House panel swiftly okays OP’s ₧8.96-B proposed 2023 budget

Citing tradition and courtesy to a co-equal branch in government, the House Committee on Appropriations on Friday immediately approved the 2023 P8.96-billion budget of the Office of the President (OP).

The committee quickly terminated the budget deliberations of the OP and no questions were asked.

In moving to terminate the budget deliberation, House Majority Leader Manuel Jose Dalipe cited the long history of parliamentary courtesy to a co-equal branch.

“By tradition and parliamentary courtesy to a co-equal branch in government, I move to terminate the budget briefing of the Office of the President,” said Dalipe.

For his part, Executive Secretary Victor Rodriguez said the OP is one with the Congress in nation building.

“You can be assured that the Office of the President is here in meeting the expectation and hopes of more than 112 million [Filipinos], which the President now leads [and] founded on a solid foundation of 31 million votes in promoting people’s welfare and upholding the interest of the nation,” said Rodriguez.

For 2023, the office of President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. will receive a total of P8.969 billion.

Of the P8.969 billion, P1.5 billion will go to personnel services (PS), P6.8 billion to maintenance and other operating expenses (MOOE), and P590.7 million for capital outlay (CO).

The increase in PS budget is attributed to the implementation of the mandated increase in PhilHealth contribution, pursuant to Universal Health Care Act; increase in salaries pursuant to the fourth tranche of the Salary Standardization Law V and corresponding entitlement to personnel economic relief allowance (PERA), bonuses, representation/clothing/transportation allowances, performance enhancement initiative.

The PS budget will include the filling up of vacant permanent positions, and contractual positions with approved staffing pattern, as mandated and authorized by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) and Civil Service Commission and filling up of vacant positions, which are highly confidential in nature as mandated and authorized by Executive Order No. 292, series of 1987.

Meanwhile, the increase in MOOE is attributed to the increase in travelling expenses, both local and foreign due to the lifting of travel restrictions, resumption of state visits, compliance to international commitments to further strengthen the country’s bilateral and multilateral relations.

The MOOE budget will also include planned training expenses that were not realized due to Covid restrictions, increase in Internet subscription and other subscription expenses, increase in fuel, oil, lubricants, materials and consumables, representation expenses and other expenses.

For the CO component, the increase was attributed to the construction of a four-storey parking building consistent with the proposed National Land Use Act for the development of land and maximizing land use through physical planning.

The CO will also include repairs and maintenance of Kalayaan Hall, repair and retrofitting of the New Executive Building, digitization and enhancement of OP ICT Services, infrastructure and data management and security included in the Information Systems Strategic Plan (ISSP) approved by DBM and Department of Information and Communications Technology.

The CO also includes the programmed schedule of replacement of machineries and other property, plant and equipment and continued improvement and maintenance of 8888-Multi Telco services for the institutionalization of 8888-Citizens’ Complaint Center, pursuant to Section 103 of RA 11639 or the People’s Feedback Mechanism.

Rep. Elizaldy “Zaldy” Co, chairperson of the House Appropriations Committee,  said the OP budget would enable President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to deliver on the demands to his office, especially as the world transitions from the pandemic and confronts the effects of climate change.

OP’s budget proposal for 2023, he said, indicates how the President will “deliver his constitutional mandates as Head of State and of Government…especially during these challenging times.”

The 2023 OP budget is slightly higher than the 2022 OP budget of P8.182 billion. Co said the OP budget presentation allows the House to get guidance on the general direction of government.

“Equally important to provide us with the governance direction of the Office of the President requiring Congressional support towards our common objective—a brighter future for the Philippines and the Filipino people,” he said.

Questions about the budget may be brought up at plenary after all the other branches of government have gone through the committee level, Co added.

Co also thanked the OP for honoring the constitutional mandate to a co-equal branch of the government with the presence of its key officials at Friday’s hearing led by Executive Secretary Rodriguez

Presidential ‘pork’

For her part, House Deputy Minority Leader and ACT Teachers Partylist Rep. France Castro hit the “blind” approval of the budget of the OP with the whole briefing over in less than 10 minutes.

“We in the Makabayan bloc denounce this type of hyper-accelerated budget process. The committee blatantly violated basic principles of transparency and accountability by discharging its constitutional duty over public funds in such a manner. We assert that the President’s budget must be scrutinized and the massive confidential and intelligence funds be explained. Tradition should not be invoked here because tradition should be subsumed to the people’s interest,” said the teacher lawmaker.

“As it is, the P4.95 billion intelligence fund and the P4.332 billion confidential shows the skewed priorities of the Marcos administration,” added Castro.

Instead of allotting more funds to health and education to improve our dismal health-care system as well as upgrade the level of the country’s educational system, Castro said almost P10 billion is allotted as “presidential pork.”

“This administration should be more prudent in spending taxpayer’s money because we are still under a pandemic and our economy is in shambles. We from the Makabayan bloc would try our best to ensure that what our people need like higher salaries, aid, health services and improved quality of education are the ones that are given budgetary priority rather than the whims of those in power. We will definitely bring these issues up at the plenary,” said Castro.