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Reforms in OP budget sought
In The Press Posted on October 14th, 2009.
MANILA - The House plenary on Wednesday approved the P4.3 billion budget of the Office of the President (OP) for 2010, but not without intense scrutiny from opposition solons who raised concerns about various items in the budget.
Raising previous controversies involving President Arroyo, opposition solons queued to question the OP budget and recommend slashes in various items.
While other government offices breezed through budget deliberations, the budget of the Office of the President took nearly five hours at the House plenary.
The House hopes to pass the 2010 budget before Congress takes a recess on October 16.
Slash intelligence funds
The first interpellator, Bukidnon Rep. Teofisto Guingona III, sought to slash the President's intelligence funds.
Almost half of the P1.3 billion confidential and intelligence funds will go to the Office of the President. Only 12%, 9%, and 3% were earmarked for the Department of National Defense, Armed Forces of the Philippines, and the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency, respectively.
But Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, tasked to defend the OP budget, said a number of agencies benefit from the President's intelligence fund.
“It is not exclusively used by the President,” he said.
Among the agencies that tap the fund are the Philippine Center for Transnational Crime, Presidential Task Force on Security and Enforcement, Task Force Against Illegal Recruitment, Philippine National Police, and Presidential Anti-Smuggling Group.
Guingona also sought a strict accounting of the President's travel expenses, including a detailed reporting of the purpose of the travel and a list of the names of people in her entourage.
“In the future, in the spirit of transparency we should 'particularize' the travels, not only of the president. After all, they do spend the money of the people,” he said.
The congressman previously exposed how the Office of the President exceeded its budget on travels and drew funds from the contingency fund.
Last August, President Arroyo was criticized for bringing a large entourage to her meeting with US President Barrack Obama and for having expensive dinners in fancy restaurants.
But Lagman opposed Guingona's suggestions.
“She should not be treated like an ordinary bureaucrat. There is no need to make an outline. There are security requirements which should be considered in the travels of the President, both foreign and domestic. I don't think we have to welcome this particularized accounting even prior to the president's travel,” he said.
Gabriela Rep. Liza Maza also questioned the supposedly unliquidated cash advances of the Office of the President.
Cash advances, overpaid advisers
But Lagman said unliquidated advances also occur in other offices.
“I am informed that Commission on Audit's recommendation has been complied with by the Office of the President,” Lagman said.
Kabataan Rep. Raymond Palatino also questioned President Arroyo's habit of appointing too many advisers and consultants.
According to Palatino, President Arroyo has appointed a total of 49 advisers and consultants, as of last year.
“I am worried about this. When we appoint too many advisers and consultants, we are using taxpayers’ money in funding the requirements of these presidential appointees. Don't you think that if we have too many advisers, it might confuse the president?” Palatino said.
Other interpellators of the Office of the President's budget were South Cotabato Rep. Darlene Antonino Custodio and Bayan Muna Reps. Neri Colmenares and Teodoro Casiño. -- Carmela Fonbuena, abs-cbnNEWS.com/Newsbreak