Lawmakers seek higher funds for Robredo office following DBM's budget cut

Legislators are seeking a higher share for the office of Vice President Leni Robredo in the proposed 2021 budget after only P679.74 million was set aside for it by the executive branch. 

Robredo presented the Office of the Vice President’s (OVP) budget proposal before the House committee on appropriations on Monday, September 14.

The Vice President said the OVP initially proposed a P720-million budget for 2021, but the Department of Budget and Management set a budget ceiling at P679.74 million.

If the OVP’s proposed 2021 budget is not augmented, it would be around P28 million lower than its current P708.02-million allocation in 2020.

This was unacceptable to Camarines Sur 3rd District Representative Gabriel Bordado, a Robredo ally from the Liberal Party, who pointed out that the OVP has spent the past months giving frontline services during the coronavirus pandemic despite its limited resources. (READ: 'Not time to keep score': Robredo focuses on frontliners, not politics)

Bordado noted that the OVP received the highest audit rating from the Commission on Audit in 2019.

“But ironically, the Office of the Vice President has I think the lowest budgetary allocation in the entire Philippine bureaucracy. It has been engaging in frontline activities against COVID-19. It has also launched livelihood, education, people empowerment, and other projects throughout the country, but its budget is still the smallest in the entire bureaucracy,” said Bordado.

Bordado urged his colleagues to “recalibrate the budget allocation” for the OVP in 2021, a proposal later backed by other legislators from the majority and opposition blocs in the House.

They include Cagayan de Oro City 2nd District Representative Rufus Rodriguez, Baguio City Representative Mark Go, Kabataan Representative Sarah Elago, Bayan Muna Representative Ferdinand Gaite, and ACT Teachers Representative France Castro.

Robredo: 'We make do with what we have'

The Vice President welcomed the lawmakers’ promises to increase the OVP’s budget.

Still, she assured them the OVP would “make do” with whatever amount Congress would end up allotting for them. 

“We make do with what we have. That has always been the case with the Office of the Vice President… Of course we will be able to help more people if we are given more. But whatever is given to us, we work with that budget,” Robredo said. 

The House committee on appropriations terminated the budget hearing for the OVP on Monday, which means the lawmakers already approved in principle its initial P679.74-million budget proposal.

Legislators can still increase the OVP’s funds like they promised once the entire 2021 budget is brought to the plenary for debates and amendments.

Raising funds

In the past months, the OVP has been raising funds to extend various forms of assistance to frontliners – from giving them locally made personal protective equipment to operating free shuttle services for health workers in Metro Manila and Cebu.

The OVP also partnered with the local governments of Quezon City and Pasig City to operate Community Mart, an app where market vendors can sell online and have their goods delivered to customers by tricycle drivers. 

Just this weekend, Robredo launched a job platform to help jobless Filipinos look for new opportunities to work despite the pandemic. 

Rodriguez proposed giving the OVP an additional P113 million so the House can help boost Robredo’s efforts to aid frontliners and other sectors heavily affected by the pandemic.

“We really see how the OVP has worked hard not only in implementing the regular projects and programs like housing for IDPs (internally displaced persons), conflict areas, giving livelihood to those in need… Starting this pandemic, the Vice President had led her office in being able to immediately act on the needs of our frontliners and our people,” Rodriguez said. 

Go even went as far as proposing to double the OVP’s budget to over P1 billion.

“Ako po’y natutuwa kasi kahit kulang o maliit ang budget ng ating Pangalawang Pangulo, ang dami po ‘nyang ginagawa para sa ating bayan, lalung-lalo na nitong pandemya na ating kinakaharap,” Go said. (I am happy because even if the budget of our Vice President is not enough, she is still able to do so much for our country, especially during this pandemic that we are facing.) – Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the House of Representatives and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.

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