Senate panel approves COA, Ombudsman proposed 2022 budget

Maris Federez   •   October 13, 2021   •   199

MANILA, Philippines — The Senate Committee on Finance on Tuesday approved the proposed budget of two constitutional bodies for 2022.

Senator Sonny Angara called the budget deliberation of the Commission on Audit and the Office of the Ombudsman the shortest so far for this year, as the panel gave its approval under 15 minutes of the hearing.

The committee hearing for COA’s proposed budget of P14.4 billion only took 10 minutes and was soon endorsed for the nod of the plenary.

“No questions on the part of the Chair. […] this is probably the shortest budget meeting of this 2022 budget,” Angara said during the hearing.

Indicated in COA’s proposed budget is its request for additional funds for personnel services for the third tranche of the pay adjustments under the salary standardization law for government employees.

COA also requested a budget increase for the construction of provincial satellite auditing offices and provision for the operational expenses of these branches.

“We have written a letter to the committee asking for additional budgetary support primarily on the MOOE (Maintenance and Other Operating Expenses) […] and possibly if the budget is flexible enough, maybe additional capital outlay,” said COA chairperson Michael Aguinaldo.

COA has, so far, completed the construction of 54 satellite offices, and 17 more under construction.

Meanwhile, it only took the Senate panel 13 minutes to finish the hearing of the P3.9 billion budget of the Office of the Ombudsman that was recommended by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).

Ombudsman Samuel Martires appealed for additional funding for its operational budget that was cut by almost half by the DBM.

“We’re not asking too much. If it will be hard for the Senate to give us the proposed budget for 2022, then we just would like to request that at least the budget that was given to us for 2021 be retained,” Martires said.

The Senate is currently on recess and is expected to resume on November 8 wherein senators are expected to start the deliberation of the national budget in the plenary. —/mbmf (from the report of UNTV Correspondent Harlene Delgado)

Senate approves Php5-T 2022 national budget

Maris Federez   •   December 2, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — The Senate has approved on final reading the proposed Php5-trillion 2022 national budget.

Twenty-two senators voted in favor of House Bill 10153 or the General Appropriations Bill containing the proposed 2022 national budget.

On Wednesday’s session, Senate Finance Committee Chairperson Sonny Angara read out before the plenary some of the amendments made in the budget.

These include the line item for the special risk allowance and benefits of healthcare workers amounting to over Php50-billion.

Adjustments were also made for the COVID-19 human resource for health emergency hiring, operations for national reference laboratories such as the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM), and the hiring and training of 25,000 contact tracers.

“Our health sector will continue to receive a significant portion of the national budget with the Department of Health receiving over Php230-billion, much higher than the Php182-billion it was appropriated under the GAB passed by the House,” Angara said.

Meanwhile, part of the budget cuts made under the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) funds was restored, giving it a Php10.8-billion budget.

The earlier version of the budget in the Senate Finance Committee report reduced the Php28-billion proposed fund for the NTF-ELCAC to Php4-billion but several senators appealed for the restoration of the budget.

Also included in the social programs are the Social Amelioration Program with Php5-billion fund; social pension for indigent senior citizens with over Php25-billion; assistance to individuals in crisis situations, and the integrated livelihood program of the Labor Department.

Angara added that they included significant funding for free COVID-19 testing for jobseekers, noting that many employers are hesitant to accept new job applicants who are unable to show proof that they are negative for COVID-19.

The Senate and the House of Representatives will now proceed with the Bicameral Conference Committee to reconcile conflicting provisions of both versions of the two chambers.

The Senate contingent will be led by Angara with members, namely: Senators Juan Miguel ‘Migz’ Zubiri, Cynthia Villar, Ronald ‘Bato’ Dela Rosa, Pia Cayetano, Sherwin Gatchalian, Christopher Bong Go, Richard Gordon, Risa Hontiveros, Imee Marcos, Joel Villanueva, Grace Poe, and Nancy Binay.

The Senate plans to submit the final version of the proposed national budget to President Rodrigo Duterte before December 25. —/mbmf (from the report of UNTV Correspondent Harlene Delgado)

Sen. Bato questions cut in NTF-ELCAC budget

Maris Federez   •   November 12, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — Senator Ronald ‘Bato’ Dela Rosa expressed hope that the 2022 budget of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF ELCAC) will be reverted to the amount originally requested.

On the second day of the plenary debates on the proposed 2022 national budget, Dela Rosa questioned the panel’s move to cut a large portion of the proposed budget for the government’s anti-insurgency task force.

