PALACE SLASHES AFP P8-BILLION BUDGET; SAYS IT'S 20% BLOATED
MANILA, FEBRUARY 11, 2011 (STANDARD) AMID the revelations of widespread corruption in the military, the Aquino administration will withhold some P8.3 billion from the Armed Forces allocation to personal services to shield it from further diversion,Budget Secretary Florencio Abad said Wednesday.
Abad, who answered questions during his confirmation hearings before the Appointments Commission, confirmed the testimony before the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee that the actual number of personnel in uniform was about 20 percent less than the Armed Forces had claimed.
“The revelations of former Lieutenant Colonel George Rabusa on the supposed diversion and misuse of national defense funds compels us to go deeper into the disbursement and procurement practices of the defense establishment,” Abad said.
Earlier this month, the Budget Department said it was awaiting an updated report from the Defense Department of the roster of Armed Forces personnel to get “a precise picture of its real funding requirements.”
The funding for personal services for the three Armed Forces branches came to P68.85 billion for 135,699 positions in the 2011 budget.
But Abad, who complained about the difficulty of obtaining a registry from the Armed Forces, said only about 80 percent of those positions were actually filled.
“Our estimate more or less corresponds with the estimates of ... Colonel Rabusa,” Abad told the panel.
“That’s why in the 2011 budget, what we did was release 80 percent of the budget for their personal services because that’s more or less the estimate of the actual ... filled positions in the Armed Forces, and which meant effectively withholding about P8.3 billion.”
Abad, whose appointment was confirmed, said the looming retirement benefits represented “a crisis that’s waiting to explode.”
Reacting to Abad’s statements, opposition lawmakers in the House said withholding part of the personal services budget would hurt ordinary soldiers.
Zambales Rep. Maria Milagros Magsaysay described the P8.3-billion cut as a knee-jerk reaction following allegations of widespread corruption in the military.
But Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. echoed Abad’s revelations
“We know that we really need to make some improvements and ... we’re doing that,” Ochoa said.
“I have talked to Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and asked him to line up actual and detailed reforms that we’re trying to institute now.”
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