Bayan Muna partylist Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate has questioned the Office of the Solicitor General’s spending proposal for 2021, particularly its P19.2 million confidential funds and P24.5 million “travel” budget.
He said while other government agencies suffer budget cuts, millions have been given to the OSG. The OSG’s proposed budget for next year is P1.116 billion.
“Kaya po ito ang gusto nating malinawan, saan ba ginagamit ang confidential expenses na ito?,” Zarate asked during the Lower Chamber’s budget deliberations on the Department of Justice’s proposed budget for 2021.
(That’s why we want to be enlightened, where are they going to use these confidential expenses.)
He laments that many government agencies have been needing budget augmentation to implement their social protection programs amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Bulacan 1st District Rep. Jose Antonio Sy-Avarado, vice chairperson of the House Committee on Appropriations who defended the OSG budget, relayed to the House plenary that the P19.2 million for the OSG’s confidential expenses “were not used and will not be used” as the OSG intends to reallocate such funding to respond to its capital outlay requirement.
“Sabi nga po ng kinatawan mula sa Office ng Solicitor General na ang building ng Office of the Solicitor General ay lumang luma na at delikado nang mabasa ang mga papeles na nakaloob duon sa building ng OSG kaya kung maari ay mareallocate ‘yung P19 million na confidential fund ng Office of the Solictor General sa pagsasaayos ng opisina ng Solicitor General,” he said.
(A representative from the Office of the Solicitor General relayed that the building of the Office of the Solicitor General is very old and that the essential documents stored inside may be damaged water, that is why they wish that the P19 million confidential fund of the OSG will be reallocated to refurbish the office.)
Zarate also called out the OSG for allocating P24.5 million for its travel expenses.
“Nasa pandemya pa po tayo ng COVID. Saan po ba sila magbyabyahe na gagastusan nila P24.5 million eh halos ng conferencia ngayon ay via Zoom or virtual, gagastos ba sila ng ganun kalaki? Puwede po bang maipaliwanag ito [dahil] sa gitna muli ng matinding krisis?,” he asked.
(We are in the middle of COVID pandemic. Where are they going to travel, that they will spend P24.5 million since almost all of the conferences now are via Zoom or virtual, are they going to spend that much? Can you please explain because we are in the middle of a severe crisis.)