BUDGET and Management Secretary Florencio B. Abad and Supreme Court Associate Justice Diosdado M. Peralta in separate letters have reacted to recent stories published by the PCIJ regarding transparency issues in government.
In a letter dated Jan. 28, 2013, Abad disputed a paragraph in PCIJ’s story titled “PH budget transparency score slips 7 pts; oversight improves,” which was authored by Karol Ilagan.
In the report, Ms. Ilagan wrote that “a global report now reveals that Filipinos continue to be denied full access to budget information and documents.”
He added: “The latest figure is a throwback to the Philippines score in 2008: exactly 48. This only means that the Aquino government, just like the Arroyo administration, has made it harder for citizens to get information on how public officials and government agencies are spending taxpayers’ money.”
Abad described this portion of the PCIJ story as “sweeping” and “unfair.”
He continued: “While we respect and recognize the methodology used for determining the country’s rating in the Open Budget Index, we take exception to Ms. Ilagan’s statement that it is even more difficult for Filipinos to obtain key information on public expenditure activities under the Aquino administration. That is too sweeping. We also question her assertion that this year’s rating for the Philippines effectively likens the current leadership to the Arroyo administration, which is notorious for its lack of transparency and accountability in public fund management. That is unfair”.
The PCIJ stands by its story. The reference to the Arroyo administration as the government in power in 2008 was made as a matter of factual context. The Philippines’ score in the 2012 Open Budget Index (OBI) dropped seven points, from 55 in the 2010 OBI. This slide could not have been written as easing up the process for citizens to get information on how government officials and agencies are spending taxpayers’ money.
The story had properly acknowledged the efforts of the DBM in uploading online more public finance documents. Additionally, the story also cited two letters and follow-up phone calls made by the PCIJ over the last year for copies of zero-base budgeting documents (uploaded finally in March 2012) and records of disbursement of lump-sum funds by the President. To this day, the DBM has not acted on these requests.
To read Abad’s full letter, click here.
Meanwhile, on Dec. 17, 2012, Justice Peralta wrote to PCIJ to clarify the discrepancy between the income enrolled in his Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALN) and the Commission on Audit’s 2011 Report on Salaries and Allowances (ROSA), which was discussed in PCIJ’s story titled “SC justices among PH’s best paid, allowances, bonuses not in SALNs” written by Malou Mangahas and Ilagan.
“I read your report that was published in the Manila Times dated December 10, 11, and 12, 2012. As it appears in your report, the income that I derived from the Supreme Court is P4.3 Million, while the COA Report states that the total income I received from the Supreme Court is P3,995,575.29, thereby making a difference of P326,487.66. In short, I misdeclared the income I received from the Supreme Court. I believe that your conclusion is inaccurate because the allowances I received from the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal in the amount of P933,799.98, Philippine Judicial Academy in the amount of P25,000.00, and dividends from Supreme Court Savings and Loans Association in the amount of P63,000.00 or the total amount of P1,021,799.98, did not come from the Supreme Court. Those said institutions are separate and distinct from the Supreme Court and are not considered as income derived from the latter. Hence, if you deduct the said amount of P1,021,799.98 and the P450,000.00, proceeds of the sale of the guns from the total amount of my declared income of P4,772,062.94, then it would readily show that the amount I received from the Supreme Court and reported in my SALN is only P3,300,262.96, which is less than the amount of P3,995,575.29 that appears in the COA Report or a difference of P695,312.33. It would therefore seem that the income derived from the Supreme Court which I declared in my SALN is much less than that of the amount in the COA Report.
“I appreciate though your report because it was only then I came to know of the amount I supposedly received from the Supreme Court based on the COA report. This immediately prompted me to write Ms. Araceli C. Bayuga, the SC Chief Judicial Staff Officer of the Cash Coll. and Dis. Div., Fiscal Management and Budget Office of the Supreme Court and asked her to provide me with an explanation as to the discrepancy of the two (2) amounts considering that the income derived from the Supreme Court which I declared in my SALN came from her office. Whatever is the result of my inquiry, the same shall be reflected in my 2012 SALN in order that the correct data maybe reflected and recorded.”
To read Peralta’s full letter, click here.