MANILA - Sen. Panfilo Lacson on Sunday said the national government failed to spend 31.5 percent of the Philippines' P140-billion COVID-19 aid package, contrary to the claim of the Department of Finance (DOF).
Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez earlier belied Congress' allegations that the executive branch was underspending during the pandemic, noting that the government already released P660 billion and only 1 percent of the sum was yet to be released.
"As per DBM website which we accessed today but dated June 25, 2021, the Obligation Rate was 78.84 percent. Therefore, 21.16 percent has not been obligated yet by the agencies," Lacson told ABS-CBN News.
Lacson noted that the "release of the budget by the DBM to the agencies is not determinant of underspending."
"Underspending should be based on Obligations and Disbursements," he said.
"Disbursement rate is worse at 69.49 percent and therefore, there’s still 31.51 percent of the Bayanihan funds that remains undisbursed or unspent. Conclusion: underspending is not at 1 percent as claimed," he said.
President Rodrigo Duterte earlier singled out Lacson and Senate President Vicente Sotto III - who will run for president and vice president in the 2022 national elections - as the lawmakers who were falsely criticizing his administration on its pandemic spending.
Lacson said he mined the budget data from the DOF website after Duterte "falsely" accused him and Sotto in a public address.
"Since PRRD falsely attributed the statement on Bayanihan 2 underspending to me and SP Sotto, I became curious and did some research," he said
Lacson earlier said he does not think Duterte's recent criticism against him and Sotto were politically motivated or linked to upcoming elections where the chief executive is expected to vie for the vice presidency.
"It’s just that he and his whisperers didn’t fact-check first before accusing the wrong people," Lacson said.
In June, Malacañang confirmed that some P18 billion in funds for the Philippine COVID-19 response under the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act (Bayanihan 2) yet not yet utilized about a week before its expiration.
The Bayanihan 2 funds were supposed to expire last year, but Congress extended its validity until mid-2021 after the executive branch failed to disburse the sum by the end of 2020.