Anakalusugan Party-list Rep. Mike Defensor has refuted the claim of House Committee on Appropriations chair Eric Yap that he secured the blessing of Malacañang before initiating the realignment of close to P20-billion worth of gratuity and pension funds of the country’s retired military and uniform personnel.
During Defensor’s privilege speech last Monday, the former Presidential chief-of-staff disapproved Yap’s pronouncement that he consulted the Executive branch as well as with members of the Senate and the Lower House before he re-channel the said funds to other government programs for COVID-19 response.
Yap earlier during his interpellation of Defensor’s privilege speech claimed that he secured the blessing of the Executive prior to the third reading approval of the 2021 national budget last October.
“Eto pong sinasabing P20 billion na tinanggal sa pension, eto po ay pinag-usapan ng Executive, ng Senate, at ng Kongreso. Yung P20-billion na iyon, ay hindi po inilagay sa Department of Public Works and Highways. It po ay inilagay para po sa ibang pangangailangan para sa COVID-19,” said Yap.
But Defensor was quick to refute Yap’s pronouncement, as he disclosed a latest statement coming from the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), which said that “upon submission of the national executive program to Congress, P172.9-billion was proposed under the Pension Gratuity Fund.”
The DBM under the submitted 2021 National Expenditure Program (NEP) has proposed P172.9 billion for the pension and gratuity fund but Congress only approved P152 billion, prior to President Rodrigo Duterte’s signing of the ratified budget bill in January.
“Ang tanong po dito is, was this discussed? Kasi po ito po ang binabanggit with the Executive, the Senate, and Congress? I beg to disagree, Madam Speaker,” Defensor stressed.
According to Defensor, he recently talked with top DBM officials, adding that “they were surprised after that P20 billion was taken out.”
He further elaborated that if the matter will necessitate future investigations, it would be found out that the P20-billion budget cut was opposed by the executive contrary to Yap’s claim.
Yap later during his interpellation has admitted that he bypassed Speaker Lord Allan Velasco over the multi-billion realignment, saying that he has no choice but to unilaterally realigned portions of the military pension fund, since it may only prolong the process if he consulted the matter with other members of the House leadership.
“Hindi ko po tinanong kay Speaker Velasco kung pwede po bang tanggalin ito. Ako po ay nag desisyon base sa tingin ko kung ano ang makakabuti para sambayanan. Ngayon po, siguro kung na-bypass ko man si Speaker Velasco, pero I’m sure kaya ko ginawa ‘to para po sa ikabubuti. Dahil kulang na rin po ang oras,” said Yap.
According to Yap, he unilaterally bypassed Velasco—who assumed the Speakership during the final phase of deliberations of the 2021 NEP in October—since only wanted to avert any delay which may have resulted in another reenacted budget scenario.
Last December, Yap was among the nine incumbent lawmakers tagged by President Duterte who were allegedly involved in corruption in the implementation of infrastructure projects, based on a list provided by the Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC). (CRD)