Senate minority slams uniform budget for oversight committees
MANILA, Philippines – "Let's call a spade a spade."
While admitting that the Senate leadership's move to reduce the number of oversight committees from 35 to 20 and allocate a uniform budget of P20 million for all would save taxpayers' money, the Senate minority bloc on Monday, August 19, said such efforts were flawed.
"While saving and putting taxpayers' money to better and more efficient use, we, in the Minority feel that the move falls short in showing the public that this is the result of some real and honest to goodness "soul-searching" on the part of this institution and its members," it said in a statement sent through the office of Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile.
The statement was signed by all members of the minority bloc, such as senators Nancy Binay, JV Ejercito, Jinggoy Estrada, Gringo Honasan and Vicente Sotto III.
But the minority bloc said the new rule only "equalizes" rather than "rationalizes" budget allocations and fails to address the core issue over bloated oversight committees.
All senators to receive P20 million?
Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto earlier said that only the 20 oversight committees would receive the P20 million fund, allowing the Senate to save P140 million from the original allocation of P540 million.
But the minority bloc has a different interpretation of the new policy. They said they believe it would provide an additional P20 million fund for all 24 senators on top of regular budgets for their offices.
"It subtracts from those senators whose current oversight committee budgets are higher than P20-M and adds to those who either have budgets lower than P20-M, regardless of whether a senators chairs one or none," senators said.
In 2013, only 6 out of the 35 oversight committees received allocations of P20 million and above, Senate records show. The rest received a budget of between P6 million to P16 million.
In the 15th Congress, Enrile, then Senate President, was criticized for his alleged unequal distribution of additional MOOE to his fellow senators.
Since only 20 oversight committees are up for grabs, 4 senators would not hold chairmanships. They are Senate President Franklin Drilon, Majority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano, Enrile and Recto.
What about performance?
Instead of allocating the same funds for all, Enrile earlier said he prefers that the Senate just abolish all oversight committees altogether, saying that the majority's decision to give equal budgets was questionable.
Such a move would in fact increase the allocations for each committee chairperson, regardless of the functions and actual performance of the committees, the minority bloc said.
"If we were to assume that the Senators uniformly need P20 million annually to carry out his or her committees' functions, regardless of whether it is for the regular legislative or for oversight, then we must CALL A SPADE A SPADE and tell people that we are actually increasing our operational budgets by P20 million annually," the minority said.
Enrile earlier said the measure "discriminates" against oversight committees which have been performing better than others.
“They are not the same in importance. There are oversight committees that are created by law…. By doing a uniform amount, you are saying they have equal importance, that the responsibility and work of all oversight committees are the same,” Enrile told reporters.
All 6 members of the minority bloc voted against the measure in a caucus held on August 5. - Rappler.com