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Defensor: OVP fund not smallest slice

THE P679.7-million funding for the office of Vice President Leni Robredo is not the “smallest slice” of the 2021 budget as her supporters have claimed, a House leader said on Wednesday.

Anakalusugan party-list Rep. Mike Defensor, who chairs the House committee on public accounts, also said P387.6 million or 57 percent of the Office of the Vice President (OVP) outlay is for “subsidy/financial assistance” or dole-outs.

“Let’s set the record straight in fairness to President Duterte, who proposed the P4.5-trillion national budget for next year. The P679.7 million he recommended for the OVP is not the tiniest allocation in the bureaucracy as was made to appear,” Defensor said.

Defensor said other important agencies of the government are getting just a small fraction of the funds allocated to the OVP.

“For instance, P85.2 million is budgeted for the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC), P146 million for the Anti-Red Tape Authority, P344.5 million for the Dangerous Drugs Board, and P172.3 million for the Commission on Filipinos Overseas. Maybe, we should increase the budget for the AMLC so it could catch money launderers,” Defensor said.

Defensor pointed out that the President and his economic team have proposed reductions in funding for some agencies and offices due to financial difficulties caused by the coronavirus disease-19 (COVID-19) pandemic.

“This is the reason why the OVP funding for next year is P28 million less than this year’s P708 million. The President himself is proposing an P11-million reduction in the budget for his own office,” he added.

He said the OVP outlay has increased by 59 percent since Robredo’s full year in office in 2017, when Congress allocated P428.6 million for her.

“Since then, Congress has been padding her budget. Her subsidy/financial assistance went up from P177.6 million in 2017 to P277.6 million in 2018 to P387.6 million this year and next year. Congress has been generous to the Vice President. Her supporters have no reason to complain,” he said.

Defensor stressed that if even just a part of the OVP financial assistance funds was allocated to a congressman, “it will be labeled as pork barrel.”

He added that the other components of the 2021 OVP budget are P117.3 million for salaries, P3.7 million for capital outlay, P28.3 million for travel, P6.6 million for communication, P26.6 million for representation and entertainment, and P41.8 million for consultants.