Allies of House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano are able to enjoy large sums of pork barrel funds under the 2020 national budget due to the clever budgeting term, “for later release (FLR).”
Malacañang resorted to FLR instead of vetoing some P80 billion in congressional realignments so as not to delay the passage of the 2020 General Appropriations Act (GAA).
According to the National Budget Circular No. 578 from the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), allocations under FLR include “Congress-introduced programs and projects” that are “subject to specific conditions and require compliance with certain documentary requirements/approvals from other authorities.”
Instead of having the same effect as a veto, Politiko’s source said the FLR allocation became a discretionary fund for the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), with lawmakers close to Cayetano benefiting from it. The source said districts controlled by the Speaker’s allies have their FLR funds released immediately while those who aren’t part of his inner circle would have to make do with smaller budgets.
Politiko’s source said a number of lawmakers are up in arms over the FLR, with some pointing out it is unconstitutional.
“The Constitution provides for line item budgeting. If the items in the GAA are all approved by Congress, the funds for them should be released. The executive branch shouldn’t have the discretion on when and to whom the allocations should be given,” the source said.
With the COVID-19 pandemic forcing the administration to realign funds, lawmakers– particularly those who aren’t close to Cayetano– are likely to be empty-handed as their FLR allocations may never be released.