Senate ends debates on proposed P4.1-trillion 2020 national budget

Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 20 2019 10:40 PM | Updated as of Nov 20 2019 10:56 PM

MANILA - The Senate concluded Wednesday its plenary debates on the proposed P4.1-trillion 2020 national budget, after a week of extended session hours.

Appropriations for the Department of Transportation (DoTr), Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO), and Deprtment of Interior and Local Government (DILG) were last on the agenda.

The PCOO budget breezed through minus any question from the senators, but the DoTr and DILG proposed budgets were subjected to scrutiny.

Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto said he intends to propose an amendment moving a portion of the DoTr’s programmed funds to unprogrammed funds since the agency is not expected to obligate its appropriation in full. 

“Many sectors katulad ng health, katulad ng education, katulad ng PNP, agriculture na nangangailangan ng resources; that’s what we’re here for — to see if tama ba allocation na ginawa and make amendments, if necessary,” he said.

DoTr was unable to spend its total P187-billion allocation in the last three years, and Recto “bets” it will not be able to disburse the entirety of its P276-billion appropriation next year (P237-B new appropriation, P39-B continuing appropriation from 2019 extended budget). 

To date, DoTr has obligated only P44-billion of its P77-billion (office of the secretary) 2019 appropriation. 

Meantime, Senate President Vicente Sotto III, and former national police chiefs and now senators Panfilo Lacson and Ronald Dela Rosa were among those who interpellated DILG budget sponsor and Finance Committee chair Sen. Sonny Angara on the department’s proposed P237.99-billion budget.

Sotto urged the DILG to fastrack completion of an ongoing study on the proposed separation of the police’s Internal Affairs Service from the PNP, so it can rule on administrative cases independently.

“‘Di ba panahon na para itong Internal Affairs Services eh i-separate from the PNP and have an independent status? Take a long, hard look at the study that you are doing and kung merong bill naka-file dito, there's a bill by Sen. Lacson, i-endorse nyo yun,” Sotto told DILG officials. 

Sotto also urged the DILG to push its regional offices 3, 4A, 5 and 11 to implement projects and activities for senior citizens and differently abled persons, citing a Commission on Audit compliance report noting these offices’ failure to come up with such programs. 

Lacson, for his part, urged the National Police Commission (Napolcom) to pass a resolution granting national police chief OIC Lt. Gen. Archie Gamboa exercise of powers he cannot perform as OIC, such as voting right as Napolcom ex-officio officers, and the authority to hire second-level officers. 

The PNP targets to hire 10,500 commissioned and non-commissioned officers next year. 

Lacson also raised anew the issue on a P4-billion “lump sum” appropriation listed as "Other Financial Assistance to LGUs," stressing that this is not allowed. 

Dela Rosa urged the department to make sure rebel returnees receive the assistance promised them under DILG’s Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP) so they don’t get disenchanted, disgruntled and return to the rebel movement. Around 2,129 former rebels (1,505 NPA, 624 Militia ng Bayan) have been provided benefits and assistance in 2018-2019 under Eclip.

Sen. Risa Hontiveros also asked several questions, which will be answered in writing by the DILG, including the following: Is it still the position of the PNP OIC that new drug war czar VP Leni Robredo should just focus on advocacy and rehabilitation, and there is no need for her to obtain a list of high-value drug targets; "ninja" cops probe status; and status of deaths under investigation.

The senators will introduce their respective proposed realignments, augmentations, and other revisions to the national budget during the period of amendments, which is expected to begin next week.