#PINGterview: Enough Funds for COVID Vaccines in 2021 Budget

In an interview on CNN Philippines, Sen. Lacson answered questions on:
* funds for COVID-19 vaccines in the 2021 budget
* more agencies with cuts in the 2021 budget


* 2021 BUDGET:

Increase in DPWH’s Budget:

I can only assume the reason behind the increase of P28B in the budget of the DPWH is that they cannot accommodate everybody. During the bicam, this is where the congressmen and senators haggle for their pet projects. And since they totaled an increase of P83.87B and they could only extract P55.21B from within the department, they had to get the P28B differential from other agencies. That’s the reason why there’s a net increase of P28.3B in the budget of the DPWH. So from the original P666.4B, it is now at P694B.”

It is a combination of augmentation and creation of new projects, the P83B. As I said, it migrated from the original budget of the DPWH for some projects from line item budget, they had to augment it or create new items in the budget. And this is what I am questioning, because If it doesn’t involve planning by the implementing agency, then we will have a problem in the implementation because implementation is always a consequence of planning. And when an agency is not involved in the planning of a project, as a consequence of that, either it won’t be implemented at all, or the implementation will be very bad.”

I would say (the increase in the DPWH budget is questionable) because it doesn’t involve planning at all. When the bicam met for 1 week and it was only between the 2 chairpersons of both houses talking about increases and decreases in the budget, then I couldn’t see how they could effectively consult with the DPWH if such and such projects could be implemented efficiently or not.”

It’s personal interest first, and public service next, if at all. That’s the only explanation I can derive from what came out of the bicameral report.”

Reduction in the Budgets of DepEd, DoTr, DND:

“Either congressmen or senators, or both… when they haggled for the funding of their pet projects, it amounted to a total of P83B. And since they can only extract P55B from the budget of the DPWH and there’s a difference of P28B, kailangang kumuha sila from other departments or agencies. So nagkaroon ng reduction in the budgets of DepEd, DoTr, even DND.”

“We noticed initially an P8B reduction in the DND budget. When we recomputed, it is something like P5.2B based on the net change. When you increase and decrease the budget of an agency, there’s a net change. So nabawasan ng P8B pero may nadagdag sa other items ng another P2-3B, so naiwan P5.2B reduction from the budget of DND. Another P11B was deducted from the budget of DepEd, and P35B was taken out from the budget of DoTr. So not all the budget cuts went to DPWH. Ang ibang departments also gained increases in their budget allocations.”

Need for Balanced Budget:

“Practically all agencies have very low utilization rates. And if that were the case, then sa NEP pa lang, every year we are increasing the expenditure program of the national government from P4.1T to P4.5T. For 2022, they are planning to propose a budget of P5T. If most agencies are underutilizing their budgets, why do we keep increasing the national budget? And we always operate on deficit, that’s why we always borrow. I think a sound economic practice would be to attain a balanced budget by not adding yearly to the national budget. Anyway they cannot be implemented anyway and if we total the underspent budget for the agencies it will run to hundreds of billions of pesos.”

Catch-22 Situation on Budget:

“When I interpellated him on the bicameral report he reported out on the floor, his explanation is that it is better to accommodate requests from congressmen than not having passed the budget at all because kung maabala baka magkaroon tayo ngreenacted budget. Along that line I can understand his situation and I told him exactly that, I am not blaming him because he is looking at the bigger picture. Kaya lang kung ganyan ang laging magiging situation, we will be at the mercy of the congressmen who are fighting for their pet projects in their districts. So it’s a Catch 22 situation.”



Budget for Vaccines:

“There’s P2.5B under the regular budget and there is P72B under the unprogrammed fund. When we say unprogrammed fund, kailangan may available source ng funding either through tax revenues or non-tax revenues. I am confident DBM will be able to come up with the P72B if needed, when the time comes we have to purchase the vaccines, then P72B can readily be made available by DBM.”

“Remember last January before the pandemic struck, our national debt foreign and domestic stood at P7.8T. We are now at P10.4T. Easily by simple computation we have already borrowed P2.6T. So easily P72B can be taken care of by the borrowings we had for the past several months. And since the pandemic, expenditures incurred sa pandemic nasa P600B yata. So kayang kunin sa borrowings natin. So there’s available funds in the National Treasury because of the borrowings. It is as good as funded. It was placed under the unprogrammed fund because we are not sure yet if vaccines will be available in 2021 and we’re not sure yet how much will be needed to purchase the vaccines.”

“That will not suffice but the P72B can easily be funded because money is available. Inilagay lang sa unprogrammed kasi hindi pa definite kung magkano ang kailangan.”



Recent Arrests of Personalities:

“If we look at the facts as presented through the media, the facts surrounding the arrests wala namang kinalaman sa red-tagging. They were arrested on the basis of search warrants issued by courts of law. And they were arrested because of the pieces of evidence confiscated from them. So walang kinalaman yan. We can speculate na consequence ng red-tagging pero facts are facts. I don’t think can issue a warrant arbitrarily without examining the witnesses, before issuing that SW. So isa naman may standing AW against him, that’s why he was arrested, and with an accompanying SW they searched the premises and found firearms and explosives. So parang stretching too far kung iko-connect natin sa red-tagging. Of course some people will say baka may kinalaman ang red-tagging.”

It is the judicial system that we should trust. If the evidence as claimed is planted, they will have to prove it first before the prosecutor and then before the court that will try to the cases. If they can prove that the police officers or military officials responsible for the arrest and the alleged planting of evidence should be answerable and criminally liable for their actions. So if we cannot trust our judicial system, then saan naman tayo pupunta?”

Alleged Evidence-Planting:

The burden of proof is on the police officers. But the burden of proof in the claim that these pieces of evidence were planted, naroon sa nagke-claim doon, in this case, those who were arrested. So that is how the justice system works and we cannot do anything because they secured search warrant for the search of the premises of the persons arrested. And it cannot be denied a competent court of law issued the search warrant, that’s why the police officers or military officials executed the search warrant.”