Agencies can defend projects, CCT in their budgets – Palace

Malacañang Palace shows little concern over the opposition's plans to scrutinize the 2014 budget for possible items to be used for electioneering

LONG TALKS. President Benigno S. Aquino III presides over the Cabinet Meeting at the Aguinaldo State Dining Room of the Malacañang Palace on Monday, July 8. Malacañang Photo Bureau

MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang Palace showed little concern over the opposition’s plans to scrutinize the 2014 budget, especially the items that are perceived to boost the administration’s campaign in the 2016 presidential elections.

The agencies, said Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte, will be able to defend their projects.

Valte made the statement on Friday, July 12, a day after Sen Nancy Binay of the opposition United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) said she would look closely at the budget of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) and the administration’s conditional cash transfer (CCT) program.

Binay said she and the other UNA senators decided the budget will be the first order of business when the 16th Congress opens on July 22.

“Our Cabinet secretaries are always ready to answer any questions asked of them by the Congress about their proposed budget,” Valte said.

“Especially the CCT, there is a joint congressional oversight committee that the DSWD (Department of Social Welfare and Development) reports to on a very regular basis about the disbursements of the budget of the CCT. We always submit to that,” she said.

A flagship anti-poverty program of the administration, the CCT provides cash grants to poor households. The grants are tied to certain conditions, like parents ensuring their children go to school.

Acting Senate President Jinggoy Estrada said UNA will check reports that the CCT is being used to bankroll the campaign of administration allies.

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UNA’s interest in scrutinizing the budget of the DILG also raised concerns that it’s motivated by politics. DILG is headed by Mar Roxas, who is the ruling Liberal Party’s likely bet for President in 2016. Binay’s father and UNA stalwart, Vice President Jejomar Binay, is also eyeing the presidency.

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The final budget is expected to be submitted on Tuesday, July 23, a day after the President’s State of the Nation Address.

‘Minor changes’

Budget Secretary Butch Abad said the 2014 budget of P2.268 trillion was approved at 10:30pm on Wednesday, July 10.

He said there are still minor changes in terms of the allotment but told Rappler on Friday, the figure is final. Earlier, he said the focus of the budget would be on “economic expansion with strong emphasis on inclusion, both sectorally and geographically.”

“At the heart of inclusivity is aggressive job generation with infra spending ramped up to 5% of GDP by 2016,” he said.

Valte added, “The President wanted to make sure that the sectors who need the most attention will be supported by the programs and the programs will be supported by the appropriate funds.”

Valte’s confidence in the ability of agencies to defend their budgets may stem from the intensity of the Cabinet meetings on the 2014 budget.

Abad described the meetings as “exacting and rigorous,” while Roxas said President Benigno Aquino III asked deeply detailed questions, that it seemed the Cabinet Secretaries were presenting thesis statements.

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