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By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE Iloilo provincial government will operate on a reenacted budget next year as the Sangguniang Panlalawigan has no time left to pass the 2010 executive budget before 2009 ends.

Board Member Arthur R. Defensor Jr., vice chair of the committee on appropriations, said the extra bonus and allowances of volunteer health workers (VHW) consumed the time of the SP the past weeks.

Defensor said the SP cannot hold sessions and hearings on the 2010 budget in the remaining days of 2009.

The SP held marathon hearings the whole month of December to rush the passage of two supplemental budgets and a budget augmentation for the VHWs’ honorarium and the P50,000 cash gift of capitol regular and casual employees.

The provincial board held its last session for the year December 21 wherein the appropriation ordinance for the VHWs’ allowances was enacted.

The executive department of the Iloilo provincial government is proposing to spend more than P1 billion next year.

In 2008, the provincial government also reenacted the 2007 budget after the Department of Budget and Management declared the twin appropriation ordinances passed by the SP as inoperative.

The office of Governor Niel D. Tupas Sr. pegged the executive budget for 2010 at P1.3 billion.

A total of P1.375 million was set aside for the province’s Annual Investment Program (AIP) next year which will be funded from the 20% Internal Revenue Allocation Development Fund, general fund and other funding sources of the province.

The AIP serves as the blueprint for the programs and projects of the provincial government. It mainly covers five sectors: general public services, social services, economic services, institutional services and other services such as infrastructures.

Based on the breakdown furnished by the executive department, a total of P590.68 million was allocated for personal services which includes salaries and other benefits of provincial capitol workers.

A total of P342.1 million was set aside for the Capitol’s monthly operating and other expenses while P30.065 million was allocated for capital outlay.

At least P230,098,570 was allocated for the 20% development projects while aids to barangays amounted to P1.721 million.

A total of P20 million was set aside for loan amortization and P65 million for the 5% calamity fund.

The budget for election reserve is pegged at P3 million while the allocation for terminal pays amounted to P17,328,739.

The 2010 budget has been referred to the committee on appropriations for deliberations last October 15, 2009.

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By Francis Allan L. Angelo

A MEMBER of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Iloilo will not receive the P50,000 cash gift from the provincial government as he believes that the grant is irregular.

Third district Board Member Arthur R. Defensor Jr. said he ordered his staff to have his name deleted from the cash gift payroll.

“I will not receive any amount of this cash gift because I believe it is illegal and will be later disallowed,” Defensor said. 

Defensor said he already voiced his objection to the additional P40,000 cash gift on top of the P10,000 Productivity Enhancement Incentive mandated by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).

Defensor was present in the initial discussion of the extra cash gift during the SP’s marathon hearing Friday last week. But he did not attend the final discussion and approval of the grant in the afternoon as he attended a speaking engagement in Guimbal town.

Defensor said it would be awkward for him to receive the grant when he opposed it in the first place.

He also described the grant as “dead on arrival” as it exceeds the 45% personal services (PS) cap of the 2009 annual budget.

“The DBM and the Commission on Audit (CoA) will disallow this grant and the employees will have to refund the amount if it overshoots the PS cap,” Defensor said.

The PS cap refers to the maximum budget for the salaries and benefits of a local government unit in a given fiscal year.

Board Member Richard Garin of the 1st district said he also believes that the extra cash gift is illegal.

Still he will receive the entire P50,000 but will keep the extra P40,000 so he can refund the amount in case the DBM and CoA disallows the grant.

“I will receive and use the P10,000 because I am entitled for it but I will keep the P40,000 just in case we are required to refund the amount. I will give the P10,000 to my constituents,” Garin said.

Garin was on leave when the SP deliberated and approved the extra cash gift last week.

Other SP members who were not present during the approval of the grant were Jesus “JR” Salcedo and Jeneda Salcedo.

The DBM had advised the provincial government to wait for the agency’s review of the appropriation ordinance granting the extra cash gift.

But Governor Niel D. Tupas Sr. said they will take the risk and release the money to the employees so they can enjoy a bountiful holiday amidst the economic crunch.

The provincial accounting and treasurer’s office are working overtime to release the cash gift before Christmas break this week.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Iloilo has approved the P24-million honorarium of the more than 12,000 volunteer health workers (VHW) in the province.

The allowance was approved after Board Member Jesus “JR” Salcedo, committee on appropriations chair, delivered his report on the allocation during the SP session Monday afternoon.

A total of 12,006 VHWs will receive P2,000 each from the provincial government for their honorarium.

The breakdown of VHWs who will receive the allowance are: Barangay Service Point Officers (BSPO) – 2,125, day care workers – 1,657), Barangay Health Workers (BHW) – 7,378 and Barangay Nutrition Scholars (BNS) – 846.

