Press Release
September 21, 2015


Sen. Francis "Chiz" Escudero wants budget officials to explain the details of the proposed P200-million bail money neatly tucked in the 2016 national budget which can be tapped by people in government to help them deal with legal cases, including malversation of public funds.

Called the "Legal Defense Fund" or LDF, Escudero said this lump sum in the proposed spending package is buried in the fine print of the Miscellaneous Personnel Benefits Fund (MPBF).

Under the proposed provisions governing its utilization, the fund shall be used for "actual expenses, including the payment of premiums for the posting of bail bonds and cash advance for expenses by indicted public employees and officials."

The fund will be used for the "defense of administrative, civil or criminal cases filed against them in courts for acts committed in the performance of their actual functions," the provisions further stated.

Escudero, however, wants the provisions clarified because the proposal is vague and the scope too broad.

"Even the ambit of the cases covered is unclear. If you go by the language of the special provisions, even those charged with graft and corruption can apply for bail money and charge the lawyer's fees to the fund," he pointed out.

"If this fund will be used to help employees or officials who are sued in connection with the performance of their official functions, I'm all for it, but never for rape, never for graft and never for murder," the senator added.

According to Escudero, there is an existing legal fund available to government employees and officials who are hauled into courts for acts committed while performing their jobs.

"Kung ang pulis ay nakabaril habang tinutupad nya ang tungkulin nya, may pondo para dyan upang tulungan siya sa kaso. Pero kung ang isang opisyal ay nagnakaw ng pondo ng gobyerno--at hindi naman ito parte ng kanyang trabaho--bakit naman sya dedepensahan gamit ang pera ng taumbayan?" Escudero said.

He also asked if the proposed LDF would be accessible to public servants involved the 20,664 complaints and grievances which the Office of the Ombudsman is planning to resolve.

"If we are to invoke equality, lahat ba sila pwede tulungan ng LDF?" I hope the DBM (Department of Budget and Management) is not laying down the precept that abuses committed while in office are entitled to assistance from the state?" Escudero said.

Under the proposed P3 trillion national budget for 2016, the P200 million for the LDF is embedded in the MPBF.

With an allocation of P96.5 billion for next year, the MPBF serves as a "catch-all parking space" for salaries and other personnel benefits needed to fill in the vacancies in the government, Escudero said.

"How will the DBM explain this to more than 10 million overseas Filipino workers whose legal fund amounts only to P100 million as opposed to one million government employees who will be allocated P200 million in LDF?" said Escudero, who pushed for the inclusion of the legal fund for troubled OFWs in the national budget.

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