The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) is not buying the claim of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) that it suspended the holding of two pending recall elections in Puerto Princesa City, Palawan, and in Bulacan for lack of funds.
In fact, the DBM said on Tuesday, the Comelec has nearly P4 billion to conduct the recall polls, with the one in Palawan needing only more than P13 million to be accomplished.
In a letter forwarded to The Manila Times, DBM Undersecretary Luz Cantor, responding to the letter of Palawan Rep. Douglas Hagedorn asking the DBM to validate the poll body’s position that it has no “line-budget” for the exercise, said as of end-2013, the Comelec has “unobligated allocation” of P3.6 billion, referring to the commission’s “statement of appropriations, allotments, obligations, disbursement and balances.”
Hagedorn had sought clarification from the Budget department after Comelec officials headed by Chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. reasoned that they had to suspend the recall petition against Puerto Princesa City Mayor Lucilo Bayron for lack of funds.
The Comelec en banc made this position official thru Resolution 9882 issued last May 27.
In her reply on June 9 to Hagedorn, Cantor pointed out that this year’s allocated budget of P1.4 billion disbursed to the Comelec at the beginning of the year— already includes the budget for the conduct and supervision of elections, referenda, recall votes and plebiscites as one of its “regular programs.”
“Comelec’s principal role is to enforce and administer all laws and regulations in connection with the conduct of elections, initiatives, referendum and recalls,” she noted.
The DBM further debunked the Comelec’s claim that it cannot set aside any amount for the continuation of the recall process against Bayron without risking violation of the law as Congress failed to specifically provide money for recall in the 2014 budget.
As far back as April 3, 1992, Cantor said that under Joint Resolution 1 signed by all constitutionally-created bodies—Comelec, Civil Service Commission, Commission on Audit and Office of the Ombudsman—all agreed that the “very essence” of fiscal autonomy is “independence or freedom from outside control, characterized by self-direction or self-determination.”
“Thus, fiscal autonomy connotes such independence regarding financial matters.
“That as envisioned in the Constitution, the fiscal autonomy enjoyed by the Comelec guarantees the exercise of full management and control of themselves of their financial affairs as well as flexibility to allocate, administer and utilize their resources with the wisdom and dispatch that their official needs require,” the DBM reminded its co-equal body.
The DBM noted that in the past, the Comelec asked the DBM for additional funding, again contrary to the poll body’s claim in Resolution 9882 that it would be “unwise” for the poll body to request additional funding or set aside money for recall, citing Congress’ power to enact laws and the allocation of public funds.
“Historically, the Comelec has sourced additional funds through supplemental budget [P11.3 billion in 2009]; overall savings [P4.143 billion in 2012]; and contingent funds [P10 million in 2011].