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Campaign fund for Mar stirs LP

Members of the ruling Liberal Party on Thursday grumbled about Interior Secretary Mar Roxas and Budget Secretary Florencio Butch Abad’s use of P20 billion of the national budget to start campaigning for 2016 through bottom-up budgeting involving select civil society groups and local government units. Roxas and Abad said it was “pure intrigue” and claimed that the 110-strong LP was supportive of the program. The LP hierarchy summoned its members and held a meeting on Aug. 16 and announced to the lawmakers that, starting 2014, the President would invest P20 billion in poverty-reduction projects involving select NGOs and 1,226 LGUs nationwide. “We were summoned and thought we would be told to back the BUB,” an LP member who requested anonymity told the Manila Standard. “But no, it was rammed down our throats, and the underlying message was, it was for Mar’s presidential bid in 2016. So the P20-billion budget would be distributed to LGUs with Mar no less on top of the distribution.” The source said the P20 billion for BUB was one big pork barrel for Mar. “He will use the LGUs. He even told us to approve the budget but at the expense of the taxpayers. He will use us and later on claim all the credit because the LGUs would owe him for such a huge amount.” The source said Roxas would be giving away the P20 billion for livelihood projects, potable water and electrification, among other things. Roxas, another source said, was simply telling them that he would go to their districts nationwide, but the projects would be given straight to the LGUs and select NGOs in their respective territories. “Of course he will be the hero,” the source said. Roxas expressed surprise over the reaction of the LP members and insisted that they supported  the Aquino administration’s plan. “That’s intrigue,” he said. “Yes, there is a program called bottom-up budgeting. It wasn’t rammed down their throats. In fact, they were supportive [of] it.” Abad said the budget for the bottom-up budgeting was increased from P8.4 billion this year to P20 billion next year, and the LGU-recipients throughout the country from 595 to 1,226. In a budget message to all lawmakers on July 23, President Benigno Aquino III said the government had sought to create a “direct voice and vote” for citizens through their communities and local governments in crafting the budget. He said the BUB was piloted this year by tasking the poorest municipalities and cities to develop local poverty reduction programs and projects in consultation with their communities and the CSOs in their localities. That, the President said, led to P8.4 billion in poverty-reduction projects, developed by 595 cities and municipalities that were integrated into the 2013 budget.
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