Budget Watch

Lawmakers want to give P1-B budget to Robredo’s office after DBM budget cut

Mara Cepeda

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Lawmakers want to give P1-B budget to Robredo’s office after DBM budget cut

OVP BUDGET. Vice President Leni Robredo personally appeares before the House committee on appropriations on September 10, 2021 for deliberations on the recommended P713.41-million budget of the Office of the Vice President for 2022.

Jay Ganzon/OVP

The House committee on appropriations swiftly approves the OVP's proposed P713.4-million budget in 2022, with lawmakers vowing to increase its funding in the coming weeks

Lawmakers want to give the office of Vice President Leni Robredo a budget of “at least” P1 billion in 2022 after the executive branch only allotted P713.41 million for it next year.

The lawmakers, led by Camarines Sur 3rd District Representative Gabriel Bordado, a Robredo ally, supported a bigger budget for the Office of the Vice President after the opposition leader told the House committee on appropriations that the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) approved a smaller budget for the OVP in 2022.

Robredo, who was physically present at the budget hearing on Friday, September 10, said that the OVP’s DBM-approved budget for 2022, is 21% less than the P900 million her office got in 2021.

The DBM sets a budget ceiling depending on each agency’s absorptive capacity or its ability to fully spend its allotted funds.

Robredo, however, expressed confidence that the OVP would still manage to continue its programs even with a slashed budget. The OVP is hoping to allot almost half of its total funds in 2022 or P357.602 million for its financial assistance and subsidies under Robredo’s flagship anti-poverty program Angat Buhay. 

“We are confident that with the proposed budget for the OVP next year, we can continue working with our partners to contribute to our shared goals of defeating the virus and improving the lives of our people,” said the Vice President.

Lawmakers want to give P1-B budget to Robredo’s office after DBM budget cut

But this was unacceptable for Bordado, who said he will push for a P1-billion OVP budget in 2022 once this is brought to the House plenary for debates and amendments. 

This is because the appropriations committee immediately moved to approve the OVP’s proposed 2022 budget as soon as Robredo finished her presentation. This is part of the traditional courtesy accorded by lawmakers to the OVP and the Office of the President during budget hearings. 

Any proposal to either increase or decrease the OVP’s proposed funds in 2022 would therefore be done once the office’s budget is brought before the House plenary.

Bordado argued that Robredo’s office deserves more funds, citing the Vice President’s highly praised relief drives during the pandemic that she was able to pull off despite a meager budget. 

The lawmaker also said the OVP has consistently proved its ability to wisely spend its budget, since it has been getting the highest audit rating from the Commission on Audit for three consecutive years

“Mr. Chairman, I am therefore proposing once again that the P713 million-budget of the Office of the Vice President for 2022, representing a substantial cut of more than 21%, be increased to at least P1 billion,” Bordado said in his manifestation.

His proposal was backed by at least two opposition legislators, ACT Teachers Representative France Castro and Kabataan Representative Sarah Elago. 

“I am happy with the performance of the Office of the Vice President in its response to the COVID-19 pandemic. We have seen how, despite its small budget – the OVP’s budget is not even P1 billion – the OVP still strived to address the problems brought about by the pandemic since 2020,” Castro said in Filipino.

In the past years, legislators have crossed party lines in realigning more funds to the OVP owing to its track record of running commendable programs despite a meager annual budget. 

The Vice President is still discerning if she would gun for the presidency in the high-stakes 2022 polls that would elect President Rodrigo Duterte’s successor. Though she has dismal numbers so far, polls still indicate that Robredo is the most viable standard-bearer for the anti-Duterte forces. – Rappler.com

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Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or tweet @maracepeda.