Lawmaker questions Abad’s motive in raising budget for Ombudsman, Sandiganbayan, COA

Budget Secretary Florencio B. Abad may be using the increasing allocations for the Office of the Ombudsman, Sandiganbayan and the Commission on Audit (COA) to buy his way out of plunder charges.

Party-list Rep. Terry Ridon of Kabataan said he was compelled to surmise this following the noticeable increases in the budget of the Office of the Ombudsman, which has been sitting on the complaint that he and fellow youth leaders filed against Abad on July 8, 2014, for his indispensable role in the disbursement of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), which was declared illegal by the Supreme Court (SC) in 2013, as well as the expenditures under the Development Acceleration Program (DAP), which was declared by the High Court to be unconstitutional last year.

Ridon noted that the Office of the Ombudsman’s budget increased by 68 percent from the 2010 allocation, with Abad proposing a P1.78-billion budget for the agency next year.

The Sandiganbayan will receive P505.9 million for 2016, while the COA will get a P9.13-billion budget next year. Ridon said the Sandiganbayan’s 2016 budget is 51 percent higher than its budget in 2010, while the COA’s budget next year represents a 140-percent increase from its 2010 allocation.

“Given these figures, we ask: Is the Aquino administration trying to bribe its way out of prosecution by systematically inflating the budgets of the Ombudsman, Sandiganbayan and the COA? The increase in these agencies’ budgets should be scrutinized with a fine-toothed comb, so as to ensure that the bigger budget is not just a favor granted by President Aquino to ensure that he will not be prosecuted after his term,” Ridon stressed.

He asked Conchita Carpio-Morales why she was dragging her feet on the charges she had lodged against Abad, a question that was similarly asked by other parties that had filed similar complaints against the staunch ally of President Aquino.

Ridon also cited the petition filed against Abad before the SC in August by the group led by lawyer Greco Belgica, which asked the High Court to order Morales to investigate Abad, along with President Aquino, over their role in the DAP and PDAF mess.

The Kabataan lawmaker said it has been more than a year since he led youth groups in filing plunder raps against Abad before the Office of the Ombudsman, yet Morales has “not even lifted a finger” to act on the complaint.

In a 16-page plea filed by Ridon and other youth leaders on July 8, 2014, the petitioners said that Abad “systematically misappropriated, converted, misused and malversed public funds” through his involvement in both the DAP and the PDAF cases.

In the same complaint, petitioners alleged that Abad “systematically misappropriated, converted, misused and malversed public funds through his executive issuances and the programs implemented by him as secretary of the Department of Budget and Management [DBM].”

“The Office of the Ombudsman has seemingly slept on the case and buried it in the pits of oblivion. How can we believe that this government is sincere in its anticorruption campaign when it engages in selective application of the law,” Ridon added.

He reiterated his appeal to Morales to expedite the investigation on Abad’s case.

“The public deserves to know the truth. The esteemed Ombudsman should not give in to pressure by the Aquino administration,” he stressed.

P1.775-billion budget for 2016

The Office of the Ombudsman on Tuesday presented before the House Committee on Appropriations a P1,775,506,000 budget for next year as recommended by the DBM and approved by President Aquino.

During her presentation, Morales said the proposed budget of the Office of the Ombudsman for 2016 is 5.65 percent lower when compared to the current year’s P1.882 billion, 37.37 percent lower as against the P2.8 billion submitted earlier to the DBM, and only .059 percent of the proposed total national National Expenditure Program of P3.002 trillion.

She stressed that the decrease was due to the reduction in the expenditure program considered by the DBM as nonrecurring expenses.

The Ombudsman pointed out that, nonetheless, the recommended level, that is, the current operating expenditures, such as personnel services and maintenance and other operating expenses, conforms with the pronouncement of the 1987 Constitution and its enabling law, Republic Act 6770, or the Ombudsman Act, on fiscal autonomy, that the appropriations of the Office of the Ombudsman may not be reduced below the amount appropriated from the previous years.

(With PNA)





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