CA confirms Wendel Avisado as budget secretary
MANILA, Philippines – The powerful Commission on Appointments (CA) on Wednesday, February 26, confirmed the ad interim appointment of Wendel Avisado as the secretary of Department of Budget and Management.
At the CA committee hearing, Avisado assured lawmakers that he would not allow corruption to happen under his watch.
"I take full responsibility for anything that happens in the DBM. Kung may corruption pong mangyari diyan (If any corruption happens there), I assure you, I will be the first to go," Avisado said.
Anti-pork crusader Senator Panfilo Lacson praised Avisado for the recent 2020 national budget circular (NBC) that placed projects worth roughly P80 billion for "later release." This meant that funds would not be disbursed unless the projects are set to be implemented.
In December 2019, Lacson claimed that more than 1,200 projects amounting to P83.22 billion were "last-minute insertions" of House representatives, made on the eve of the approval of the bicameral conference committee report on the P4.1 trillion budget for 2020. (READ: 2020 budget: A year of compromises)
"Continue what you are doing in the DBM, particularly on the national budget. [President Rodrigo Duterte] cannot do it without your input as wise counsel. Please continue what you started," Lacson said.
On the issue of absorptive capacity, the budget chief said the transportation and health departments spent the least vis-a-vis their allocation among other agencies, but he defended their performance.
"It is not to say that they are inefficient, mayroon lamang pong factors na nakaka-apekto sa proseso ng project implementation (there are some factors that are affecting their project implementation process). We are in constant coordination with them," Avisado said.
Avisado, who was appointed to the post thrice after the CA bypassed him twice in 2019, was also asked to clarify certain budget procedures during the confirmation hearing on Wednesday.
Senator Joel Villanueva asked Avisado about the job order (JO) and Contract of Service workers (COS) in the government, saying that at least 10% of the permanent positions are unfilled. "What are the DBM's efforts to address endo (end of contract)?"
Avisado cited the 2018 joint memorandum circular with the Civil Service Commission and the Commission on Audit, which states that qualified JO and COS workers are considered for the appointment to vacant positions in the government.
"Ang mga contractuals, nire-regularize na natin 'yan (We are already regularizing some of the contractual workers).... We are going to sit down with other government agencies to discuss about the unfilled permanent positions," Avisado told the CA panel.
Senator Imee Marcos, meanwhile, cited her experience as Ilocos Norte congresswoman and asked why all projects had to go through the approval of the Regional Development Council (RDC) to be budgeted.
"Pambihira naman (This is ridiculous). Only big-ticket projects should go through the Regional Development Council," Marcos said.
DBM follows a two-tier budget approach where ongoing spending are agreed upon during Tier 1, while new projects undergo review in Tier 2. RDC approval enter Tier 2 to see whether projects are consistent with the Philippines' development plans.
Avisado clarified that only projects and programs that seek to be included in the proposed national budget, or the National Expenditure Program, need to be approved by the RDC.
"Kung mga small projects na LGUs lang naman ang mag-iimplement, 'di na kailangan dumaan sa RDC (If these are small projects that LGUs would implement, it does not need to go through the RDC)," he said.
In his sponsorship speech, Senate Minority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri, the chairman of the CA committee on budget and management, called Avisado a "product of Mindanao." Avisado was born in Surigao.
Zubiri thanked the budget chief for the DBM's assistance to crafting the Bangsamoro region's first expenditure program, which received a lump sum allocation of P7 billion in the 2020 national budget.
"I am pleased to know that our brothers and sisters in the Bangsamoro are getting the assistance and support they need from no less than the national government’s top expert on budgetary matters and fiscal management," Zubiri said.
Duterte first appointed Avisado in August 2019, just as Congress was about to deliberate the then-proposed P4.1-trillion 2020 budget. Avisado replaced the controversial budget chief Benjamin Diokno, who is now at the helm of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas.
Avisado, a close friend of the President, served as Davao City administrator from 2004 to 2010 when Duterte was the mayor.
In 2010, Avisado ran and won for councilor of the 1st District of Davao but resigned in August that year when he was appointed as deputy secretary general of then-Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council, with former vice president Jejomar Binay as its chairman.
When Duterte assumed thepresidency, he brought Avisado with him to Malacañang to be the special assistant for Yolanda rehabilitation, after Duterte lamented the slow progress of providing shelter assistance for the super typhoon victims.
Aside from Avisado, the CA plenary also confirmed the promotion of 4 senior generals at the Armed Forces of the Philippines: Lieutenant General Roberto Ancan, Major General Simeon Felix Jr, and Brigadier Generals Fernando Reboja and Maning Tawantawan. – Rappler.com