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GMA has nothing to hide is prepared to answer plunder raps -- Palace

June 04, 2004

MANILA (PNA) -- President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has nothing to hide and is prepared to answer the latest plunder charges filed against her by militant groups at the proper forum, Presidential Spokesman Ignacio R. Bunye said today.

"We have nothing to hide. These will be explained in the proper forum," Bunye said in his regular press briefing in Malacañang.

Budget Secretary Emilia Boncodin has categorically said there was no diversion of P728 million set for the Department of Agriculture to the campaign kitty of the President.

Boncodin explained that the Department of Budget and Management

(DBM) cannot just release funds to any government agency without any particular purpose and that the law should authorize this.

In the said issue, Boncodin said the government agency is the DA, the particular purpose is procurement of agricultural inputs, and the law is the Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Act (AFMA).

Three militant groups, the Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya (Pamalakaya), Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), and Amihan are the latest to file the plunder case before the Office of the Ombudsman.

Earlier, losing senatorial candidate Francisco Chavez filed plunder charges against the President for supposedly using P728 million in agricultural funds during the last presidential campaign.

Also named respondents in the case were Boncodin, Agriculture Secretary Luis Lorenzo Jr., Agriculture Undersecretary Jocelyn Bolante, Budget Undersecretary Mario Relampagos, and one Nora Oliveros.

The militants, like Chavez before them, accused the officials of diverting the money for campaign funds.

Boncodin also has said the DBM is part of the Regional Project Monitoring and Evaluation System that does financial monitoring by undertaking sampling on certain government projects.

She said it is possible that the funds may reach some congressmen or other local government officials through the DA but these have to be spent for the said purpose and not for campaign spending.

On allegations that the funds were allocated on areas where there are no agricultural lands, Boncodin said this was possible since, she cited Navotas and Quezon City as having no such lands but they have fishery projects.

Meanwhile, Bunye belied the observations of former Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno that the Philippine economy is in the brink of fiscal crisis.

"He is entitled to his opinion. We're on the right track containing one of the problems inherited from the past administration of which Diokno was part of," Bunye said.

"We have somehow trimmed the budget deficit down to a manageable level," Bunye said.

Boncodin earlier reported that the government's budget deficit ceiling of P197.8 billion for 2004 would stay despite the possibility of higher-than- programmed spending amid rising prices.

The government has set the budget deficit ceiling at P197.8 billion as it aims for a balanced budget in 2009 or 2010.


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