The chair of the House of Representatives’ Committee on Appropriations said Tuesday he would file a P50-billion supplemental budget to augment the Pension and Gratuity Fund (PGF) for retired uniformed personnel in the 2021 national budget.

ACT-CIS party list Representative Eric Yap made the statement after Anakalusugan party list Representative Mike Defensor, a known ally of former Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, blamed Speaker Lord Allan Velasco for the P20 billon slash in the budget of the 2021 PGF during a recent privilege speech.

“There were no irregularities in passing the 2021 General Appropriations Act.”

Yap noted that there were no irregularities in passing the 2021 General Appropriations Act, saying it was deliberated upon by both the House and the Senate, with consultation with the Executive Branch, particularly the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).

The legislator further explained that the P20 billion was a buffer fund, which the DBM and the legislature all agreed to realign in favor of budget items meant to address the coronavirus pandemic, including the procurement of vaccines and personal protective equipment of medical frontliners.

The lawmaker said the supplemental budget proposal would help absorb the fund deficiency brought about by the P70-billion budget cut made by the previous House leadership in the 2020 budget.

“The PGF was slashed by the previous House leadership by P70-billion.”

“The PGF was slashed by the previous House leadership by P70-billion,” he said during his interpellation. “I was puzzled then as to why that was, considering that there was no pandemic yet at that time.”

Deputy Speaker Isidro Ungab also manifested that the 2020 national budget had several realignments, confirming that the PGF was then slashed by P74.029-billion by Cayetano and former Deputy Speaker LRay Villafuerte.

Ungab chaired the House Committee on Appropriations during Cayetano’s term as Speaker.

Meanwhile, Defensor disputed Yap’s claim that the P20 billion in military and police retirees’ pension money was diverted to COVID-19 vaccine procurement.

“To set the record straight, the vaccine procurement fund approved by Congress, as recommended by the bicameral conference committee (bicam) and carried in the 2021 budget, was P2.5 billion, which is good for just a few thousand doses and which was the amount recommended by the executive branch at the beginning of the pandemic,” the legislator said.

The lawmaker noted that P2.5 billion is the amount that is “sure of funding,” as it is part of the “programmed” portion of the 2021 national budget.

He said Congress allocated an additional P172 billion but lodged it in the “unprogrammed” part of the outlay, which means it is available only if there is excess revenue, there is a new tax measure as funding source, or there are loans.

“Through the bicam, Congress juggled at least P182 billion in appropriations recommended by President Duterte in his version of the budget. None of that, not even a centavo or peso, was added by the two chambers to the Palace-recommended P2.5-billion vaccine procurement fund,” Defensor concluded. 

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