A year prior to the 2016 presidential polls, the yellow mafia then in the Palace unveiled a P20.9-billion Grassroots Participatory Budget Program (GPBP) which was supposed to be a budget reform measure that brings to the barangay level the determination of government projects.
The distribution of the amount later on was found patently similar to the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or legislative pork that the Supreme Court (SC) already ruled as illegal in 2013.
Under the GPBP, however, it will be the local governments units (LGU) which would identify 14,300 so-called Bottom Up Budgeting (BuB) projects.
While the PDAF has non-government organizations as conduits, the GPBP has the so-called civil service organizations as channels.
Aside from ruling the PDAF as illegal, the SC’s landmark decision also disallowed the government from any system similar to the PDAF “by any name or form, by any semblance or similarity, by any influence or effect.”
The GPBP was allocated to the Departments of Agriculture, Interior and Local Government (DILG), Social Welfare and Development, Education and Health.
The twist, however, is that the prerogatives in determining which LGU gets priority in the GPBP were decided on by Budget Secretary Butch Abad and Interior Secretary Mar Roxas who both are Liberal Party chieftains.
In the pre-election year budget, senators also found P13 billion in “errata allotment” for water supply and low-cost housing to the DILG.
Crucial to the manipulation of the budget was the redefinition of savings which the SC considered unconstitutional in another ruling in 2014 that struck down the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).
Senators found the 2015 budget invented a definition of savings that provided it could be declared as such at any time for “justifiable reasons” for Abad’s consideration.
Several portions of the budget were thus converted to pork in the guise of participatory budgeting, plus billions of pesos supposedly for low-cost housing for the DILG — even if the agency is not mandated to build housing units — and the setting up of water supply which is the concern of either the Local Water Utilities Administration or the Department of Public Works and Highways.
Another P1.003 billion for “local government performance management-based challenge for LGU” was also allotted to DILG in the 2015 budget.
Despite all the money under its disposal, Roxas’ DILG failed miserably in its main function of maintaining peace and order.
Roxas trumpeted Oplan Lambat-Sibat, mainly as a catchphrase for media mileage, since it did not result in any perceivable improvement in the crime situation.
The failures of Roxas did not even need periodic statistics to reveal this fact, since the nation then was under an atmosphere of fear, as people preferred to lock themselves up at home rather than roam the streets even in broad daylight.
The GPBP should be audited since it was another repository of discretionary funds similar to the DAP and a political tool of Roxas and the yellow regime of Noynoy.
Diokno, then a University of the Philippines School of Economics professor, said the BUB scheme that created the GPBP makes local officials prone to patronage with the DILG and consequently with Roxas.
The best tool for fiscal autonomy for Diokno is the formula-based automatically-released internal revenue allotment (IRA) and not the GPBP.
Local authorities under IRA charted their own programs and funding while the GPBP makes them dependent on central government officials.
Diokno said rather than addressing national concerns, like infrastructure projects that cut across political jurisdictions, the focus under GPBP was on small projects that appeal to particular local officials to gain their support.
LGU under the yellow scheme has the ability to cancel and replace certain programs and projects which is a characteristic similar to that of DAP.
Despite the budget maneuvers in favor of Roxas, he was convincingly trashed as Noynoy’s anointed by President Rody Duterte in the 2016 polls.
Noynoy and Roxas had their GPBP that gave them control over local officials while Rody, in contrast, did not even have one barangay captain on his side yet he won.
The mayor from Mindanao got the voters’ nod in 2016 by promising nothing but an end to the nation’s misery on crime and drugs that the yellow regime imposed on the country.