MANILA, Philippines - A Palace spokesman on Friday rejected allegations that politics had a hand in Malacañang's decision to cut the budget of the Office of the Vice-President.
In an interview, Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda said the executive review board is cutting the maintenance and other operating expenses (MOOE) of all Cabinet agencies including the Office of the President to reduce government spending.
"It is not specific to the Office of the Vice-President...Walang bahid pulitika yung pagbawas sa budget. In fact, we had a budget hearing yesterday and Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile wanted further cuts in the Office of the President. All of this is being done to reduce expenses," he told Palace reporters.
Vice-President Jejomar Binay on Thursday protested Malacañang's decision to cut his office's annual budget from P195 million to P177 million.
He said this is an affront to a constitutional office such as the OVP since it is the second highest office in the country.
Binay said the budget is only enough to cover employees’ salaries and office rent, excluding services to the public. President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III earlier allowed the office to transfer to the Coconut Palace in Pasay City from the Philippine National Bank Financial Center.
The Commission on Information and Communication Technology (CICT), which is under the Office of the President (OP), even got a bigger piece of the pie, he said.
The proposed budget for CICT is P1.2 billion.
Senate Finance Committee chairman Franklin Drilon said they will review the proposed budget the Palace had submitted. Aquino’s ally, however, denied the budget cut was politically motivated.
In fact, he said the Senate also questioned the budget of several offices under the OP, such as the Visiting Forces Agreement Commission. Several of the commission’s work can already be handled by several offices, such as the Departments of Foreign Affairs and National Defense.
The National Telecommunications Office, on the other hand, has a budget of P1 billion even if its services are not being used by the government.
The senators also questioned Malacañang’s intelligence and confidential funds, which are not subject to a review by the Commission on Audit.
Executive Secretary Paquito “Jojo” Ochoa, Jr. however defended the P400 million fund, saying it was even reduced from P600 million previously.
In total, the Office of the President has a P4.075 billion budget, lower than the P4.2 billion of the previous administration, he said.
About 42% of the proposed budget has been earmarked for Aquino, he said.
The Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace Process, on the other hand, will get P235 million, more than double from the previous budget.
The Truth Commission, on the other hand, has a proposed budget of P83 million.