Tulfo blasts DBM for ‘acting like God’ in cutting budget
MANILA, Philippines — Senator Raffy Tulfo on Thursday criticized the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) for cutting funds that are integral to developing specific government agencies.
Tulfo said this during the Senate Finance Committee on the Department of Budget and Management’s proposed 2023 budget, when he questioned whether the DBM has experts that decide which of the proposed budget of a specific agency should be cut.
He recalled what happened when the DBM slashed the budget of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) for 2022, specifically its capital expenditures (CapEx) worth over P281 million.
“CapEx” refers to the money spent on purchasing physical assets.
“You’re acting like God, dapat meron kayong expertise on the particular government on the aspect of governance, hindi kayo slash ng slash (you must have experts on the particular government, on the aspect of governance, you do not just slash it indiscriminately),” said Tulfo.
But DBM Undersecretary for Budget Preparation and Execution Tina Rose Marie Canda explained that DBM considers two things whenever an agency proposes a budget; 1) “the cause of their ongoing programs and projects, regardless of whether the entity has produced outputs” and 2) Capacities of departments “because in many instances continuing appropriations are not used or not even released during the year it was appropriated.”
It also explained that because the Department of Migrant Workers (DMW), which OWWA is a part of, is a “very new department,” it was also not able to provide “the level of detail” required for the budget.
Tulfo then explained where the CapEx funds were supposed to be used by OWWA.
“Para po sana ‘yan sa infrastruktura ‘yan, mga offices at mga sasakyan na gagamitin ng mga kawani nila para pumunta sa liblib na lugar para tugunan ang mga panawagan ng mga OFWs (overseas Filipino workers), ‘yung mga may problema susunduin dadalhin sa shelter, mga dumating susunduin sa airport, and cinut niyo po ‘yan,” said Tulfo.
(That was supposed to be for the infrastructure, offices and vehicles that their staff will use to go to remote areas to respond to the calls of OFWs, those who have problems will be picked up and brought to the shelter to pick up those who have arrived home at the airport, and that’s it, you have cut it.)
The DBM even allegedly turned down the OWWA funds to allow it to build new offices in the cities of Koronadal and Pagadian in Mindanao, where its offices are “already rotting,” said Tulfo.
The budget cut, said Tulfo, now forces OWWA to rent cars to pick up OFWs or address their needs.
But Canda explained that the DBM, under guidelines set by the Commission on Audit, has regulations stating that government vehicles must be at least seven years old before being replaced.
“Probably that’s the reason why ‘yung six-year-old vehicles ng OWWA, hindi pa napapalitan (haven’t been replaced yet), that is true to all departments,” said Canda.
He then urged DBM to meet with COA to tackle these guidelines.
“Nito pong huli binigyan natin ang OWWA ng authority to rent, ‘pag hindi naman na po road-worthy ‘yung sasakyan pinapalitan naman po. It is really based on the representation of the agency,” said Canda.
(This is why we also gave OWWA the authority to rent, when the car is no longer road-worthy, we replace it. It is really based on the representation of the agency.)
Tulfo then said that OWWA has claimed that its budget was just slashed without even being asked for documents to support it. But Canda said that they did.
“Contrary to what OWWA represented, we normally ask agencies and departments to support their infrastructure projects especially because this is a new department, we are extra sensitive to the new department,” she explained.
Further, she clarified that before finalizing budgets, DBM provides confirmation letters to departments to which they all have a week to respond, including DMW, with OWWA.
Tulfo then said he would have the DMW and OWWA officials and the judiciary address this.
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