Defensor: DOF should give details on P1.86-T borrowing frenzy

The Department of Finance obtained a total P1.86 trillion in loans for the government in just six months but has not explained in detail to the public where the money was or where will it be spent.

Anakalusugan Party-List Rep. Mike Defensor

The seeming lack of transparency in obtaining loans was raised Thursday by Anakalusugan Rep. Michael Defensor who called on Secretary Carlos Dominguez to explain everything in detail.

Defensor, chairman of the House Committee on Public Accounts, said government owes it to the “greater public” to give the details of the borrowing, noting that this is a fair appeal considering that Filipinos will bear the burden of paying for the loans.

“People are asking questions about the borrowings, particularly where the money was used and why did we have to borrow at the time each loan was incurred. For the sake of transparency, the DOF should account for the debt for the first seven months,” said Defensor in a press statement.

He pointed out that he and many people fully understand that the COVID-19 situation has prompted government to obtain foreign and domestic loans.

“But for the understanding of the greater public, the DOF, together with the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), has to explain to clear up issues,” Defensor stressed.

The DOF, Defensor stated, must tell the people how the government intends to spend the huge amount it borrowed and identify which COVID-19 response measure will be financed.

“For instance, how much of the P1.86 trillion went to COVID-19 response measures, how much for infrastructure, how much for debt repayment, and how much for salaries, if any,” he added.

During last week’s budget presentation, Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado reported that as of Aug. 28, the DBM had released a total of P389 billion for COVID-19 response.
According Avisado, of the amount disbursed, P266.53 billion came from discontinued projects, activities and programs (PAPs), in the 2019 and 2020 budgets, P102.06 from special purpose funds and P20.48 from regular agency appropriations.

Of the P389 billion, P211 billion was used for the two waves of financial assistance to at least 18 million low-income families amounting to P5,000-P8,000 under Bayanihan 1 or the We Heal as One Law, Avisado disclosed.

Defensor urged the DBM to specify what projects, activities and programs have been scrapped so the people would not wait for these.

“They can post these in their website, indicating the particular PAP, its funding and location. If residents feel strongly that a discontinued PAP is still needed in their community, they could push for its funding in future budgets by communicating to lawmakers, their local officials and even directly to the DBM,” he said.

The administration solon also asked the DBM to tell Congress and the public how much the government saved from continuing lockdowns since March, which are the world’s longest quarantine restrictions.