OP budget proposal gets Senate nod, Chiz says questions to be addressed in plenary

The Senate committee on finance approved the proposed P2.8 Billion 2014 budget of the Office of the President (OP) and recommended the same for plenary deliberations.

Senator Francis Escudero, chairman of the finance committee said OP’s budget proposal, presented by Exceutive Secretary Paquito Ochoa, Jr. breezed through the committee because no other member attended the hearing and no issues were raised when the executive office presented its budget proposal.

The senator also said that traditionally, the OP and the Office of the Vice President, respectively are given due courtesies with respect to their budgets.

“There was no reason to stall the approval for plenary of the OP budget. Congress regularly gives courtesies to the office of the OP during budget deliberations. If there are any issues in their respective administrations and offices, these are directed to the departments and not to the office proper itself.”

Escudero said even the lump sum amounts associated with the OP and which has been critiqued as of late belong to the special purpose funds which lie on the Department of Budget and Management’s (DBM) responsibility to defend.

“Even the social fund is not in the president’s budget. The DBM will defend the special purpose funds to include calamity fund, contingency fund, and feasibility studies fund; all the lump sums that are being questioned by the public and the media or even the lawmakers fall under the DBM. They will address these issues during the plenary come November” he explained.

The senator however said that even though the president’s social fund does not go through congress, it is still subject to Commission on Audit’s (COA) rules and regulations and guidelines.

“It was Congress that appropriated and allocated money for the social fund of the president when we passed the PAGCOR Charter and the other revenue-generating laws and how it will be divided and sub-divided into the various agencies of the government. COA, as the central examiner of all government funds, has its rules and regulations to govern even the president’s social fund.”

The budget proposal of OP is broken down as follows:

• Personal Services – 641.132 million

• Maintenance and other operating expenses (MOOE) – 1.998.435 billion

• Capital outlay- 183.400 million

The OP budget for 2014 is 3% higher than its 2013 budget which was P2.73 billion.#