THE Senate finance committee on Tuesday approved the P2.8-billion proposed 2014 budget of the Office of the President (OP) despite clamor to have the so-called presidential “pork” abolished amid the controversy hounding the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF)
It only took the Senate panel, chaired by Sen. Francis Escudero 10 minutes to listen to the presentation of the OP budget made by Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa.
The P2.822-billion OP budget for next year is three percent higher than the 2013 allocation, which was P2.73 billion.
Escudero in an interview after the hearing explained that by tradition, congress allocated courtesy to the office of the president and the office of the vice president regarding its budgets and if there are any issue with respect to their administration the departments will be the ones that will address it.
“There was no reason to stall the approval for plenary of the OP budget.
Congress regularly gives courtesies to the office [of the President]during budget deliberations,” Escudero said.
As for the supposed lump sum amounts like the president’s special purpose funds and the social funds, Escudero said that items are not under the OP budget.
He said that the SPF will be defended by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) while the presidential social fund (PSF) on the other hand is an off budget item and it is sourced from the income of Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor).
Comelec spent more for overseas voter
But unlike the OP budget, the P2.88-billion proposed 2014 budget of Commission on Elections (Comelec) was subject to thorough scrutiny by the finance committee.
The 2014 budget of the Comelec is broken down as follows: P2.539 billion for programs which include personal services, maintenance and other operating expenses (MOOE) and capital outlay and; P346.8 million for projects which includes construction of warehouse, resumption of continuing registration for local and overseas and information system strategic.
The senator also asked for data on how much exactly does the agency spend to register one voter, how much to enable a voter to vote and for his vote to be counted.
The Comelec did not have the available data but based on the committee’s computation, the agency spent a total of P12.5 billion in the 2013 local and national elections or about P319 per voter.
Escudero said the Comelec has spent nearly four times for voters overseas than the amount spent for each local voter.
Based on the date the Comelec spent a total of P200 million for the conduct of overseas absentee voting (OAV) which only turned an actual 118,000 votes out of the registered 737,859 making the per capita cost of each OAV at P1,155.
Escudero also asked about the P2 billion savings Comelec currently has and asked the agency to inform the committee on what it plans to do with it.
Comelec said that it plans to use it to purchase a lot and build their own office and warehouse.