“Kung hindi natin ito magawa, sinong makikinabang nito? Sinong magbubunyi dahil naputol ang ELCAC funds? Hindi ba NPA? Sasaya ang NPA nito,” Dela Rosa said.

“Yung taga bundok masyadong mababa yung kanilang pag-understand sa situation. Baka sabihin nila tayo sa Senado ay pro-NPA. Dahil tinanggal natin ang pondo na nakakapatay sa problema ng NPA,” he added.

On Wednesday, the Senate Committee on Finance that is chaired by Senator Sonny Angara, deducted Php24 billion from the Php28 billion budget of the NTF ELCAC.

The deducted amount was, in turn, added to the special risk allowance of health care workers.

Angara explained that the task force failed to submit a report that will justify their requested budget.

He added that it was only last Monday that the committee received a letter from the task force.

“Pagka hindi po nagrereport ang isang ahensya sa’tin— in fact nag iwan pa nga tayo ng P4 billion, despite not knowing — this is blind allocation in effect,” Angara explained.

“Bago tayo nag-a-appropriate for each agency of government, tinatanong natin: ‘Paano niyo ginagastos yung binigay namin sa inyo noong nakaraang taon?’ Eh, nung tinanong natin ‘yun sa NTF-ELCAC, wala po silang sagot sa atin nung finafinilize natin yung committee report,” he added.

Dela Rosa felt that the NTF ELCAC was singled out in the slashing of the national budget.

“Ang sa’kin lang kung ang gawin nating rason na bakit natin ini-slash because we’re not satisfied about its implementation, marami pang ongoing. And maybe ganun din ang gagawin natin sa lahat ng government agency, pati ang DPWH hanggang ngayon nandoon pa nagsesemento pa sa kalsada. Eh bakit ito pang NTF-ELCAC pa ang ating [binawasan]?” he said.

Angara, however, reasoned that slow-performing government agencies suffer budget cuts.

“Actually, yun po talaga ang ginagawa natin, Your Honor.  ‘Pag mabagal po ang implementation ng isang ahensya, ‘pag mababa po ang utilization, we really cut their budget, Your Honor,” Angara explained.

Meanwhile, Dela Rosa denied allegations that the NTF ELCAC budget will only be used in the elections.

“Kung sabihin naman natin na ito’y baka gagawing campaign war chest ng administration, mali po tayo diyan. Ako po tumakbo ako sa 2019. Nanalo ako bilang senador. Ni piso wala akong natanggap sa Malacañang. Kahit mamamatay man  ako dito sa kinauupuan ko ngayon,” he said. —/mbmf (from the report of UNTV Correspondent Harlene Delgado)

Senate cuts NTF-ELCAC budget to fund health worker allowance

Maris Federez   •   November 10, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — The Senate Committee on Finance has cut the proposed 2022 budget of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), Senator Sonny Angara who chaired the panel told reporters Tuesday.

Angara said the Php24 billion from the total Php28 billion budget will be transferred and used to fund the special risk allowance (SRA) of health workers.

“We cannot make a judgement really if the program has been a success or not because we’ve not received any very little information on the actual projects. Ang sinasabi dinownload na yung pondo. The DBM tells us binigay na nila yung pondo sa mga bara-baranggay or the municipality or provinces. […] ‘Yun ang inaantay namin. Asan na yung mga reports on the projects. Wala, wala pang binibigay samin,” Angara said.

Some senators expressed support for the move.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon thanked Angara for supporting his advocacy to realign the NTF-ELCAC’s budget.

“I support and congratulate Sen. Sonny Angara for the cut in the NTF-ELCAC budget. I thank him for supporting my advocacy since last year to realign this NTF ELCAC budget which duplicates other programs, and is clearly in the nature of pork barrel funds,” Drilon said.

Drilon further called for the slashing of the alleged Php2 billion hidden budget in other government agencies that will purportedly be given to the anti-insurgency task force.

“He should also cut another Php2 billion hidden in the budget of other agencies, such as TESDA, for NTF ELCAC,” he said.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson also expressed his support for the budget cut, noting that the officials must be held accountable if misuse of the budget was committed.

“Not only do I support the slash in the NTF-ELCAC’s proposed budget for 2022, if such misuse was indeed committed – the officials concerned must be made accountable, if not criminally liable,” he said. —/mbmf (from the report of UNTV Correspondent Harlene Delgado)

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