THE HOUSE appropriations committee approved the P8.182-billion budget of the Office of the President (OP) for 2022 of without any deliberation.

The 2022 budget, which is P4.05 million smaller than the office’s spending plan for this year, was approved following a motion by Pangasinan Rep. Tyrone D. Agabas to immediately terminate the proceedings.

In the approved budget, P1.12 billion would be allotted for personnel services, P6.49 billion for maintenance and other operating expenses (MOOE), and P547.97 million for capital outlays.

The motion is consistent with the tradition of the House to terminate hearings on the Office of the President budget as a way of “extending parliamentary courtesy to a co-equal branch of the government.”

Kabataan Party-list Rep. Sarah Jane I. Elago objected to the motion, but her move was rejected by Zamboanga City Rep. Manuel Jose M. Dalipe, vice-chairperson of the House Committee on Appropriations, as Ms. Elago is not a member of the panel.

Lawmakers of the progressive Makabayan bloc, including Ms. Elago, said that traditions should not be used as an excuse for the House to not to scrutinize the budget of the office at the committee level.

“There are a number of pressing issues to be brought before the Office of the President at this budget hearing… We’ve had (opportunities) in the past years to raise these significant concerns before the OP budget briefing. Why is the committee now denying this very right to the House members?,” Ms. Elago said during the hearing.

ACT Teachers Party-list Rep. France L. Castro said that the House needs to take a closer look at items that are deemed not needed by the office such as the P4.5 billion allotted for intelligence funds, comprising more than half of the OP’s total budget.

The Office of the President proposed P2.25 billion each for confidential and intelligence expenses for next year.

ACT-CIS Party-list Rep. Eric G. Yap, chairman of the House appropriations committee, said that he would take full responsibility for the early termination of the hearing.

“There would be an opportunity for House members to ask all of the questions during the plenary,” he said in Filipino. — Russell Louis C. Ku