House panel swiftly approves P673-million OVP budget for 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The proposed P673.02-million budget of the Office of the Vice President (OVP) for 2020 breezed through the House committee on appropriations on Tuesday, August 27. 

With no questions asked, the House panel members unanimously approved the OVP's budget, with the whole hearing lasting for about 24 minutes.

Traditionally, the budget proposals of the OVP and the Office of the President are immediately passed by the House committee on appropriations. Lawmakers tend to ask questions and introduce amendments once the annual national budget reaches the plenary. (READ: 2020 budget priorities: Infrastructure, social services, peace and security)

The proposed 2020 budget for Vice President Leni Robredo's office is around P2 million higher than this year's budget of P671.55 million.

The bulk of the hearing was used up by the presentation of the Vice President's chief of staff, Undersecretary Philip Dy, who updated lawmakers on the accomplishments of the OVP's anti-poverty initiatives.

Robredo herself was unable to attend the hearing as her Manila-bound flight, which was scheduled to fly from Naga City early Tuesday morning, was canceled due to bad weather.

As soon as Dy's presentation was over, Albay 1st District Representative Edcel Lagman immediately moved that the committee terminate the budget hearing for the OVP, which in effect means the panel's approval of the proposed budget.

"Mr Chairman, consistent with the traditional courtesy we give to the Office of the Vice President, I earnestly move to terminate the budget hearing for the OVP, subject to augmentation, which the committee on appropriations or plenary may make and approve," said Lagman, who is Robredo's party mate in the Liberal Party (LP). 

Before the panel approved Lagman's motion, however, Cagayan de Oro City 2nd District Representative Rufus Rodriguez manifested that he intends to further increase the OVP budget "in the proper time."

He particularly praised Robredo's office for building transitory shelters for residents affected by the 2017 Marawi City siege. The Angat Buhay Village was made possible through Angat Buhay, Robredo's flagship anti-poverty program where her office links communities in need with private companies and national government agencies.

"We certainly could see that the Office of the Vice President has been doing a good job in having these programs be brought to the people. And we also cherish her statements contrary to the administration's positions because in a democracy, there has to be clashing ideas on issues, not personalities," said Rodriguez, an administration-allied legislator. 

"And so Mr Chairman, in the proper time or in the proper committee hearing, this representation will move not only for the approval of this budget but for the augmentation of this budget so that the Office of the Vice President can continue to reach our people in the coutnryside," he added.

Rodriguez's manifestation to give additional funds to the OVP was backed by Camarines Sur 3rd District Representative Gabriel Bordado, a Robredo ally belonging to the LP.

The proposal can be tackled by lawmakers once the period of amendments for the proposed 2020 budget is opened in the plenary in the next weeks. – Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the House of Representatives and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.

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