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)