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OP budget breezes past House panel

We have a tradition of courtesy that is being accorded to a co-equal branch of government.

Keith A. Calayag

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It took less than 10 minutes for the House Appropriations Committee to approve the 2020 proposed budget of the Office of the President and agencies under it.

Members of the House panel did not know if they had set a new record in approving the budget of a key agency, but it was among the fastest in memory.

Panel chairman Davao Rep. Isidro Ungab said during the budget hearing that he attributed the swift approval of the Palace budget to the tradition of the House to accord a co-equal branch of government “courtesy.”

“We have a tradition of courtesy that is being accorded to a co-equal branch of government. We gave this also in the judiciary during the budget hearing, the Constitutional Commission and the Office of the Vice President,” Ungab told his colleagues.

Shortly after Ungab’s manifestation, Minority Leader Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman made a motion to terminate the budget proceedings for the Office of the President’s 2020 budget.

Minority gives endorsement
“Without prejudice to any intervention from some members of the House and consistent with what the good chairman said… and subject to the concurrence of the majority, I move the we terminate the budget briefing of the Office of the President,” Lagman indicated.

Deputy Senior Majority Leader and Cavite Rep. Jesus Crispin “Boying” Remulla manifested that members of the majority were joining Lagman in his motion.
With no objection, the panel carried Lagman’s motion and terminated the proceedings.

The budget of the agency has increased by 21 percent or by P1.427 billion from P6.773 billion in the 2019 General Appropriations Act to P8.201 billion in the 2020 National Expenditure Program (nep).

The total appropriation for the agency was broken down as personal services, P1.07 billion; maintenance and other operating expenses, P6.703 billion, and capital outlay, P427.462 million.

P1.7 billion for PCOO
The panel also gave its nod to the Presidential Communications Operations Office’s (PCOO) proposed 2020 budget amounting to P1.698 billion.

The budget of the agency as provided for in the NEP increased by 12.23 percent. The PCOO received an allocation of P1.512 billion in 2019.

PCOO Secretary Martin Andanar said the allocation is itemized as PCOO Office, P449.097 million; Bureau of Broadcast Services, P413.133 million; Bureau of Communications Services, P60.557 million; National Printing Office, P11.497 million; News and Information Bureau, P127.113 million; Philippine Information Agency, P404.024 million, and Presidential Broadcast Staff, P232.301 million.

Andanar reported to the House panel that among the priorities of the agency for 2020 is to develop and set up the Mindanao Media Hub, develop and implement guidelines and mechanisms pertaining to the delivery of information relating to policies, programs, activities and achievements of the President and the government, provide the media with efficient coverage to ensure comprehensive coverage of presidential activities and activate operations in response to emergency and extraordinary events, among others.

Open to Left
During the briefing, Andanar urged media outfits to be fair, saying the agency will be open for interviews with Left-leaning personalities.

He stated this after ACT Teachers partylist Rep. France Castro complained about reports in Philippine News Agency (pna) allegedly tagging her as a member of the Communist Party of the Philippines.

“Mr. Chairman, it is not our policy to red-tag any organization. As we mentioned… we do our best, and I point out to all of the media agencies of the government, to be objective as possible and to report both sides whether you are with the government or you’re with the opposition or you have a story that is of public interest. We should always be fair,” she said.

“The honorable representative of ACT Teachers partylist is more than welcome to have her own program on PTV, Radio Pilipinas and any of our platforms,” Andanar added.

No embellishment
NIB director Virginia Arcilla-Agtay in defense said the PNA is only narrating the statement of its sources. She also added that the policy of the agency is to produce news and information materials about the government, its programs and its impact on the people.

Agtay said members of the opposition are welcome to air their sides with the programs of the agency.

Further into the hearing, Andanar bared the PCOO’s plan to go digital.

“There is a plan to digitize the entire broadcast facilities of PTV. We are waiting for the study of the NEDA (National Economic and Development Authority). [This will be] submitted to JICA (Japan International Cooperation Agency). It’s a long process Mr. Chair, but we are working on it, and hopefully we can turn off our analog broadcast by 2023,” he said.

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