Dizon says P30 million confidential fund ‘immoral, unjustifiable’

Mary Ruth R. Malinao (The Freeman) - November 27, 2020 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines — Cebu City Councilor Alvin Dizon has urged Mayor Edgardo Labella to “reduce or abandon” the P30 million allocation for confidential expenses in the “interest of good governance.”

“I appeal to the City Council to cancel these unnecessary budgetary items under the 2021 budget. We need to prioritize the use of people’s tax money on more essential programs and projects geared at addressing the pandemic,” said Dizon.

The proposed P30 million confidential fund is under the Mayor’s Peace and Order Program for 2021.

Dizon said the Office of the Mayor always gets a share of the pie when it comes to confidential funds in the annual city budget, but allocating P30 million for confidential expenses amidst a pandemic is “both immoral and unjustifiable.”

“Please note that the proposed P30 million confidential funds for next year is even higher than the previous budget of 1 million in 2020,” said Dizon.

“By their very nature, the use of confidential and intelligence funds are difficult to audit, according to the Commission on Audit (COA),” he added.

Labella, for his part, said his office did not violate any rule with regard to the confidential and intelligence funds.

“Firstly, under the existing rules, the intelligence fund should not be more than 30 percent of the Peace and Order Program budget of the city,” said Labella.

According to the mayor, the proposed Peace and Order Program budget is at P200 million.

“So if you talk of 30 percent, supposedly, we are allowed to use an intelligence fund, the mayor is allowed to use an intelligence fund of P60 million but I am only placing it at P30 million,” he said.

Labella added the P30 million does not have to be spent entirely since it would depend on the circumstances.

“But considering that I am the chairman of the City Peace and Order Council and we are in the process of relentlessly fighting criminality in the city, especially the fight against illegal drugs, we really have to have an intelligence fund enough for this. But it does not mean that we really have to spend all,” he said.

The City Council has already been conducting a budget hearing on the proposed P10.8 billion budget for 2021.

Councilor Raymond Alvin Garcia, chairman of the council Committee on Budget and Finance, said they are determined to pass the budget by December.

“No delay whatsoever because our target is really to pass the budget by December... we are about 80 percent na kay tomorrow (Friday) will be the last day,” said Garcia.

Garcia said the budget hearing has been “very encouraging” considering that a lot of councilors are giving their inputs, ideas, suggestions, and observations.

“Hopefully towards the end of the budget hearing, the Committee on Budget and Finance will discuss kung unsay angay buhaton sa budget cause there are some suggestions nga atong ibalik sa Office of the Mayor... The committee will definitely consider all of those suggestions,” he said. — KQD (FREEMAN)

EDGARDO LABELLA
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