Comelec buying P1B lot in Pasay

By RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 31 2012 04:17 PM | Updated as of Sep 01 2012 07:28 AM

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) - The Commission on Elections on Friday defended its purchase of a P1 billion lot in Pasay City intended to house the permanent headquarters of the commission, which now just rents at the Palacio del Gobernador.

The Comelec has made an initial payment of P250 million for the property.

Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes cited fiscal autonomy as a defense for purchasing the lot located along Macapagal Avenue in Pasay City. He said the poll body only just started to pay for the land.

"May authority kami. Fiscally autonomous agency. Kasama sa mandato ng Comelec kami constitutionally created. Sa lahat ng kilos ng Comelec, usually nakikipag-ugnayan tayo sa constitutionally autonomous groups. Supreme Court, Commission on Audit definitely kinikilos namin sa stratplan naaayos sa practice."

Fiscal autonomy guarantees that the budget of these agencies can be released with minimal executive or legislative scrutiny and approval. Other offices that enjoy fiscal autonomy are constitutional offices like the Judiciary, the Ombudsman, the Civil Service Commission and the Commission on Audit.

The Comelec told senators Thursday that they intended to fund the construction of their headquarters from their savings, an item that was not present in their budget proposals to Congress.

Senators insisted that while fiscally autonomous, the Comelec cannot realign savings to an item not created or approved by Congress, which wields the power of the purse under the 1987 constitution.

In its Comelec Strategic Plan, the poll body intends to finish the building by December 2013.