Lacson Pushes P4.78-B Institutional Amendment for Mindanao Infantry Unit

Sen. Lacson stresses a point during bicameral conference committee discussions on the 2019 national budget, on Jan. 28, 2019.

Sen. Panfilo M. Lacson is pushing for a P4.78-billion institutional amendment in the P3.7-trillion national budget for 2019 for an infantry division that will counter threats from armed groups like the Abu Sayyaf.

Lacson, who disclosed this at the bicameral conference committee meeting on the 2019 budget on Monday, said the funding to mobilize the 11th Infantry Division was requested by the Department of National Defense (DND).

“It is an institutional amendment that I introduced, for the activation of an infantry division as requested by the DND,” he said.

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He pointed out institutional amendments should not be set aside because these are requested by the agencies concerned, and are properly vetted by lawmakers.

The 11th Infantry “Alakdan” Division, provisionally activated by the Philippine Army last December 1 in Jolo, Sulu, aims to strengthen the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ efforts to address the threat by the Abu Sayyaf in the Basilan-Sulu-Tawi-tawi (BaSulTa) area.

The Abu Sayyaf has been linked to various incidents of violence, including the bombing of a church in Jolo, Sulu that left at least 20 people dead last Sunday, Jan. 27.

Lacson noted the P4.78-billion institutional amendment is part of the unit’s three-year funding requirement.

“We should not set aside institutional amendments because these were requested. We also vet,” he said.

Meanwhile, Lacson pushed anew for transparency in crafting the national budget, by retaining the Unified Accounts Code Structure (UACS) in the budget bill.

He noted the UACS, which helps track programs for funding in the budget, is in the National Expenditure Program – the version of the budget submitted by Malacanang to Congress – but is usually gone by the time the budget bill is transmitted by the House of Representatives to the Senate.

While it may be too late for the UACS in this year’s budget, Lacson said the UACS should be maintained in future budget deliberations so items for funding will be easier to trace.

“It is easier to track where the line items would go if we maintained the UACS. My suggestion is future budget deliberations we maintain the presence of UACS so that it would be easier to trace,” he said.