Senate panel to restore P45M slashed from VP Robredo's proposed 2021 budget

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 30 2020 11:25 AM

MANILA - The Senate Committee on Finance on Wednesday agreed to restore the Office of the Vice President's (OVP) full 2021 budget proposal pegged at P723 million, citing the office's high audit rating and good track record.

The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) initially removed P45 million from the OVP's proposed 2021 funding, and only approved a P679.74-million budget for the second highest official of the country.

A portion of the slashed funding was supposed to be used to procure replacement service vehicles as all 6 cars assigned to the OVP are "no longer usable," Vice President Leni Robredo told senators in a budget hearing.

"We're not adding new vehicles. It's just for replacement for the old vehicles," Robredo said, noting that the half-dozen vehicles have been parked at the OVP's garage for about 7 years.

"For our relief operations, we have been using the vehicles of our private staff already. That is not a problem as far as our staff are concerned, but we could not charge for gasoline," she said.

Opposition Sen. Francis Pangilinan - Robredo's opposition ally and party-mate - said that the OVP deserves a full budget in 2021, especially after it received the highest audit rating from the Commission on Audit (COA).

"Based on the COA reports and the reports of the vice president, clearly these resources are put to good use," Pangilinan said.

Among the OVP's accomplishments this year are the establishment of several community marts across the country, the creation of an online jobs platform, and its own anti-poverty program.

"In government, if you see a functiong, effective agency, you should give them more," he said.

Senate Finance Committee chair Sen. Sonny Angara backed the OVP's request to reinstate its full budget for 2021, saying the Vice President never had "institutional entitlements," such as an official residence and an official vehicle.

Senators Nancy Binay, Lito Lapid and Ramon "Bong" Revilla Jr. also supported the restoration of the OVP's P723-million funding for next year.

The OVP's budget hearing has been the fastest funding deliberations in the Senate so far.

The Committee approved the OVP's 2021 budget after a 20-minute discussion.