The committee on appropriations included conditions for the release of the allowances.

The money must be released through the municipal treasurer’s offices instead of herding the workers at the capitol or the house of Gov. Niel D. Tupas Sr. in Barotac Viejo, Iloilo.

VHWs based in northern Iloilo said they prefer to get their allowances from their respective towns instead of going to Barotac Viejo to minimize expenses for their fares and food.

The recipients must be included in the provincial master list of VHWs. “Double receipt” of the honorarium is not allowed, which means volunteer workers who hold two functions (BNS and BHW) will only receive P2,000.

Barangay officials who also work as VHWs are excluded from receiving the allowance.

VHWs who died in the last quarter of the year are entitled to the allowance. Their next of kin (husband or child) will receive the allowance in behalf of the deceased worker provided they present the death certificate, marriage certificate (for the spouse) and birth certificate (child).

A special power of attorney must be presented by representatives of VHWs who are unable to receive their allowance.

Vice Governor Rolex T. Suplico said the condition of releasing the allowances through the municipal treasurers is to avoid VHWs from incurring expenses when claiming their honorarium.

Suplico said the releasing of allowances has been tainted with politics because the VHWs are made to listen to the speeches of the governor and his political allies before they get their allowances.

Tupas said only the executive department can decide on how to release the money to the workers, not the SP.

But Suplico said the power of the purse of the legislative department includes the disbursement of funds.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE Iloilo provincial board unanimously approved Thursday the P69-million supplemental budget which will entitle Capitol workers to an extra P40,000 cash gift on top of their regular P10,000 Productivity Enhancement Incentive (PEI).

Earlier, the Sangguniang Panlalawigan approved the P36-million budget augmentation where the P10,000 PEI will be sourced. The additional budget was obtained from savings culled from unfilled plantilla positions in the Capitol.

Governor Niel D. Tupas Sr. then submitted the supplemental budget to increase the PEI by P40,000.

In sum, the 2,200 capitol workers will receive P50,000 each for their PEI or popularly known as cash gift.

The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) had advised the provincial government to wait for its review of the augmentation and supplemental budget before releasing the cash gift.

Alfonso Bedonia, DBM assistant regional director, said they need to review the additional allocation to find out if the Capitol did not exceed the budgetary cap on personal services (PS).

The personal services (PS) cap refers to the maximum salaries and benefits for employees of a local government unit (LGU).

The Local Government Code provides that total appropriations, whether annual or supplemental, for personal services of an LGU for one fiscal year shall not exceed 45% in the case of 1st to 3rd class LGUs and 55% in the case of 4th class or lower class LGUs.

DBM’s Budget Circular 2009-5 issued this week provided the guidelines for the release of the PEI/cash gift to government employees.

Citing Administrative Order No. 276, the DBM circular said “government employees in the Executive Branch, including those in government-owned or controlled corporations (GOCCs) and government financial institutions (GFIs), whether hired on permanent, temporary, casual, or contractual basis, are entitled to receive a one-time grant of a maximum of P10,000 each” as long as they have not received any additional year-end benefit in Fiscal Year 2009 over and above the benefit authorized under Republic Act 6686, as amended by RA 8441.

Bedonia said if the Capitol exceeded its PS cap due to the extra cash gift, they will disallow the allocation and require the recipients to refund the excess benefit.

Bedonia said LGUs must seek clearance from the Office of the President if they intend to hand out cash gifts in excess of what is stipulated in the DBM circular.

During their session yesterday, members of the provincial board also raised the concerns on the legal problems posed by the extra cash gift.

Vice Governor Rolex T. Suplico said they decided to approve the P50,000 cash gift to give capitol employees a bright Christmas.

The P50,000 cash gift will be released Monday next week.

Tupas earlier said he will take the risk of any disallowance in handing out the extra cash gift.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

ILOILO Gov. Niel D. Tupas Sr. said he is willing to face charges that may result from his plan to give P50,000 in cash gift to each of the more than 2,000 Capitol employees.

The cash gift, which will total P105 million, is embodied in two budget requests the governor asked from the Sangguniang Panlalawigan.

Tupas requested for an augmentation in the 2009 budget amounting to P36 million and a supplemental budget totaling P69 million.

Instead of the usual P15,000 cash gift to each capitol employee, Tupas is planning to hand out P50,000 to each worker “to help them in these trying times”.

The governor said he will face any notice of disallowance or charges that may arise should they overshoot the personal services cap in the 2009 budget.

The personal services (PS) cap refers to the maximum salaries and benefits for employees of a local government unit (LGU).

