The Department of National Defense (DND) enjoys a P1.775 Billion increase in the 2014 proposed budget. The group said that from almost PhP90-B in 2013, it is proposed to balloon to almost PhP93-B. It can even run to as high as P162-B, Kabataan estimated.
For 2014, the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) placed the defense budget at P81,777,178. But Kabataan and human rights group Karapatan scrutinized items in the proposed budget and found out that aside from the institutions directly under DND, lump-sum amounts where inserted in the national budget – distributed in different government line agencies and programs.
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|Department of National Defense||
2014 proposed budget
|Office of the Secretary||
|National Defense College||
|Office for Civil Defense||
|Philippine Veterans’ Affairs Office||
|Veterans’ Memorial Medical Center||
|Philippine Air Force||
11, 904 798
|General Headquarters, AFP and AFP Wide Service Support Units||
81, 777, 178
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Prone to corruption
Cristina Palabay, Karapatan secretary general, in an interview with Pinoy Weekly, called the defense budget as a “license (from the President) to kill and steal.”
Palabay noted the P7,217,664,000 budget alloted for Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan (Pamana) projects as pork barrel for AFP generals. “These (funds) are not itemized, and a lump sum appropriation that can be considered as general pork,” Palabay said.
Pamana is the national government’s multi-sectoral approach program for peace and development in areas affected by armed conflict, and implemented in 48 provinces.
Administered by the Office of the Presidential Adviser for Peace Process (OPAPP), and monitored by the Department of Intertior and Local Government, Pamana’s three objectives include “improving local governance, reducing poverty through delivery of basic social services and empowering local communities.”
But Karapatan said that Pamana has been part of the counter-insurgency program Oplan Bayanihan. The program is supposedly part of “winning hearts and minds” of communities through dole-out projects aimed at areas where there supposedly is strong rebel presence.
“It’s a fund to soften the ground under the framework of Oplan Bayanihan,” said Palabay. She stressed that Pamana funds are distributed in different line agencies, some of which had budget for social services, like the Department of Health and the Department of Social Welfare and Development.
Palabay also claimed that there’s no line item specification on Pamanas’ allocated budget. “What is happening is that local government units can nominate or submit project proposals depending on what they allegedly need in solving peace and order problems and national security questions in localities,” said Palabay.
The group believed that the funds are prone to corruption and encourage patronage politics.
The Pamana website shows projects implemented in regions such as roads, water system, livelihood and others as part of the so-called transparency and accountability of the program. But Palabay pointed out that Pamana is a counter-insurgency program guised as economic projects.
“Our problem with this budget (Pamana) is that it is framed in combat, a militaristic approaches to solving the causes of civil strife in the country,” Palabay said.
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|BUDGET FOR PAMANA IN THE FF AGENCIES||2014|
|CHED||4,000,000 (as per KPL data)|
|Office of the Secretary||1,721,512,000|
|Bureau of Fisheries &Aquatic resources||14,050,000|
|TOTAL BUDGET FOR PAMANA||7,217,664,000|
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“Offering social services to people while pointing guns at them is not a geniune public service,” she explained.
The funds are also susceptible to corruption because of utter lack of transparency in using and accounting for of the funds. Palabay challenged the Commission on Audit to look into the past three years budget of the defense. “Aside from the presidential pork, there is a big stake here in what we call generals’ pork ” Palabay said.
In recent years, several AFP officials were exposed to be involved in controversies regarding alleged misuse of military funds. Former military budget officer and retired Col. George Rabusa exposed the pabaon system (send-off money) and conversion of military funds in 2011.
In 2007, then-Lt.Sg. Nancy Gadian exposed anomalies in the use of a PhP46-Million fund for RP-US Balikatan military exercises. This year, a former director of the Philippine National Police, Gen. Avelino Razon, was charged in gthe Sandiganbayan for the alleged “ghost repairs and maintenance” of armored vehicles costing PhP385.48 Million.
In a privilege speech on September 2 calling for the abolition of the pork barrel system, Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Javier Colmenares explained that in 2009, the DND-AFP budget of PhP56.5-B was delayed due to the delayed approval of the General Appropriations Act (GAA). The DND-AFP spent PhP14-B from January to March from its “re-enacted 2008 budget”. But instead of deducting this from the approved regular budget, the Arroyo government added it, making PhP70.431-B the 2009 appropriations and obligations for the military and police.
“All the while, Congress thought it only appropriated PhP56.5-B to the DND-AFP,” explained Colmenares.
Colmenares also claimed in his speech that the PNP-DILG and the AFP recieved funds from Malampaya during the Arroyo administration. “Pres. Arroyo gave the PNP one SARO for PhP1.6-B and another for PhP540-M, a lump sum amount of PhP2.14-B for the vague and generalized purpose of enabling the PNP to respond immediately to emergencies in times of natural calamities,” the lawmaker said.
