SEN. Loren Legarda on Sunday gave assurances to the three agencies given a budget of P1,000 for 2018 by the House of Representatives that they will have sufficient funding to carry out their mandates.
Legarda, who heads the Senate finance committee, said as far her panel is concerned, the proposed budgets of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) and the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) have already been approved.
The Senate finance panel approved the P678-million proposed budget for the CHR, P1.1 billion for the NCIP and P351 million for the ERC.
“We already approved their budgets, but the two chambers will have a caucus. A government agency cannot function with only P1,000 budget,” Legarda said in a radio interview aired over DzBB.
The House of Representatives slashed the allocations for the CHR and NCIP to P1,000 each because of the agencies’ supposed failure to perform their duties properly. The ERC was given the same budget for alleged corruption.
“I assure you that the agencies will have their budget,” said Legarda. “I am not sure if it is the exact budget. Maaaring tinaasan, maaring binabaan (It could be increased, it could be lowered), but they will have their budget,” she said.
Legarda added that the move of the House to slash the budget of the three agencies was a political statement.
The House is expected to approve the P3.7-trillion proposed national budget on third and final reading this week.
Sen. Sherwin “Win” Gatchalian defended the move of the Senate to restore the ERC’s budget, saying Congress should not punish the commission’s employees because of a few corrupt officials in the agency.
Gatchalian, the head of the Senate Committee on Economic Affairs, said the government should ensure the continuous operation of the ERC whose task is to regulate power distribution firms like the Manila Electric Company (Meralco).
The finance committee chair also expressed confidence that the two houses of Congress will be able to reconcile conflicting provisions on the proposed 2018 General Appropriations Act.
President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday certified the proposed P3.7-trillion budget as urgent.
The Senate aims to pass the budget bill on or before October 11, or before the chamber takes a one-month recess.