The Local Government Code provides that total appropriations, whether annual or supplemental, for personal services of an LGU for one fiscal year shall not exceed 45% in the case of 1st to 3rd class LGUs and 55% in the case of 4th class or lower class LGUs.

“If they disallow it, we will face it. We will not let the workers suffer,” he said over RMN-Iloilo.

The augmentation and supplemental budget requests are now pending with the SP’s committee on appropriations.

The SP is also deliberating the P23.8-million financial assistance to volunteer health workers for 2009.

Earlier, the Commission on Audit (CoA) had directed the provincial government to refund the P71-million extra cash gift given to Capitol employees in December 2008.

The audit agency said the extra cash gift exceeded the Personal Services cap or limit of the capitol budget amounting to P118.5 million.

The CoA said the allowable PS level of the capitol is P380.1 million. But Capitol disbursement for PS in 2008 including the extra cash gift amounted to P546.4 million.

The next PS cost incurred in 2008 totaled P427.6 million, which is already P47.48 million over the PS cap, the CoA report said.

The provincial government disputed the CoA’s findings saying their own computation showed that they only exceeded 8% of the PS cap amounting to P8 million.

 

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

THE executive department of the Iloilo provincial government will draw first blood in its continuing dispute with the Sangguniang Panlalawigan over the 2009 annual budget. 

 

Governor Niel D. Tupas Sr. said he will issue today, Monday, his marching orders to the Iloilo provincial government bureaucracy: Operate under a re-enacted budget for the fiscal year 2009.

 

In a statement to The Daily Guardian, Tupas said he will not implement the 2009 budget approved by the opposition dominated provincial board headed by his nephew, Vice Governor Rolex Suplico.

 

“We strongly believe that the annual budget enacted by the Sangguniang Panlalawigan is null and void, and we will proceed as we have done last year – operate under a re-enacted budget,” Tupas said on the eve of the first working day for 2009.

 

The governor said he will issue an executive order today to make official this policy even as his lawyers are set to file a case for declaratory relief before the Iloilo Regional Trial Court to seek a judicial ruling on the nullity of the appropriation ordinance.

 

On December 22, 2008, the SP voted 10-2 to override Tupas’s veto on Appropriation Ordinance No. 2008-08 embodying the province’s 2009 annual budget.

 

A vetoed ordinance is deemed valid once the legislature succeeds in overriding the chief executive’s objection with a two-thirds vote, or 10 members in favor.

 

Only board members June Mondejar and Shalene Palmares Hidalgo voted against the override.

 

“Ordinarily, an ordinance becomes valid and enforceable upon a veto override,” provincial administrator Manuel “Boy” Mejorada said.

 

However, as this is an appropriation ordinance, the measure requires review by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), which has the power to declare it operative or inoperative, Mejorada said.

 

Unless the DBM says that the ordinance is valid and operative, then the provincial government can’t be compelled to enforce the appropriation measure, he said.

 

Tupas said he is invoking his authority as the official primarily responsible for the implementation of the annual budget in ordering that the province adopt a re-enacted budget.

 

“It is clear that the 2009 annual budget as approved by the Sanggunian Panlalawigan is a tool for destruction and obstruction,” Tupas said.

 

“Under the circumstances, I would be violating my sworn duty if I carry out this kind of annual budget,” he said.

 

Mejorada said the provincial government will not shrink from the prospect of operating under a re-enacted budget.

 

He described the appropriation ordinance as a “decimation” of the executive budget and will only serve to block the province’s efforts to bring progress to its one component city and 42 municipalities.

 

More than that, as pointed out by Tupas in his veto message, the ordinance does not adhere to the statutory requirements for the enactment of an appropriation ordinance.

 

For one thing, the ordinance does not break down the funds into the major allotment categories such as personal services, maintenance and other operating expenses (MOOE) and capital outlay, he said.

 

Secondly, the ordinance violates the prohibition against increasing any item in the budget or inserting new items except for those considered as statutory or contractual obligations of the LGU, he added.

 

Mejorada said the majority bloc in the Sanggunian led by Suplico “is much too arrogant to admit having made elementary blunders.”

 

“What happened is that the Sanggunian, with the exception of board members Mondejar and Hidalgo, threw these legal flaws aside in a brute display of tyranny of numbers,” he said.

 

Board Member Rodolfo Cabado was absent during the December 22, 2008 special session when the veto override was taken up.

Prov’l board slashes Tupas’s gas allowance

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

GOVERNOR Niel Tupas Sr. said he might be forced to go around the province on foot or onboard a trisikad after the Sangguniang Panlalawigan slashed by 75 percent the budget for gasoline of the Office of the Governor (OG).