For the DILG-PNP, according to Colmenares, more than PhP2-B was given for “disaster preparedness”. But this was allegedly spent on rubberized boats and other overpriced projects in 2009. This was exposed during the budget deliberation for DILG in 2012, upon the interpellation of Bayan Muna
The Bayan Muna lawmaker added that the DND managed to get more than PhP1-B for AFP modernization fund in 2009 right before the elections. However, there appears to be no Special Allotment Release Orders, or SARO, for the account, according to the Department of Energy. Meanwhile, another P198-M was spent to buy a “generator set” and repair the roofs and structures of the Philippine Military Academy.
In a separate interview, Colmenares claimed that he personally unearthed a nearly P40-B unliquidated amount of the AFP’s modernization fund.
“The AFP cannot account for this amount. And yet, they are asking again for a higher budget,” he said. Colmenares also pointed out that there are other unsolved controversies in the military institution, ranging from allegations of officers maintaining “ghost soldiers”, corrupt practices such as the “pabaon system”, among others. “These (cases) were never (closed). Is there anyone who prosecuted?” Colmenares rhetorically asked.
He noted that the vague lump sum amounts like that of the Pamana fund, is also a source of graft and corruption due to discretionary nature of it. “You can disperse the fund to your favored municipalities or allies (at your own pleasure),” he said.
“By some stroke of it, if it was not corrupted still it was anomalous to favor allies. What if some municipalities need hospitals, you deny it because officials are not your allies?” Colmenares said.
More violations, abuses
Karapatan said that the proposed amount in the 2014 defense budget will be used to stiffle legitimate dissent and further escalate human rights violations.
Palabay echoed the popular clamor to redirect huge amounts of government funds to social services like public hospitals and medical care for the poor, education and subsidies to public colleges and universities and, housing facilities where people can access the funds directly and benefit from it.
“(They can do this) instead of (the mondy) ending up either in the generals’ pockets or used to bomb communities—as what is happening now in Sagada, Mountain Province,” Palabay said.
The group cited that the amount allocated to AFP Medical Center is PhP 1,218,835,000. This is used primarily for soldier-patients. Compare this to the alloted budgets of special hospitals whose services are being accessed by the poor, like Jose Reyes Memorial Medical Center (with PhP541,302,000 allocation), National Children’s Hospital (PhP286,914,000); Philippine Orthopedic Center (PhP519,871,000); Quirino Memorial Medical Center (PhP356,531,000) and Tondo Medical Center (PhP255,966,000).
Despite wide and persistent clamor for the disbandment of paramilitary groups, civilian volunteers groups and private armies, the administration allocated PhP2-B for Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Units (Cafgu). Since 2010, according to Karapatan, paramilitary groups have been involved in extrajudicial killings and human rights violations, such as the incidents involving Datu Jimmy Liguyon, Fr. Fausto Tentorio, and the massacre of Juvy Capion and her two children. These cases were committed despite President Aquino’s promise to dismantle paramilitary groups, and calls from several states including the European parliament in the Universal Periodic Review in 2012.
“Similarly, the operations of the Special Cafgu Active Auxiliary (SCAA) units, which are co-funded and organized by the AFP and mining/transnational corporations, have continued, with Pres. Aquino categorically giving the go-signal for it on October 20, 2011. The question then is why are we still funding CAFGUs and SCAAs?” Palabay asked.
The latest victim of paramilitary group was Anting Freay, 60, a Blaan tribal chieftain. Freay and his 16-year-old son were allegedly killed by the elements of the AFP’s 39th Infantry Battalion and Task Force Kitaco (Kiblawan, Tampakan, Columbio). Task Force Kitaco was created under the 1002nd IB-PA to secure the areas covered by the SMI-Xstrata’s mining project.
“Public funds are being used to kill the people and perpetrate thousands of rights violations. Under Aquino’s counter-insurgency program Oplan Bayanihan,” Palabay said.
Lately, the Philippine Air Force used MG520 planes to bomb suspected lairs of the New People’s Army in Sagada, Mountain Province. Miltary and police officials claimed there were no collateral damage in the air strikes. But indigenous groups condemned the air strikes and said it destroyed their communal hunting grounds, swidden farms and watershed areas.
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|Support for Peace and Order Councils (DILG)||33,830,000|
|Comprehensive Local Integration Program (DILG)||74,036,000|
|BUDGET FOR PAMANA||7,217,664,000|
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Karapatan also questioned the allocation of funds for intelligence units, including the allocation of intelligence funds of President Aquino himself. Despite millions of pesos spent on intelligence units, fugitive public officials and erring military officers like Palparan remain at large.
The supposed surrender of Janet Lim-Napoles proved the futility of the intelligence community, according to Palabay. “The Aquino government uses the intelligence funds to curtail the rights and freedom of the people, instead of using it to arrest the likes of the butcher Palparan,” Palabay said.
She cited the recent Court of Appeals decision to release security guard Rolly Panesa, who was arrested, tortured and tagged as a high ranking official of the NPA.
Karapatan has documented 142 cases of extrajudicial murders and 164 frustrated killing; 16 incidents of enforced disappearances; 76 cases of torture; 540 cases of illegal arrest; and more than 30,000 victims of forced evacuations in three years of the Aquino administration.
It fears that it will escalate once the budget is approved. Thus, the group called for “zero budget” for the Defense Department.
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