Office of the President proposes P4.5B intel fund

Marje Pelayo   •   September 14, 2020   •   26

MANILA, Philippines — Opposition lawmakers on Monday (September 14) questioned the P4.5 billion confidential and intelligence fund proposed by the Office of the President as part of its P8.2 billion overall proposed budget for 2021.

Kabataan Partylist Representative Sarah Ilago asked why such an amount is deemed confidential.

“Bakit higit sa kalahati ng pondo ng presidente ay patagong ginagamit,” Ilado said. 

In response, the Office of the President explained that the confidential and intelligence fund has a wide coverage to maintain peace and order in the country especially against terrorism.

The fund is not reported as detailed as other funds because it concerns national security.

Deputy Executive Secretary Alberto Bernardo clarified that the country needs more protection in the middle of the pandemic.

“Napatunayan natin na kahit na may pandemya ng COVID ay mayroon pa rin tayong mga bombers na nangyayari dito sa Sulu. Marami pa ring nagsasamantala na terorista para pabagsakin ang seguridad ng bansang ito kaya mas nangangailangan tayo ng proteksyon,” Bernardo explained.

On the other hand, some lawmakers support the increase on the Office of the Vice President’s proposed budget amounting to P679 million.

Vice president Leni Robredo, who herself attended the hearing, said they originally requested P720 million from the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).

Robredo noted that despite the limitations, her office has already served almost half a million beneficiaries under the Angat Buhay program with most of the resources coming from the private sector.

“In essence what we’re doing is just trying to fill-in the gaps. We are fully aware that our office is very small. We are very small not just with the number of staff that we have but we’re small in terms of resources. So we are making do with what we have,” the vice president said. MNP (with reports from Rey Pelayo)

House suspends DOH budget hearing

Marje Pelayo   •   September 15, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The House Committee on Appropriations on Monday (September 14) suspended its deliberations on the proposed budget of the Department of Health (DOH). 

Lawmakers seemed unconvinced by how DOH will manage its budget, particularly on funding rural health facilities. 

“Without a plausible explanation, walang malinaw na pagpapaliwanag dito sa pondong ito, Madam Chair, I move to suspend the approval of the budget of the Department of Health,” Anak Kalusugan Partylist Rep. Mike Defensor which the House Committee approved.

Defensor questioned why the agency is only giving a small amount to primary health care facilities such as barangay health stations when these are supposedly the first to respond to community health concerns.

“Pumunta ka doon sa barangay na iyon hindi ka magagamot doon [When you go to barangay, you won’t be treated],” Defensor argued adding that the DOH should focus on these barangay health facilities. 

“Focus doon ang pondo. Pagandahin talaga. Kesa iyong ganitong tinapon lang nila [The funding should focus on that. Improve the facility rather than wasting (resources)],” he added.

Bulacan Representative Jonathan Sy-Alvarado, meanwhile, believes something is wrong with the project.

“Nangangamoy ito na korapsyon [It smells like corruption],” he said.

For this year, the DOH has allotted P8.38B for its Health Facilities Enhancement Program while it proposes P4.78B for the said program for 2021.

DOH Undersecretary Lilibeth David answered that it could probably be that those which received small allocations were projects that are close to completion and only need few procurements.

“Equiping muna. The second is completing ang structure. Kunwari 90%, 80%, 70% na lang ang kailangang i-complete kaya nag iiba-iba ang amounts [First is equipping. Second is completing the structure. So for example, 90% to go, then 80% to go, 70% before completion so the amount varies],” she explained.

In response to David, Nueva Ecija 2nd District Representative Micaela Violago argued otherwise as she sees barangay health units that are lacking in equipment.

“Marami akong barangay health unit na walang gamit kaya ginagawa na rin talagang bodega. Walang kama, wala lahat, walang weighing scale, wala. Kaya sayang yung naging pondo ng building para gawin lamang bodega ng barangay [I have seen a lot of barangay health units without equipment so the structures are eventually turned into storage facilities. No beds, no weighing scale, nothing. So the funds are just wasting in construction of edifices only to end up as storage houses for barangays],” she said. 

The DOH is proposing more than P203-B for the year 2021, an amount higher by P27-B as compared to the agency’s budget this year.

The largest chunk amounting to P127-B will go to the Office of the Health Secretary while 35% of the budget amounting to P71-B will go to the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) for its implementation of the Universal Health Care Law. MNP (with reports from Rey Pelayo)

Palace slams ASG attack on government troops in Sulu

Maris Federez   •   April 18, 2020

MANILA, Philippines The Office of the President on Saturday slammed the Abu Sayyaf Group after around 40 of its members attacked the government troops in Patikul, Sulu on Friday (April 17) resulting in the death of 11 soldiers and wounding 14 others.

In a statement, Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said the administration condemns “in the strongest possible terms the latest incident in Patikul, Sulu, where members of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) believed to be under ASG leader Radullan Sahiron and Hatib Hadjan Sawadjaan attacked government troops resulting in a firefight, which left 11 soldiers killed and 14 wounded.”

Roque noted that what happened was already the second encounter that the government troops had with the same terrorist group; the first one, on April 16,  in which three soldiers were wounded.

“The Office of the President expresses its sincerest condolences to the bereaved families left behind by our brave soldiers who fought hard and paid the ultimate sacrifice to secure our community. We honor and pray for the fallen,” Roque’s statement reads.

He further noted that the enemies of the State do not choose any date and occasion and just seem to strike even at this time that the country is battling a great pandemic.

Roque, however, reiterate that this must serve as a warning to all, stressing that, “our authorities remain ready and prepared to crush the enemies of the government and quell any armed attack amid the existing state of calamity and public health emergency.” mbmf

Palace says bigger 2020 budget for Duterte’s office ‘necessary’

Robie de Guzman   •   August 27, 2019

President Rodrigo Duterte

MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang on Tuesday insisted that the proposed increase for the budget of the Office of the President (OP) for 2020 is necessary to ensure effective delivery of public services.

Based on the proposed P4.1 trillion proposed 2020 national budget, the president’s office is asking for an P8.25 billion budget, which is higher than P6.7 billion appropriated for this year.

Most of OP’s proposed budget will go to maintenance and other operating expenses, including confidential and intelligence funds. The rest will go to personal services and capital outlay.

“The Palace reiterates that the increase in the budget of the Office of the President, where the seat of power and supremacy in government lies, is necessary to in order to provide efficient, meaningful and effective public service to the Filipino people,” presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said in a statement.

“In times of national emergencies and calamities, coupled with cries for help from all walks of life, and when the departments and agencies that provide basic services or responses to the public run short of funds, the OP steps in to extend a helping hand and augment whatever shortage there maybe in delivering the requisite assistance,” he added.

The presidential spokesman added that the additional funds will be used to protect the country from threats coming from sources within and outside the country.

“The intensified efforts of this government, with the Office of the President at the helm, against criminality and various perils against the Philippines’ security and sovereignty have indeed created a changed environment in our society where the people feel safe as they go about living their daily lives,” he said.

“We intend to maintain such an environment and even improve it in the remaining years of the Duterte presidency,” he added.

Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea earlier justified the huge increase on intelligence and confidential expenses of the president’s office for its efforts against criminalities in the country.

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