The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) on Thursday said there is no delay in the release of crucial funds allocated for pandemic-hit sectors under the Bayanihan to Recover as One or Bayanihan 2 Act.

Sumusunod lang sa proseso! DBM chief denies deliberate delay in release of Bayanihan 2 funds

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The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) on Thursday said there is no delay in the release of crucial funds allocated for pandemic-hit sectors under the Bayanihan to Recover as One or Bayanihan 2 Act.

In a Palace press briefing, Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado said some PHP46 billion worth of funds are now up for President Rodrigo Duterte’s approval before they can be distributed to various government agencies.

These include PHP8 billion for the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), PHP6 billion for the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), PHP11.6 billion for the Department of Agriculture (DA), and PHP20.5 billion for the Department of Health (DOH).

Avisado noted that the request for funds provided under the Bayanihan 2 law undergoes a process, wherein agencies have to submit requirements–such as budget execution documents pertaining to their financial plans and monthly disbursement programs–that shall be evaluated by the DBM before being endorsed to the President for approval.

“Wala pong bottlenecks po. Proseso lang po ang sinusunod natin. Kapag po kumpleto lahat ng dokumento, inaakyat po kaagad natin iyan sa Office of the President for the corresponding approval (There are no bottlenecks. We are just following a process. Once all the documents are complete, we immediately elevate them to the Office of the President for the corresponding approval),” Avisado said. “So hindi po dini-delay (So it is not being delayed).”

Avisado said the Bureau of Treasury has certified that funds are available.

Aside from the PHP46 billion, Avisado said another PHP24 billion are being processed by the DBM.

To date, only PHP4 billion has been released to government agencies out of the PHP165.5-billion worth of stimulus funds allotted under the Bayanihan 2 law.

The stimulus package consists of PHP140 billion of regular appropriations and an additional standby fund of PHP25.5 billion.

“So, lahat po ng ito ay ini-evaluate po at hindi naman sila nawawalan ng pondo po. Iyan ay hinding-hindi mangyayari dahil habang pino-process po namin ang request nila, mayroon po silang pera pang nagagastos dahil po binabantayan po namin talaga na kahit na anong oras mayroon po silang pera habang pino-process po iyong additional (all these are being evaluated and they will not run out of funds. It will not happen because while their requests are being processed, they still have money for expenditures, we make sure that they have money while additional funds are being processed),” Avisado said.

Meanwhile, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the Office of the Executive Secretary is ensuring that the funds are indeed needed before approving the requests.

But the assurance is, the money is there and DBM is able and ready to issue what is known as the SARO [Special Allotment Release Order],” Roque said. (PNA)

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Sinong sinungaling? Defensor says Yap has no Palace consent over P20B cut in military pension

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)

Yap admits bypassing Velasco over P20B budget cut in military pension fund

House Committee on Appropriations chair Eric Yap has admitted that he bypassed Speaker Lord Allan Velasco over close to P20-billion worth of budget cuts in the military’s gratuity and pension funds under the 2021 General Appropriations Act.

During his interpellation with Anakalusugan Party-list Rep. Mike Defensor, following the latter’s privilege speech, Yap revealed that he didn’t actually consult Velasco over the supposed slash budget being questioned by the former Environment secretary in this year’s national budget.

“Sa totoo lang po, eto po yung malaking… kaya po ako naku-kwestyon lagi dahil 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,” said Yap, representative of ACT-CIS Party-list.

“Ngayon po, siguro kung na-bypass ko man si Speaker Velasco, pero I’m sure kaya ko ginawa ‘to para po sa ika-bubuti. Dahil kulang na rin po ang oras,” he added.

The DBM has proposed P172.9 billion for the pension and gratuity fund but Congress only approved P152 billion.

Yap stressed that he has no choice but to unilaterally realigned portions of the said pension funds for the country’s retired military and other uniform personnel, saying it may only prolong the process if he consulted the matter with other members of the House leadership, particularly with Velasco—who assumed the Speakership during the final phase of deliberations of the 2021 National Expenditure Program (NEP).

“Mas minabuti ko pong hindi konsultahin si Speaker nung tinanggal ko ang gratuity at pension fund. Eto po yung sinasabi ko na may mga punto sa buhay na kailangan natin gumawa ng desisyon,” the neophyte solon explained.

For Yap, he only wanted to avert any delay which may have resulted in another reenacted budget scenario.

“Isa lang naman po ang gusto. Huwag tayo magkaroon ng reenacted budget kasi po two years na tayo nade-delay pagdating sa pagpirma ng Presidente,” he said.

Yap said most of the realigned funds were channeled to various government projects for the COVID pandemic.

But based on figures disclosed by Defensor during his speech, most of its chunks were reprogrammed to the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) prior to President Rodrigo Duterte’s signing of the budget bill last January. (CRD)

3 na patay! Makabayan bloc slams ‘tokhang style’ raids in Southern Luzon

By Billy Begas

Members of the Makabayan bloc in the House of Representatives condemned the tokhang-style simultaneous raids in the Southern Luzon region, which resulted in the death of three activists.

House Deputy Minority leader and Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate it was supposed to be a Sabbath Day, but government troops made it a bloodbath day.

“Ito ang gustong mangyari palagi ng gobyernong Duterte sa ilalim ng terror law, na araw-araw ay may madugong raid at pagtatanim ng ebidensya laban sa oposisyon at kritiko ng gobyerno. They already did this in Mindanao, Negros, Manila, Tacloban, Capiz, and, now Southern Tagalog, where an obvious pattern or modus operandi of Tokhang emerges,” said Zarate.

He said that activists will be initially red tagged and put under surveillance and harassment. “Last, their homes or offices would be raided, evidence planted on them or they would be killed.

According to Karapatan-Southern Tagalog in Laguna two labor leaders and a human rights worker were arrested. They claimed that authorities planted firearms and explosives on them.

In Rizal, two were killed and the house of two peasant leaders were raided.

In Cavite, the office of the Workers’ Assistance Center in Dasmarinas was also raided, where BAYAN Cavite coordinator Manny Asuncion was killed.

In Nasugbu, Batangas, a fisherfolk leader and two of his family members were arrested.

The house of Lino Baez of BAYAN-Batangas was peppered with bullets.

Bayan Muna party-list Representatives Ferdinand Gaite and Eufemia Cullamat also condemned the attacks.

Gaite said the incidents are the result of President Rodrigo Duterte’s “kill, kill, kill” message.

“Just last Friday, Pres. Duterte in a speech in Cagayan de Oro told state forces to kill armed rebels. But, these forces do not distinguish between armed rebels or activists, they just kill then say ‘nanlaban’ then plant firearms and explosives,” said Gaite.

Cullamat urged Congress to investigate the rampant human rights violations under the Duterte administration.

Kabataan party-list Rep. Sarah Elago said search warrants are being weaponized to crack down on activists, peasants, trade union organizers and human rights defenders.

“Walang katumbas na salita at galit ang sahol ng atake at inhustisya!” Elago added.

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