MANILA - A lawmaker on Tuesday said the national government spent P30 million for the development of a "bat cave" in Davao del Sur amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate, government took the funds from the P10.33 billion to develop a bat cave in Brgy. Asbang in Matanao town.
Zarate made the revelation during his interpellation during the plenary session of the House of Representatives on the 2022 national budget.
Zarate in his slide presentation showed where some of the P10.33 billion fund went, including the following:
- Construction of sports facilities including swimming pool, warm up pool, bleachers and restroom in Brgy. Inlagadian, Casiguran, Sorsogon (P70 million)
- Construction of cruise port and facilities in Legazpi City (P150 million)
- Construction of convention center capitol compound for Region 3 (P100 Million)
- Construction of DPWH DEO Office in Las Pinas (P100 million)
- Construction of 3-story Presidential Security Group Multipurpose Building in Malacañang Park (P30 million-P85.8 million)
- Phase 2 Construction of 3-story Instructor's Billeting Area with Cafeteria in Fort Sto. Domingo, Laguna (P40 million)
- Repair or renovation of Landbank 1 Building in Gil Puyat, Makati (P300 million)
- Feasibility studies in Region 8 (P30 million)
Zarate questioned the appropriateness of such spending in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic.
”Nasa pandemiya po tayo at sa panahong ito nangangailang ng ayuida ang milyon milyon nating kababayan … mas importante po ba ang pagpapaayos ng kalsada?” he said.
“Urgent ba ang pagpapaganda ng mga bulding o kalsada sa panahon ng pandemya?”
Albay 2nd District Rep. Joey Salceda, a sponsor of the 2022 national budget bill, said the expenses were certified by officers "authorized by our Constitution to determine what is contingent, what is new and urgent."
Zarate however said there were many violations of the General Appropriations Act of 2020, including the use of the contingent funds since these are not meant to be used in new projects.
DAP 'DUTERTE ADMIN' VERSION
Zarate claimed that the Duterte administration created its own version of the Aquino administration’s Disbursement Acceleration Program with about P13 billion in savings.
He pointed out that earlier this year, the government issued two orders that allowed the declaration of savings.
“Nung May 21 this year, naglabas ang (Department of Budget and Management) ng Budget Circular 586 na nag-aatas sa mga ahensiya na ideklara ang savings nila mula sa GAA 2020 na hindi pa obligated as of May 15, 2021," he said.
When Zarate asked how much the government has been able to declare as savings under these issuances, Salceda said it has P13.328 billion in savings.
The Bayan Muna party-list lawmaker said it is another version of the DAP, which was struck down years ago by the Supreme Court during the Aquino administration due to its "unconstitutionality."
“Hindi po ba itong Budget Circular 586 ay para ring DAP dahil gumagawa ang executive department ng savings sa gitna ng taon samantalang extended naman ang validity ng 2020 GAA, up to the end of this year? Bakit kailangan i-force na ang mga ahensiya na mag-declare ng savings?" Zarate said.
Salceda maintained the issuances are not the same.
“I don’t see, I don’t smell, I don’t taste DAP," he asserted, adding their discussion has been convoluted.
Zarate called for vigilance over the funds, saying these could lead to technical malversation. He said that since 2016, there’s at least P260 billion in unused appropriations annually.
Last year, P262.24 billion was also not used.
In 2019, unused funds reached P321.506 billion while in 2016, P596.66 billion was left untouched.