Outgoing officials of the Aquino administration may be charged with technical malversation over unreleased Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) amounting to P800 billion for Local Government Units (LGUs), Batangas Gov. Hermilando “Dodo” Mandanas said.
Named as respondents in the case submitted for resolution were Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr., the National Treasurer and chiefs of the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) and Bureau of Customs (BOC). According to Mandanas, they were involved in approving the release of the IRA but allegedly withheld and misused part of it for national government programs, instead of automatically releasing the entire amount to the LGUs in accordance with the law.
“But all of them will say they’re just following orders, just like [in the case of]the DAP [Disbursement Acceleration Program]. The Executive Secretary [Ochoa] is included in the case because you cannot sue the President [Benigno Aquino 3rd]. He [Ochoa] has agreed with me that it has to be paid. He knew it because he was a former city administrator of Quezon City [Metro Manila],” Mandanas told The Manila Times after he spoke with town mayors during the League of Municipalities of the Philippines’ (LMP) executive committee meeting on Friday night at the New World Hotel in Makati City (also in Metro Manila).
“The money really belongs to the local government units and knowingly the national government used the money for their own projects, so using somebody else’s money is technical malversation. It’s really in bad faith,” the Batangas governor explained.
Mandanas, however, said the late Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo could not be held liable for diverting the IRA because the former Cabinet official had agreed that the funds should be given to the LGUs.
Before he was appointed as head of the Department of Interior and Local Government, Robredo had served as long-time mayor of Naga City, Camarines Sur.
He was the husband of Vice President-elect Leni Robredo.
“I did not include him [Robredo] in the case because this guy had good faith. He referred this to the DBM [Department of Budget and Management],” Mandanas said.
The governor filed a case with the Supreme Court on January 10, 2012 while the funds were still at P500 billion.
He said the case has already been submitted for resolution.
The High Court, meanwhile, ordered the automatic release of IRA as sought by Mandanas and former senator Aquilino “Nene” Pimentel Jr. in 2003 wherein a total of P60 billion in allotment backpay had been received by the LGUs.
Mandanas, former chairman of the House ways and means committee, said the Aquino administration should recognize in 2016 an increase of approximately P800 billion in IRA for local government units as IRA backpay from 2010 to 2016.
“That amount now which is unreleased in the portion of the just share, right now is already P800 billion, that much. If we want to translate it to what we are supposed to be getting, the national government has been withholding approximately 25 percent of the IRA that should go to us every year,” he told the town mayors.
Mandanas noted that the Internal Revenue Allotment should be released automatically and unconditionally as stated in the 1987 Philippine Constitution.
“As we all know, this is the lifeblood of the local government units. This is the one that really gives life. Without this, we do not have the local autonomy,’ he said.
“The share of the local government units should be 40 percent, according to the Local Government Code,” the Batangas governor added.
When he discovered that there is some P400 billion in unreleased IRA in 2010, Mandanas said he immediately presented this to the House committee and then he was referred by Robredo to Abad where the Budget secretary also agreed but he told him that they will use it instead because the Liberal Party was in power, and this was normally done by past administrations.
“I said to him [Abad] we’re from daang matuwid, we have to give this to the local government units because growth has to be inclusive which means that this has to reach the barangay [villages],” Mandanas said.
Daang matuwid or straight path is the good-governance mantra of the Aquino administration.
Mandanas, also a former member of the ruling Liberal Party, said he was ousted as chairman of the House ways and means committee because he was advocating the automatic release of the IRA and he did not also sign an impeachment complaint against then-Chief Justice Renato Corona.
He said he wants to save the Aquino administration from legal trouble.
If the outgoing President recognizes the law, Mandanas added, he should order the automatic release of the IRA.
“If he [Aquino] recognizes I, then there is good faith, and once there is good faith, then there is no malice. If there is no malice, there is no cause for action,” he said.
Mandanas pressed the Supreme Court to immediately release its decision compelling the outgoing administration to distribute the funding to the local government units before the term of President Aquino expires on June 30.
“We will encourage the SC to release its decision on this, do not be afraid,” he said.
LMP president Leonardo Javier expressed support for Mandanas in his fight to recover the money taken by the national government from the local government units.
“We’re all behind him [Mandanas] now that we realized how important this is for our all-inclusive growth,” Javier, Mayor of Javier town in Leyte province, said in an interview.
He will also encourage other mayors to support this advocacy, he said
“We are going to inform them and will let them join our crusade,” Javier said.
He noted that having a just share of the IRA for the local government units would not only boost autonomy but also inclusive growth in rural areas, especially the poor sectors of the country.
“We will push for this kind of fund because this will not only provide livelihood in the rural areas, it will also help decongest Metro Manila,” he said.