The governor has vetoed his own P1.4 billion budget for 2013 because he wants his P10-M intelligence fund back, which was earlier realigned by the provincial board to gender development instead.
Fears are afloat that P10M in intelligence funds, which are non-accountable, except by Manila COA, might be used indirectly to help ensure election victory by some candidates. This is what is delaying the annual provincial budget.
Defying the well-meaning appeals of his critics and some advocates, Governor Roel Degamo, in a letter to the Provincial Board, vetoed the P10 million appropriation for Gender and Development (GAD) as he preferred that this be returned to its original proposal for his intelligence fund, which is not subject to the usual accounting and auditing procedures.
The governor approved the rest of the appropriations embodied in the 2013 annual budget at P1.4 billion, which was passed as amended by the Sangguniang Panlalawigan last January 15, 2013.
He justified his veto by underscoring his claim that “GAD programs, projects and activities have already been identified and mainstreamed in all the departments and offices of the provincial government as a result of a Gender Mainstreaming Workshop conducted prior to the budget hearings for 2013 and satisfies the 5% budgetary allocation required by law.”
Thus, he concluded that “transferring the entire intelligence fund to GAD was a pointless exercise, considering that the implementers, themselves, already have their hands full of things to do to advance the rights and welfare of men and women.”
Furthermore, the governor’s intelligence fund of P10 million is authorized, pursuant to DILG Memorandum Circulars 99-65 and 98-136, and deemed necessary, vital and important, if only to secure the peace and order of the province.
He also maintained that the P10 million appropriation for intelligence fund was computed at not more than 30% of the total annual appropriations, as approved by the Provincial Peace and Order Council, of which amount is lower than the 3% of the total annual budget.
However, observers note that there is no law or an act of Congress that specifically requires for the appropriation of intelligence fund. The province has allotted more than P50 million for various programs to promote public order and assistance to the Philippine National Police and Armed Forces of the Philippines.
The military also declared that the communist insurgency in the province is manageable. It is not as if Negros Oriental is a hot bed of insurgency.
The Commission on Audit also reported that in 2012, the Office of the Governor significantly exceeded the allowable budget for intelligence fund when it appropriated P12.7 million when it is only entitled to just P2.8 million or an excess appropriation of P9.88 million.
Members of the Provincial Board are expected to discuss and decide on how to treat the item veto of the governor in its next regular session this Tuesday. They will first determine if the governor properly exercised his veto power on Item 33 pertaining to the intelligence fund, which some Board Members believe is non-existing. They will debate whether in the first place the governor can veto something or any item that cannot be found in the approved budget.
Others posit that the governor may have to veto the entire approved budget as amended by the SP so that his proposal that included the P10 million intelligence fund in his original proposed budget will stand. But this would, of course, contribute to another delay in the delivery of basic social services and salaries of provincial employees.
And once settled, the Board will have to decide if the Vice-Governor shall be included in the determination of the number of votes needed to override the veto of the Governor. (by D.R.Demecillo)