Ombudsman gets lawmaker support to restore P2B budget cut

MANILA, Philippines – Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales got the backing of at least one lawmaker to restore the amount of P2 billion that was cut from the 2018 budget of the Office of the Ombudsman.

"It is the position of this representation that if we can, with the help of this committee, if we could do something about this in restoring the cuts made by the DBM so the Ombudsman can continue pursuing their duty excellently," Cebu City Representative Raul Del Mar, member of the House Committee on Appropriations, said on Wednesday, August 23.

The House Committee approved on Wednesday on their level Ombudsman's P2.588 billion proposed budget for  2018. The Ombudsman originally proposed P4.661 billion but it was cut to P2.588 by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).

Amounts recommended by DBM are the ones which reach the House of Representatives for approval. With the committee approval, the Ombudsman's budget will next move for plenary debate, where Del Mar said he will try to restore the P2 billion cut.

Committee members, including Vice Chairperson Representative Doy Leachon, approved Morales' request to use her office's P99 million worth savings to augment their budget.

Still, Morales said that even if they use the savings, it would still not be enough for the projects they have to fund.

Among the projects:

1. E-SALN or electronic Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth project

2. Records and archives building

3. Stipend for whistleblowers

4. House for provincial investigators and officials in Manila, in order to save from lodging costs

"I don't think your savings would be enough to cover the difference," Del Mar said.

Morales was also asked to comment on proposals to create a position for a Deputy Ombudsman for the Bangsamoro, but the Ombudsman said she would have to see a detailed proposal so she could "comment intelligently."

Morales was threatened by an impeachment complaint in May. But the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) could not file the case before the House of Representatives because no member of the House endorsed the complaint.  

A disbarment complaint against Morales was elevated before the Supreme Court but it too was dismissed immediately because an Ombudsman cannot be disbarred without impeachment. 

Complaints against Morales root from her resolutions connected to cases against former president Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III. Morales cleared Aquino from graft complaints in relation to the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) but indicted him for graft over the botched Mamasapano operations of 2015.

Both indictments are on appeal, with the VACC wanting to restore charges of "reckless imprudence resulting in homicide" against Aquino. – Rappler.com

Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email lian.buan@rappler.com or tweet @lianbuan.

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