Tuesday, 25 April 2017
‘Punitive’ GAA provision imperils ARMM operations; Urgent Presidential veto sought
Written by Ali G. Macabalang/BPI-ARMM   
Wednesday, 24 February 2010 03:10
(Ali G. Macabalang ia Executive Director of the ARMM's Bureau of Public Information)

COTABATO CITY (BPI-ARMM/23 Feb) -- New officials of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao are calling for an urgent veto of what they lamented yesterday as "grossly punitive” provision in this year’s General Appropriations Act (GAA) governing fund releases to the ARMM governance.

Unless saved by a Presidential veto this week, the ARMM operations are in peril of "paralysis," officials led by acting ARMM Governor Ansaruddin Alonto-Adiong disclosed in vehemence.

“I humbly implore (for) an audience anytime this week (to bring out personally) our grave concern before said flaw becomes irreversible," Adiong stressed in his letter to the President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo dated Feb. 22, five days before the mandate of GAA provisions take effect on Feb. 27.

Adiong was referring to special provision No. 2 on the ARMM budget in page 881 of GAA 2010, which states that “no subsequent release shall be made unless previous funds released to the ARMM were audited by a special audit team based in Manila and designated for the purpose.”

The same provision slates that “any disbursement that not been liquidated, audited and/or disallowed by the special audit team shall be deducted from subsequent releases (for the ARMM from this year’s GAA).”

The 24-member Regional Legislative Assembly (ARMM) and five provincial governments in ARMM have prepared separate manifestations protesting the GAA provision, which they described as an affront to the wisdom of installing the Adiong regime purportedly to reform the regional governance.

The Arroyo administration has detained and indicted ARMM Governor Zaldy Uy Ampatuan in connection with the Nov. 23, 2009 massacre of 57 people including 31 journalists in Maguindanao. It also ordered a special audit of the fund disbursements of the suspended leadership on suspicion of alleged graft.

“At a time when (ARMM) needs to rebuild its image from accusations of graft, inefficiency and violence, the (budget) restriction will severely affect our efforts to implement strategic regional infrastructures and basic social services that, aside from improving the lot of our people, would (prove) that ARMM remains as a relevant, functional and beneficial politico-administrative unit,” a draft of an RLA resolution said.

The draft resolution said the RLA members are "collectively opposed to such provision and earnestly appealing” to President Arroyo “to veto” it.

This year’s GAA earmarks P9.2-billion budget for ARMM. The amount covers some 70 percent share for personnel services, 25 percent maintenance and operating expense funds and P850-million capital outlay.

“The ARMM’s 2010 budget constitutes less than 1% of the national budget, but the new regional leadership has vowed to utilize it to the optimum benefit of its constituents under the principles on transparent, consultative and moral governance,” regional Executive Secretary Naguib Sinarimbo said.

The provincial governments of Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi are equally alarmed of the stringent budget provision because they stand to share P150-million each for vital infra projects while the regional government would share only P100-million for similar projects, records said.

Unless timely vetoed, the budgetary “flaw” would do a “collective punishment” against all the workforces and constituents of the regional governance, said Sinarimbo, a lawyer.

He said the budget provision is “unwarranted” because there is no certainty in the length of period the audit on the Ampatuan administration’s expenditures would be completed.

“While all well-meaning people of ARMM support the comprehensive audit on past fund releases and the prosecution of officials culpable of misdemeanors, we should not be held hostage to its proceedings and outcome,” he said.

ARMM news analyst Raymundo Pelaez, a law graduate, berated as “illogical” the interpolation of the stiff provision into the GAA because while it “appeared serious to sanction people suspected of wrong doings, it squeezes the necks of new leaders the national government installed to institute reforms.”

“In ARMM, more often than not, investigations or comprehensive fund audits are synonymous to infinity. Therefore, holding the new ARMM regime solely dependent on the result of the audit of fund disbursements they have nothing to do with, is a virtual act of sabotage,“ Pelaez added. (Alli G. Macabalang/bpi-armm)