Week 4 highlights: Most intriguing angles from House 2024 budget process

20230908_105134.jpgDND Secretary Gibo Teodoro (left), House Minority Leader Marcelino Libanan (Facebook. PPAB)







House Speaker Martin Romualdez had earlier vowed that congressmen will pass the proposed P5.768-trillion National Expenditure Program (NEP) or national budget for 2024 in just five weeks.   

Four of these weeks will be used by the House Committee on Appropriations to scrutinize the NEP by going through each of the departments' individual budgets, while the fifth week will be used to approve the eventual General Appropriations Bill (GAB) on third and final reading in plenary.   

Week four of the budget process--and with it, the entire committee hearing phase--is already in the books. Before information overload takes over, here are the most intriguing angles from the week that was:


1. The long and short of it


Week four of the budget process produced the longest and the shortest budget hearing by the Ako Bicol Party-list Rep. Zaldy Co-chaired appropriations panel this year. And these took place on the same day, Sept. 4. 

Clocking it at just nine minutes from budget presentation to termination was the budget deliberation for the Office of the President (OP). Previously, the shortest budget hearing this year involved the Office of the Vice President (OVP), which lasted only 14 minutes.  

In both cases, "parliamentary courtesy" was cited by the committee as reason for expediting the proceedings. 

The longest budget hearing this year was with the Department of Transportation (DOTr), lasting 13 hours and 10 minutes. It beat the 11-hour hearing of the Department of Agriculture (DA) from the previous week. 

During one plenary session, the militant Makabayan bloc slammed the frequent citing of parliamentary courtesy since it has prevented them from questioning certain budgets. However, they will still get a chance to do so during  the week-long plenary debates.


2. Ombudsman Martires makes unique pronouncement


It's a common theme during budget hearings in the House for department or agency chiefs to ask for additional appropriations from the solons. After all, more resources mean fewer constraints. 

It is for this reason that Ombudsman Samuel Martires surprised House members on Sept. 11, when he flat-out said the Office of the Ombudsman would make do with its proposed 2024 budget of P5.05 billion. 

The amount was actually P1.67 billion less than its requested budget of P6.7 billion from the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).  

"Bagamat yung binigay po samin nung DBM is way below what we were asking, kuntento na po kami doon sa [P5.05 billion] na budget na binigay ng DBM (Although what the DBM gave us is way below what we were asking for, we are content with the budget given by DBM). I don't  want to ask for more," Martires said. 

The former Sandiganbayan magistrate said he didn't want the Office of the Ombudsman to be a burden to the Marcos administration, as he knew precious resources had to be earmarked for social services. Instead, Martires said the Ombudsman would "tighten its belt". 

Hearing this,, Antipolo City 2nd district Rep. Romeo Acop said: "At the outset I would like to laud the Ombudsman, kasi siya lang ang agency na nagsasabi, he can live with his budget (you're the only one who said that the agency can live with his budget)."


3. DND chief Teodoro bares cool trivia about Minority Leader Libanan


Whoever knew that House Minority Leader Marcelino "Nonoy" Libanan was the great, great grandson of Philippine hero Valentin Diaz, a founding member of the Katipunan? 

Probably very few among his colleagues in the House of Representatives. That is, until Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Gilbert "Gibo" Teodoro Jr. casually dropped this trivia during the agency's budget deliberation on Sept. 7.  

Libanan of 4Ps Party-list was among those who interpellated Teodoro during the Committee on Appropriations' hearing on the DND's proposed P229-billion budget for 2024.  

After Libanan's interpellation and endorsement of the DND budget, Teodoro said: "Salamat po sa ating great, great grandson ng ating bayaning so Valentin Diaz po na papangalanan ang isang barko ng ating Philippines Navy."  

(Thank you to the great, great grandson of our hero, Valentin Diaz, of whom a Philippine Navy vessel would be named after.)  

This was later confirmed by Libanan to the Manila Bulletin. "Yes. My great, grand mother is Basilia Diaz, daughter of Valentin and Candida Diaz. Itinago ang great lola ko sa Samar during the Phil-Am war (My great grandmother was hidden in Samar during the Philippine-American war)," he said.  

Wikipedia said Valentin Diaz joined the likes fellow patriots Andres Bonifacio in founding the Katipunan--the group that fought for Philippine independence against Spain--in 1896. He was the the treasurer of the organization.  

The Paoay, Ilocos Norte-born Valentin was also a member of La Liga Filipina, which José Rizal founded to peacefully promote reforms in the Spanish colonial administration.