House solons want Ombudsman’s budget for 2022 restored
MANILA, Philippines — Lawmakers from the House of Representatives on Thursday sought to restore the Office of the Ombudsman’s budget for 2022, reminding the executive that it is illegal to provide the said office a budget lower than that of the previous year.
According to a manifestation from Minority Leader Rep. Joseph Paduano which was read by Quezon City 6th District Rep. Kit Belmonte, it is wrong to provide the Office of the Ombudsman a P3.9 billion budget for 2022 when it was given a P4.5 billion in 2021.
During the budget deliberation of the office before the House committee on appropriations, it was revealed that the Ombudsman requested P4.7 billion for 2022, but the Department of Budget and Management recommended slashing the budget. This meant around P710 million will be removed.
“The budget cut that amounts to more than P600 million will definitely affect the performance of the agency,” Paduano said.
“It’s very unlikely that while other departments are given higher budgets as compared to the previous years, the Ombudman will get a much lower appropriation from P4.5 billion in 2021 or the current year to only P3.9 billion of the P4.7 billion proposed budget for 2022 as per the recommendation of the Department of Budget and Management,” he added.
Similar requests were made by Deputy Speaker Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, Albay 1st District Rep. Edcel Lagman, and Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate.
When asked for his reaction, Ombudsman Samuel Martires who attended the hearing virtually said that they are willing to have their budget reduced if it means helping fund agencies that are involved in the COVID-19 pandemic response.
“On the matter of the budget, if that is what the government can give us, less than what was given to us in 2021, we’re willing to accept it if there is a need to augment the budget of the other agencies who are in charge of fighting this pandemic, of preventing this spread of the COVID virus,” Martires said.
“We’re willing to sacrifice, after all our investigation actually since 2020 has been affected by this pandemic, we cannot move,” he added.
Belmonte said that the minority would continue pushing for the restoration of the budget, as Section 38 of the Republic Act No. 6770 or The Ombudsman Act of 1989 provides that the Office should have fiscal autonomy as the appropriations should not be lower than the previous year.
According to him, it would also be better to restore the budget so it would not be misconstrued as a political issue.
“I would like to reiterate the position of the minority […] mag-all out po ‘yong minority to push for the restoration of their budget para hindi po maging iligal ‘yong ginawa po ng DBM, and ma-misconstrue pa na political itong pag-iipit,” Belmonte said.
“Kung seryoso talaga ang gobyerno’ng to sa anti-corruption drive nito eh dapat lang patibayin po natin ‘yong independence at powers ng Ombudsman ,” he added.
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