Tupas originally requested P2.050 million for fuel expenses in the 2009 but the SP only approved P650,000, a decrease of P1.4 million.

Vice Governor Rolex Suplico, committee on appropriations chair, said they slashed the fuel budget of his uncle governor because the latter only has one official vehicle.

Suplico said P2 million for fuel alone is too much except if the governor goes around the province non-stop.

But Tupas said he is not the only one who was supposed to use the P2.050-million gasoline budget “as other offices also ask for fuel from me.”

Tupas said the OG has another official vehicle which was detailed to the Iloilo Provincial Police Office.

The SP approved Tuesday the 2009 budget after slashing some P34.81 million from the proposed P1.180-billion budget.

Nine board members voted to approve the committee report of Suplico – Jeneda Salcedo, JR Salcedo, Richard Garin, Macario Napulan, Mariano Malones, Arthur Defensor Jr., George Demaisip, Giuseppe Gumban and Cecilia Colada.

Board members Rodolfo Cabado, June Mondejar and Shalene Hidalgo voted against the approval of the committee report.

Board member Jett Rojas, who is an ally of Suplico, abstained from voting on the committee report.

Most of the reduction in the proposed budget came from the capital outlay of various capitol departments.

Suplico decided to delete the capital outlay of department heads who failed to attend the budget hearing and defend their proposed appropriations.

Only the capital outlay of Local Finance Committee members – provincial treasurer, provincial accountant and budget officer – were spared by the SP after the department heads explained to the committee where the budget will go.

The SP retained the budget for job hires for provincial and district hospitals upon request of board member Napulan.

Also retained was the P50,000 financial assistance for the Cry of Jelicuon Festival of New Lucena, Iloilo which Suplico mistook for a festival of cattle rustlers.  

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

MORE than P100 million, mostly discretionary funding, was slashed from the P1.18-billion proposed budget for 2009.

 

Despite a plaster cast in his left leg due to a ping-pong injury, Vice Governor Rolex Suplico, committee on appropriations chair, outlined the approved budget for next year during the Sangguniang Panlalawigan’s session Monday.

 

In sum, the SP reduced the P1.18 billion proposed budget by P101,252,664, leaving a total of P883,791,095 for the 2009 budget.

 

Of the P101.2 million slashed budget, some P55 million was set aside for the hazard pay of provincial health workers.

 

The fund, however, can only be used based on the outcome of the cases filed by health workers against the provincial government with two Regional Trial Courts.

 

The remaining P45.7 million inappropriate balance was reverted to the general fund.

 

The Provincial Engineers Office (PEO) suffered one of the biggest cut with its proposed allocation of P102 million slashed to 61,574,115, or a decrease of P40,444,575.

 

A bulk of the reduction in the PEO budget was the allocation for gasoline, oil and lubricants from P20 million to P5 million.

 

The Office of the Governor (OG) saw its proposed budget of P47,386,635 reduced to P13,885,577, for a whopping decrease of P33,501,058.

 

Among the reductions in the OG budget was for gasoline, oil and lubricants from P2.05 million to P650,000; travelling expenses from P1.5 million to P500,000; office supplies expenses from P1.07 million to P500,000; and advertising expense from P900,000 to P250,000.

 

Donations worth P3 million and the P2-million capital outlay under the governor’s office were also deleted from the proposed budget.

 

A bulk of the budget reduction will also affect some 250 job hires under various capitol departments except for provincial hospitals.

 

The SP decided to defer approval of the final budget next week to give other board members time to go over Suplico’s committee report.

 

When approved, the budget will be submitted to Governor Niel Tupas Sr. for his signature although sources said the governor is inclined to line veto some of the items in the 2009 appropriations.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

THE Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Iloilo has wrapped up the hearing on the proposed P1.18 billion budget for next year. 

 

The hearing, however, finished with not one department head from the executive branch appearing before the committee on appropriations to defend their respective budgets.

 

Only the Local Finance Committee was allowed by Governor Niel Tupas Sr. to defend the executive budget before the SP.

 

Tupas barred the department heads to attend the hearing to avoid being “embarrassed and harassed” by the appropriations committee chaired by his nephew Vice Governor Rolex Suplico.

 

Tupas and Suplico are at odds with each other because of political differences.

 

Suplico said they decided to conclude the budget hearing because of the absence of the department heads.

 

The vice governor said they are trying break the budget impasse and avert the situation where the provincial government will operate under a reenacted budget.

 

But Suplico said they are keen on slashing portions of the budget, particularly the capital outlay for each department after the respective heads did not appear in the hearings.

