MANILA, Philippines — Senator Leila de Lima has insisted that the Office of the Vice President (OVP) deserves a bigger budget for 2021 than what it was given, as the said office was instrumental in helping people amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to De Lima, there should be no discussion on whether OVP should receive more funds to operate properly, especially as the Commission on Audit (COA) gave it the highest audit rating for two years in a row.
Vice President Leni Robredo, like De Lima, belongs to the Liberal Party and the opposition bloc.
“There should be no debate here: the Office of the Vice President deserves a higher budget for next year. Time and again, VP Leni Robredo and her office have proven just how competent they are in serving and helping our countrymen, especially during this pandemic,” the senator said in a statement on Wednesday.
However, De Lima said that she does not expect OVP’s budget to rise, as the current administration supposedly suppresses budget for agencies not sided with them.
“Pero, mahirap talagang ispelingin ang administrasyon na kung hindi man baligtad mag-isip ay sadyang gusto lang manggipit ng mga hindi nila kapanalig,” she noted.
(But it is really hard to explain to an administration which is, if not saddled with a backward mindset, is just really keen to crack down on those not with them.)
“Just think: The OVP originally proposed P723.39 million for next year’s budget, but it was slashed by DBM to P679 million—the smallest in the proposed 2021 National Budget,” she added.
Several lawmakers have proposed increasing OVP’s budget, which was initially set by the said agency at P720 million. Budget cuts made by the Department of Budget and Management placed it at just P679 million.
Some of the legislators said that OVP has the smallest budget in the bureaucracy, but Anakalusugan Rep. Mike Defensor claimed that other offices like the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC), Anti-Red Tape Authority (ARTA), and Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB) got even smaller allocations.
However, two of these offices — ARTA and DDB — are attached agencies to the Office of the President.
During the 2019 calendar year, COA said that OVP has the highest audit rating among government offices, which is indicative of an efficient and corruption-less financial system. Although COA also flagged OVP’s slow use of medical assistance funds, both offices noted that these were technical issues and not rooted in misuse of public funds.
Despite its small budget, OVP managed to provide various services during the health crisis: from mounting donation drives to purchase personal protective equipment and offering dormitories and shuttle services for health workers and frontliners; to donating test kits, sourcing used gadgets for online classes, crafting learning materials, and helping set up job-hunting websites.
De Lima meanwhile stressed that giving OVP a small budget appears to be a statement that the administration is not intent on helping people, as the OVP was able to provide aid for families economically affected by the pandemic.
“Ayaw ba nilang mas maraming maaruga at maiangat na buhay ang tanggapan ni VP Leni? Mas gusto ba ng rehimeng ito na higit na paglaanan ng budget ang mga ahensyang palpak at gatasan ng mga tiwali nilang kaalyado?” she asked.
(Wouldn’t they want many people to be cared for and assisted by VP Leni’s office? Do they prefer to prioritize the budget of mediocre agencies which could be turned into milking cows by their crooked allies?)
“Ang malinaw: Sa mas malaking pondo, mas maraming matutulungan ang isang #BusyPresidente. Habang hanggang ngayon, wala pa rin tayong napapala sa isang batugan, patulog-tulog at laging missing-in-action na Pangulo,” she claimed.
(What’s clear is that with a bigger budget, the busy vice president can help a lot more people. While until now, we cannot expect anything from our lazy, sleepy, and missing-in-action President.) [ac]
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