CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY - House Deputy Speaker Rufus Rodriguez rallied Friday for the immediate disbursement of the so-called "For Later Release" (FLR) funds included in the 2021 national budget.
Rep. Rodriguez in a statement reacted after the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) reported that around P140 billion DPWH funds tagged as FLR has been submitted for review at the Office of the President (OP).
He said the Palace may be later faced with accusations of using the funds in the upcoming political elections in May next year if the Office of the President would continue withholding it.
“The Department of Budget and Management has effectively hijacked these funds by withholding them. The President should direct the DBM to immediately release the money,” said Cagayan de Oro's 2nd District Representative.
Rep Rodriguez batted for no favoritism in the release of the P140 billion FLR funds.
“The President, who has accepted the nomination of the administration party for him to run for vice president in next year’s elections, needs the support of everybody. There should be no favoritism in the release of FLR funds,” Rodriguez pointed out.
The congressman reminded that the release of said funds by DBM should not only depend on President Duterte's approval, as the president only tagged it as "FLR."
He said the president's approval is no longer needed for the release of said FLR funds because both the Senate and Congress have approved it already.
Rodriguez said: “These are line items in the 2021 budget law or General Appropriations Act, which the House and the Senate approved and which President Duterte signed. The President’s approval is not needed for their release because they are contained in the law.”
Rodriguez warned that the executive branch would be undermining the power of the House if it gave the authority to withhold appropriations included in the 2021 national budget.
“That would render the exclusive power of Congress to appropriate public funds useless. What is the use of enacting appropriations if Malacañang is given the power of life and death over them?” the congressman said in a statement.
Meanwhile, Budget Undersecretary Tina Rose Marie Canda was quick to reveal that DBM has already disbursed P33 billion of the P140 billion FLR funds, as approved by the Office of the President.
Canda said the slow disbursement in the case of the DPWH 2021 budget tagged as FLR funds was because of President Duterte's veto message on the 2021 appropriations approved by the lawmakers in the House of Representatives and in the Senate, for further review, and instead, classified said the budget as "For Later Release (FLR).
“But in terms of ongoing projects, we have released comprehensively at almost 85 percent of infrastructure projects to agencies,” told reporters, referring to other DPWH projects.
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