Mitos locks horns with Andaya over Ombudsman's budget

by RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 12 2011 04:57 PM | Updated as of Sep 13 2011 04:10 AM

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) - Zambales Rep. Mitos Magsaysay locked horns with Camarines Sur Rep. Rolando Andaya on Monday over the budget of the Office of the Ombudsman.

Magsaysay was interpellating in plenary for the minority while Andaya was sponsoring the agency in plenary.

Andaya is with the majority, while Magsaysay is with the minority.

Magsaysay's main point was to uphold the fiscal autonomy of the Office of the Ombudsman as a constitutionally independent office of the government.

This means that its budget must be released immediately and their funds cannot be reduced to a level lower than the previous year's.

Andaya was defending the budget, which had taken the budget for unfilled positions in all government offices and put it under the miscellaneous personnel benefits funds of the budget worth over P23 billion, a move questioned by many agencies that enjoy fiscal autonomy.

The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) had insisted that this move was to ensure that the funds for that purpose would not be diverted to other purposes should the positions remain unfilled.

Under this scheme, agencies can only tap their shares in the MPBF if approved by the President of the Philippines.

Magsaysay asked Andaya if that was his opinion or would he rather confirm with the agency first.

Andaya insisted on his answer, causing Magsaysay to  lose her temper and emphatically suggest that Andaya call for a suspension and ask the Ombudsman first.

Magsaysay later clarified in a phone call that her position was the same position the Ombudsman took when it comes to fiscal autonomy as stated in he budget briefer provided to lawmakers

Magsaysay clarified she was not bickering with Andaya.

The session was suspended by the presiding officer at that point.

Upon resumption, Andaya confirmed that Magsaysay's position was what was the position of the Ombudsman.

During the hearing, the plenary also tackled the budget of the judiciary and NICA, which were approved  with minimal interpellation.

The House has been on marathon plenary sessions since last week, hoping to approve the budget by the end of this week.

Quoting his colleagues, Kabataan party-list Rep. Raymond Palatino told ABS-CBN News that there may be no sessions next week if the budget is approved this week.