OVP, DepEd budget debates rescheduled for Wednesday — House majority
MANILA, Philippines — Plenary debates on the Office of the Vice President’s (OVP) proposed budget for 2024 have been rescheduled for Wednesday, the House of Representatives’ Majority bloc confirmed.
During a break in the deliberations of House Bill No. 8980 or the General Appropriations Bill (GAB) on Tuesday afternoon, ACT Teachers Rep. France Castro asked why the OVP and Department of Education (DepEd) — both headed by Vice President Sara Duterte — have not been tackled on the floor yet.
Originally, the House committee on appropriations’ schedule showed that after the Office of the President (OP) budget discussions, the OVP and DepEd discussions would follow.
“I just would like to inquire on our schedule for today, because, as written in our schedule for today, after the OP, there should be OVP and Department of Education. So, at this point in time, what is the estimated time that the budget deliberation for the OVP and the DepEd be deliberated today?” Castro asked.
In response, Deputy Majority Floor Leader and Iloilo 1st District Rep. Janette Garin said that OVP had informed them of a conflict in the schedule.
Garin added that they are not yet privy to the details of OVP and DepEd’s reasons.
“Mr. Speaker, the Office of the Vice President as well as the Office of the Department of Education, the Secretary of the Department of Education has conveyed a message to the committee on appropriations as well as the committee on rules of a possible conflict in schedule — details of which the Majority Leader, I mean yours truly, is not yet that privy,” Garin explained.
“But precise for us to say that as of the moment, the deliberations of the proposed budget of the OVP as well as DepEd has been temporarily moved tomorrow, considering that we also have other agencies in the pipeline, Mr. Speaker,” she added.
OVP spokesperson Reynaldo Munsayac confirmed this in a message to reporters. However, no exact reason has been given as of now.
According to Kabataan party-list Rep. Raoul Manuel, Vice President Duterte should reveal the reason for the sudden rescheduling of OVP and DepEd’s budget deliberations, especially since the schedule was released by the committee ahead of time.
In place of the OVP and DepEd, the House called on the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Department of Transportation to present and defend their budget instead.
“Two weeks ago pa po noong unang inanunsyo ang schedule ng pagdinig ng plenaryo ng Kamara sa budget. Wala pong ibang ahensya na sa araw mismo ay nagpabago ng schedule. Ano po kaya ang dahilan ng pagliban na ito? Pati ba naman ito confidential din?” Manuel asked.
(The schedule of House plenary debates on the proposed budget was announced two weeks ago. No agency has asked for changes on the day of the debates itself. What is the reason behind this absence? Is this also confidential?)
“Last minute cancellations with vague explanations in any context is unprofessional. Kung walang malinaw na paliwanag, ang dating lang ay parang natakot ang OVP at DepEd na humarap sa mamamayan at magpaliwanag lalo tungkol sa kanilang confidential funds,” he added.
(If there is no clear reason why, it seems that OVP and DepEd are merely afraid to face the public and explain their confidential funds.)
Several lawmakers have lined up to question the OVP budget sponsor for its proposed 2024 budget, which amounts to P2.3 billion. Earlier, at the OP budget debates, several lawmakers had questioned the legality of confidential fund allocation of the OVP in 2022, as it appeared to be an augmentation.
Despite the change in schedule, Manuel maintained that they will still scrutinize the OVP’s budget — even if goes beyond 12 hours.
“Ngunit sinisigurado po natin ang kabataan at mamamayan na di po makakaiwas ang sinumang opisyal sa ating pagbusisi sa pondo ng bayan. Handa po tayong pumasok nang maaga at magserbisyo pa rin kahit lampas 12 oras tayong nagtatalakay ukol sa pambansang budget sa nakaraang mga araw,” he noted.
(However, we assure the public and the youth that no official would be able to evade our questions and scrutiny of public funds. We are ready to go to work early and serve the people even if deliberations go past 12 hours in the past days.)