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Ungab denies P70-billion cut in 2020 budget

The former chairman of the House of Representatives committee on appropriations on Monday night denied the allegation of a fellow legislator that he was behind the reduction of P70 billion from the 2020 national budget.

In a privilege speech Monday, Deputy Speaker and Davao City Rep. Isidro Ungab dismissed as "baseless" the accusation of ACT-CIS Rep. Eric Yap who is now the chair of the House appropriations committee.

"I strongly deny this allegation and I challenge the present chairman of the Appropriations committee, Congressman Eric Yap, to check his facts first before making any precipitate accusation," Ungab said.

"In order to justify his actions on how he managed the 2021 Pension and Gratuity Fund, he is blaming me and pointing to the P74-billion cut made on the Pension and Gratuity Fund in the 2020 budget," he added.

Ungab earlier accused the previous leadership of the House of Representatives of allegedly manipulating the 2020 national budget which resulted in budget cuts totaling P209 billion, including the more than P70 billion slashed from the pension and gratuity fund of retired military and police personnel.

Ungab was the chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations when Congress approved in 2019 the P4.1-trillion national budget for 2020 under the leadership of Cayetano.

Ungab made the clarification then after Anakalusugan Party-list Rep. Mike Defensor, a known ally of Cayetano, accused Speaker Lord Allan Velasco for the alleged P20-billion decrease in military’s pension and gratuity fund in the 2021 General Appropriations Act (GAA).

In his speech Monday, Ungab said "there was no problem with the PGF in 2020" as he checked details at the Department of Budget and Management (DBM's) website to clarify the matter.

Upon checking, he said he learned there was no need for a supplemental budget for the PGF last year because there was still an available balance of more than P700 million.

"I diligently checked the facts and figures before facing everyone here today. I was able to confirm that as of November 30, 2020, according to the DBM website, the Pension and Gratuity Fund, with a total appropriations of P116,195,000 indicated a total allotment or releases of P115,484,000, leaving an available balance of P710,932,000 or roughly P711,000,000," he said.

"It is thus clear based on this DBM data that there were no adjustments or augmentations made on the Pension and Gratuity Fund as of November 2020. This in fact shows that there is no need for a special budget or supplemental budget for a Pension and Gratuity Fund last year," he added.

Yap earlier claimed the 2021 GAA was "diligently scrutinized" by the bicameral conference committee and the Executive department, including the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).

Yap explained that the P20-billion was consensual removal of a buffer fund, which the DBM, the House and the Senate all agreed to.

He added that the present quandary involving the pension of uniformed retirees was due to the P70-billion cut in their budget for the year 2020, during the previous House leadership.

Nevertheless, Yap said he will file a supplemental budget of P50 billion to be able to absorb the fund deficiency brought about by the P70-billion budget cut made by the previous House leadership.

Topics: House of Representatives , 2020 national budget , Isidro Ungab
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