Bersamin assures Makabayan: All your concerns will be addressed
MANILA, Philippines — Concerns raised by Makabayan bloc lawmakers during the Office of the President’s quickly-ended budget deliberations would be addressed, Executive Secretary Lucas Bersamin said on Tuesday.
After the House committee on appropriations ended the budget discussions on the Office of the President (OP) P10.70 billion proposed budget for 2024 — which Makabayan initially objected to — Bersamin and Makabayan bloc’s ACT Teachers party-list Rep. France Castro and Kabataan party-list Rep. Raoul Manuel had a chance to discuss the latter’s grievances.
Castro stressed that their concerns must be answered and Bersamin replied that they will address everything — including fears that the Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC) has wrongly designated community workers as terrorists.
“‘Yong aming mga kasagutan, concerns, ay dapat masagot (Our concerns should be answered),” Castro said.
“We are addressing everything […] kasi I’m the chair also of the ATC. We’re very thankful to you,” Bersamin replied.
However, Bersamin, a former chief justice, explained that more evidence should be presented so that individuals would be delisted. He assured Castro, though, that they would check on the concerns.
“Ang problema lang kasi ‘pag nag delisting, there should be more evidence to be presented dahil the process was already completed. However, don’t be worried about it, chine-check namin,” Bersamin noted.
(Our problem is that when it comes to delisting, there should be more evidence to be presented because the process already was completed. However, don’t be worried about it. We are checking on it.)
“Thank you, Justice,” Castro replied.
The issue of the ATC supposedly abusing Republic Act No. 11479 or the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 was raised during Manuel’s manifestation, claiming that several human rights workers and activists have been designated terrorists without sufficient evidence.
Manuel also called out the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-Elcac) for encroaching on civilian agencies.
OVP issue too
But aside from their issue with the ATC, Castro hopes OP would also answer their concerns about the P125 million confidential expenses incurred by the Office of the Vice President (OVP) in 2022, despite the original budget created during former vice president Leni Robredo’s term not having such an item.
On Monday, incumbent Vice President Sara Duterte confirmed they requested the confidential fund from OP — which Castro wants OP to explain.
“Well sinabi ko ‘yon, ‘yong ating mga concerns na dapat ma-address ‘yong concerns ng Makabayan bloc. Positive naman siya (Bersamin) mabigyan (ng sagot), partikular sinabi ko rin ‘yong sagot sa tanong ko, ‘yong letter na hinihingi ko, kaugnay doon sa request ni OVP o ni Vice President Sara Duterte na P125 (million) na confidential funds,” Castro said.
(Well, I said that I hope the concerns of the Makabayan bloc should be addressed. Executive Secretary Bersamin responded positively by saying that he would answer. In particular, I said that I was looking for the letter regarding the OVP or Vice President Sara Duterte’s request for P125 million confidential funds.)
“Sana mabigyan tayo ng letter kasi sinabi naman niya ‘yon sa Senado ‘di ba, kahapon, sa hearing, na nag-request siya ng confidential funds sa OP,” she added.
(I hope we will be given a copy of the letter because she admitted it in the Senate yesterday, right, during the hearing, that she requested confidential funds from OP.)
Makabayan, last August 30, objected to the early termination of the OVP proposed 2024 budget deliberations, claiming that the committee is shielding officials from being questioned by lawmakers.
The appropriation committee ended discussions of the OVP budget in less than 20 minutes.
Makabayan lawmakers initially objected again to the termination of the OP’s budget discussions, but this time around, they withdrew their objection. The committee then gave Castro, Brosas, and Manuel two minutes each to make their manifestation.