 

Each department was allocated at least P250,000 for capital outlay which is used to purchase office equipment and furniture.

 

The SP set aside P2 million for capital outlay which will be used to buy a new vehicle worth P1.2 million. The remaining fund will be divided among the provincial board members for their needed office equipment.  

 

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

THE second round of the “budget war” between the executive and legislative branches of the Iloilo provincial government has begun.

 

The Sangguniang Panlalawigan began deliberating Thursday last week the 2009 executive budget submitted by Governor Niel Tupas Sr.

 

Vice Governor Rolex Suplico, committee on appropriations chair, summoned the various department heads in the executive branch to rationalize and defend their budget proposals for next year.

 

But not one of the department heads showed up in the hearing.

 

Provincial Administrator Manuel Mejorada said only the Local Finance Committee will appear before the provincial board during the budget deliberations, not the department heads.

 

Mejorada said it would be useless to send the department heads to the SP “because they will end up being humiliated, scolded and embarrassed” by the opposition-dominated board.

 

“No matter how the department heads will explain their budget proposals, Vice Governor Suplico will insist on what he wants,” Mejorada said.

 

Suplico sarcastically said over Bombo Radyo-Iloilo that he will just “ask the trees” regarding the 2009 proposed budget after the department heads did not show up.

 

The vice governor also denied insulting or embarrassing capitol executives during budget hearings.

 

“We are just doing our job and we formally invited the department heads,” he added.

 

The 2008 budget has been declared inoperative in its entirety because of the conflict between the SP and Tupas.

 

The provincial government is now operating under the re-enacted 2007 budget. 

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

ILOILO provincial employees are planning to hold a sit down strike in the event that the 10 percent salary increase they are asking is not implemented.

The reported sit down strike circulated among capitol workers loomed ahead as the executive department and Sangguniang Panlalawigan have yet to reach a compromise on how to allocate additional funds for the salaries and wages of employees.

Several capitol workers reached by The Daily Guardian said they might resort to protest actions if the two departments don’t meet eye-to-eye.

“Why can’t they sit down and talk about this instead of exchanging legal views? We will go hungry if this continues,” a Capitol clerk said.

The Iloilo provincial government is staring at a P22.8-million deficit brought about by the aborted approval of the 2008 budget.

Governor Niel Tupas Sr. said they might run out of funds for salaries and wages for the month of October.

The Department of Budget and Management recently declared the 2008 budget inoperative due to technical flaws. The Capitol is now using the reenacted 2007 budget which is not enough to cover the salaries, wages and other benefits of provincial employees.

Some P4.9 million is also needed for the food of Iloilo Rehabilitation Center (IRC) inmates after their allowance was increased from P30 to P40.

The Provincial Engineering Office needs P2.5 million for fuel and lubricants of heavy equipment following the series of oil price hikes.

Tupas has submitted a P95.4-million supplemental budge to the SP to cover the pay hike and additional funding of other Capitol departments.

But during the committee on appropriations hearing Friday, Vice Governor Rolex Suplico said the Local Government Code, particularly Section 321, prohibits the approval of any supplemental budget under a reenacted budget.

Suplico, committee on appropriations chair, said Tupas should instead submit a new proposed executive budget to arrest the fiscal deficit.    

“While we feel for the welfare of the workers, we cannot make a shortcut of the law. If the executive department submits a new proposed budget, we will act on it immediately. The Sanggunian is a passive institution and we will only act on things submitted to our attention,” Suplico said.

The hearing was also attended by Board Members June Mondejar, Jett Rojas and Shalene Hidalgo.

Department heads who were present included provincial legal officer Salvador Cabaluna III, budget officer Elena Lim, treasurer Cora Beloria, planning and development officer Mario Nillos, social welfare and development officer Neneth Pador, IRC warden Ricardo dela Paz and other Capitol executives.

Rojas broached a “peace talk” between the executive and legislative departments to iron out the budget war.

“Maybe we can sit together, talk in the vernacular instead of legalese. I believe we can come up with a compromise,” Rojas said.

Tupas and Suplico are at odds with each other after exchanging harsh accusations against each other in the 2007 elections.

Capitol employees earlier signed and circulated an open letter addressed to Tupas and the SP urging them to break the budget impasse and provide additional funds for their salaries and wages.

Yesterday, two more white papers were posted in the SP session hall and prominent spots of the Capitol urging employees to sign the petition.

The white papers also outlined the possible fund shortage for salaries and wages should the 10 percent pay hike is implemented.

Tupas said he will discourage employees from sitting on their work “but they should vent their grievances to the SP.”

“They have the right to express their grievances but not at the expense of our operation and public service,” Tupas said.

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