The urgent release of the P53 million budget for hiring new employees has been sought by the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) before Congress on Tuesday.
CHR Commissioner Etta Rosales made the push when she called for the passage of the CHR Charter bill authored by Rep. Walden Bello and Barry Gutierrez of Akbayan party-list which provides CHR the fiscal autonomy that will grant them the said budget for new hires without having to request to the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).
Aside from the fiscal autonomy, the CHR Charter also grants the CHR the authority to put erring officials under preventive suspension to aid the CHR in coming up with a credible probe.
“We need fiscal autonomy because we urgently need to hire competent, young lawyers, investigators, and others for administrative positions to aid us in performing our job. As it is, there’s still a lot of red tape in the DBM so the release of the budget for new hires really takes a lot of time,” Rosales pointed out.
Rosales was referring to the policy of the Aquino administration wherein the allocation for the new hires for all government agencies, including Constitutional Offices which enjoy fiscal autonomy—are all put under the Miscellaneous and Personnel Benefits Fund (MPBF) item in the budget. The MPBF will only released to a certain agency once they already hired the new employees for the erstwhile unfilled positions.
The policy was instituted by the Aquino administration to stop the chronic practice in the past wherein government agencies refuse to use the allocation for new hires provide for under their budget so that the saved money will serve as their huge Christmas bonuses and other perks.
Per Rosales, the CHR needs P53 million to fill out almost 100 positions.
“When I tell him about the delay, [DBM Secretary] Butch [Abad] just tells me to talk to him personally. But I can’t go there every time and talk to Secretary because he can’t be available to talk to me every time, Rosales added.
Rosales, however, reasoned out that the said vicious practice of converting the unused budget for personnel services to Christmas bonanza is not true for all agencies.
“This year, I have filled out all the unfilled positions for four regions, including the Regional Human Rights Commission. We have been trying to encourage Malacañang on this. Considering that we have filled out all the vacant positions, we should be given wherewithal,” Rosales added.
But for Rep. Mel Senen Sarmiento of Western Samar, the government would not rather take its chance on the goodwill of the agencies in spending their MPBF.
“We integrated such policy in our budgeting process to prevent the utilization of this fund for Christmas bonuses and the like. We did that for transparency. If Commissioner Rosales is doing her job in filling out the positions, then her request for the funding for next year should be released faster than it used to,” Sarmiento said in a press conference.
“As for the timeframe of release, of course we would need adjustments because this MPBF is a drastic change. It would take some time but eventually the release would be with more ease as the policy goes on,” Sarmiento added.