MESSAGE OF GOVERNOR ALVARO T. ANTONIO
BEFORE THE SANGGUNIANG PANLALAWIGAN OF CAGAYAN
ON THE FAILURE TO PASS THE 2015 BUDGET
On January 5, the first day of work this new year 2015, I was surprised and dismayed to find out that the 2015 budget was not passed by the Sangguniang Panlalawigan. Immediately I conferred with Atty. Romeo Guillermo, our Provincial Legal Officer, on the implication of the non-passage of the budget before the onset of the 2015 fiscal year. Atty. Guillermo drew my attention to Section 323 of the Local Government Code, which warns of the consequences of the delay or failure to pass the budget.
Section 323 of the Local Government Code states that if the budget is not passed for the fiscal year, what is immediately operative starting January 1 is the budget of the preceding year, which is the 2014 budget. This is what is called a reenacted budget. The 2014 reenacted budget is what is in force if or until the Sangguniang Panlalawigan approves the 2015 budget. Also, the 2015 budget, if approved, will not retroact to January 1. Its effectivity is only on the date of approval and onwards.
Under a reenacted budget, the whole Provincial Government is paralyzed because Section 323 allows only three items upon which funds can be expended:
1. Salaries of employees with existing positions, i.e., only permanent and casual employees;
2. Statutory and contractual obligations; and lastly
3. Essential operating expenses.
Therefore, the effect of a reenacted budget, which is what is in force right now, is instant, far-reaching and debilitating. The ones who immediately suffer are the over 1,000 job orders of the province. We cannot renew our job orders because without a 2015 budget, we cannot compensate them. If we pay them under a reenacted budget without showing that they are part of essential operations of the province, we will all be facing charges before the Ombudsman. That is why with a heavy heart, I had no choice but to issue a memorandum directing the job orders not to report for work anymore.
In sum, a reenacted budget means that the Provincial Government cannot implement any programs and activities to serve the people of Cagayan. It means:
1. No job orders, except only those essential to operations
2. No financial assistance to municipalities and barangays except the mandatory P1,000 provided by the LGC to be given to LGUs
3. No medical assistance to indigents
4. No Philhealth services to indigent patients
5. No scholarship or stipend for our 4,000 scholars
6. No infrastructure projects
7. No medical missions or vaccination programs by our PHO or Vet, etc.
Our Sangguniang Panlalawigan and PPDO staff were in earnest to refer our budget situation to the Department of Budget and Management. They went to the DBM on January 5. Answering their query, the DBM affirmed Atty. Guillermo’s understanding of Section 323 of the Local Government Code and the present effectivity and limitations of the reenacted budget.
Hence, there was no misinformation or disinformation given by myself, my office or the Provincial Information Office to the job orders or to the public at large. I would also like to emphasize that the gathering of the job orders and other employees was not a rally. It was a legitimate exercise and expression of their constitutional right to peacably assemble and petition government for redress of their grievances. In fact, I laud their initiative to implore the Sangguniang Panlalawigan to pass the budget, and I am proud of them for not taking things sitting down. Their action is the very essence of GOBYERNO TI UMILI.
Respecting the budget process, in behalf of the Executive Branch, I humbly submit that we have done our part. We presented to the Sangguniang Panlalawigan the total proposed Budget Document on October 2014, pursuant to Section 318 of the Local Government Code. The budget for the Annual Investment Plan is part of and included in the Budget Document. The SP’s request for the Programs of Work and other details of executive implementation of projects under the AIP was gracefully acceded to by the Executive and submitted on the first week of December. Thus, it is lamentable that the SP session this afternoon, if it pushes through, will only be the First Reading of the budget.
I greatly appreciate the effort of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan to tackle other matters in the latter part of December, such as for example the 200M loan of the province with the Landbank for the completion of the Cagayan Sports Complex and the hosting of the national athletic meet for the State Colleges and Universities’ Athletic Association. However, giving the same, if not more attention to passing the budget, would have more readily ensured the immediate payment of the loan, as such payment is part of the 2015 budget. Like the Vice-Governor, I do not want to impose upon the next governor such unfulfilled obligation. Why in heaven would I want my successor to suffer the burden of a loan, which I was made to bear when I first entered office in 2007. In my last one and a half years in office, I pledge to leave only good will, good memories and lasting legacies to the people of Cagayan. Upon my honor, I will see to this.
On the attendance of the Department Heads in the Budget Committee hearings. On December 8, the department heads did attend and defend their respective office budgets. They did not go the following day because they thought their role was done. Also, I would like to point out that in the communication sent to the heads, the Sangguniang Panlalawigan required their presence or that of their “competent representative.” They meant no insolence or disrespect to this revered body.
I, however, do have something to say on this matter. I would like to gently chide the honorable members of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan: Dear friends, the department heads are MY department heads, MY alter egos. Whatever you say or do unto them, you say or do unto me. The truth is, they hesitate to come before you not because they have something to hide from you, but because they — and I — feel that you do not give them the regard and courtesy that they deserve, that any person deserves. For example, all the department heads were on their way to the Committee hearing last Wednesday. But when not-so-august words were uttered by some august members of this body, such as when BM Abraham and BM Pagurayan espoused that the heads be apprehended and bodily carried before the Sangguniang Panlalawigan, I directed my department heads to turn back. I cannot subject my department heads, who are our colleagues and fellow public servants, to such public flogging, aspersion and humiliation.
And so, as Chief of the whole Executive and in the name and for the sake of all the people of Cagayan, I am here to defend the 2015 budget. Ladies and gentlemen, I am ready to answer your questions.
12 January 2015, 10:00 AM