Press Release
September 26, 2011

After ARMM budget hearing

The budget proposed in the NEP, in round figures, is P12.4 billion for 2012. Current budget for ARMM is P11.8 billion. The current budget and next year's budget which considered budgets of the Aquino administration for ARMM, is the highest in the history of ARMM. In 1991, ARMM started with a budget of P792.8 million. Next year, it will have a budget of P12.4 billion. These are not the only funds that would go to the ARMM. Our computation is that apart from the P12.4 billion presented under the NEP, the ARMM also gets from the other national government agencies under the budget of DA, etc, an amount equivalent to P11.5 billion. ARMM also gets internal revenue allotment of P14.2 billion. There is PDAF or the allocation of the legislators for ARMM amounting to P560 million. All in all, the NEP would call for an allocation of P38.7 billion to the ARMM, consisting the ARMM budget in the GAA of P12.4 billion, budget in the other national agencies pertaining to ARMM of P11.5 billion, IRA of P14.2 billion, PDAF of P560 million.

How much has been allotted to the ARMM since 20 years ago? We have computed it. Just on the GAA, just pertaining exclusively to ARMM, not counting the allocation of other national government agencies, the total public fund devoted to the ARMM for the last 20 years is P123.6 billion. Just on the GAA pertaining exclusively to the ARMM, excluding the allocation of other national government agencies since 1991. What can the ARMM show for such huge sums of money having been allotted to them? ARMM, as a region, has remained the poorest in our country. It has the highest incidence of poverty. Obviously, and this is my conclusion, ARMM, as an experiment in local autonomy and devolution of powers, is a failure if you look at where the ARMM is today and the sums of money that has been allocated by the national government to ARMM. It is a failure because of the kind of leaders who have been elected to the leadership of the ARMM structure. The election, as a way of selecting officials who will effectively govern, is a failure. We have not elected the right leaders. That is why President Aquino's administration has sought reforms. The reforms are two-pronged: number 1, the synchronization of election in 2013 which hopefully will result in a better election of leaders and number 2, in the mean time, in order that the reforms can be put in place that OICs can be appointed who will have the capacity to institute the reforms. We ask the present leadership chaired by Gov. Adiong. It is quite clear to us that they are not capable of instituting these reforms because they have passed on the problem to the DILG. We asked them, 'are you prosecuting these people?' They said, 'it is now up to the DILG. We have made our recommendations.'

The CoA finding is indeed mind boggling in terms of the corruption and this corruption took place because the previous administration under GMA tolerated the Ampatuans in Maguindanao. I have not seen this report in all the budgets that I have been looking at in the last 12 years that I have been in the Senate. In the DPWH-ARMM, a total of P1.486 billion in public works projects was considered as spurious. Cash advances in hundreds of millions could not be accounted for. Just to quote the CoA report, only on ARMM-DPWH, 'payments amounting to P1.123 billion to 112 suppliers/contractors were either not supported with documents and/or supported with documents which may be considered as spurious. Also, they were withdrawing cash as if there was no tomorrow. Cash advances amounting to the hundreds of millions of pesos were being done in one day. As a rule, payments must be made by check. In the particular case of ARMM, from January 2008-December 2009 during the regime of the Ampatuans, a total of P1.862 billion was cash advances. In one day, these checks are being encashed amounting to P98.25 million. The CoA found this highly improbable considering that the purported payees were located in the different municipalities and provinces. No public biddings were being conducted by the provincial government. Again, transactions amounting to P865.8 million may be considered as fictitious as these were denied by the suppliers. Example, procurement of fuel from Cotabato-Shell station and Sharif Aguak-Petron station amounting to P28.2 million was considered as fictitious, because, for example, P5 million was never received by the payor and the checks were converted into cash because they were in the name of Datu Akman Ampatuan Sr. and Datu Sahid Islam Uy-Ampatuan as co-payee. Talagang nakakalula ang katiwalian na nakita natin sa nakaraang administrasyon ng mga Ampatuan at ito ay pinabayaan ng dating administrasyon. It is therefore a frustration on the part of the Aquino administration that they are trying to institute immediate reforms in order to try to get our Muslim brothers and sisters out of extreme poverty, but they get frustrated by legal obstacles, including TROs from the Supreme Court.

Q: Ano ang pwedeng maging pananagutan ng Ampatuans?

Dapat ito ay plunder. Dapat sila ay makulong habambuhay, maliban doon sa kanilang kasalanan sa Maguindanao massacre.

Q: Sino ang dapat mag-file?

Aba eh, mukhang hindi kaya ng present leadership ng ARMM kasi pinapasa nila sa DILG.

Q: May accountability rin ba ang current officials who were present during that time?

Yes. Certainly, they have... especially those who signed vouchers, checks, etc. The acting governor admitted that he did not do anything, not even complained about this.

Q: Takot daw sila?

Ngayon hindi na sila takot bakit wala pa silang ginagawa

Q: DILG dapat ang sumingil sa kanila ngayon?

The problem was passed on to the DILG, pero hindi ba autonomous region ito on Muslim Mindanao.

Q: Masasabi bang tinolerate ng Arroyo administration considering na tuwing eleksyon nagagamit sa dayaan ang ARMM?

Maliwanag na tinolerate ito ng dating administrasyon. Hindi pupwedeng hindi nila malaman ang nangyayari sa ARMM particularly sa Maguindanao, kay Gov Ampatuan.

Q: Ano ang implication nito sa hinihinging budget ng ARMM? Maghihigpit kayo?

Hihigpitan natin. We will review it very closely and again we will try to impose these conditions upon the release of the funds. But at the end of the day it is the selection of correct leaders because here we saw a brazen disregard of the rules on the budget, rules of CoA, and brazen tolerance by the previous administration of what the Ampatuans were doing.

Q: Selection of current leaders dahil yung dati naging bata-bata lang?

There must be electoral reforms, for one, because obviously, the democratic way of election that has been conducted in the past has not given us the right leaders. That is why this is the frustration of President Noynoy Aquino, that the leaders who were elected are of such caliber that the welfare of our Muslim brothers and sisters were farthest from their agenda, were at the bottom of their agenda. It is their personal power and their personal wealth which were the primordial interest of the previous officials. I did not see from the statements today of the incumbent OIC that he is capable of making the appropriate reforms in the ARMM in order to prevent these abuses from being committed again. He passed on everything to the DILG.

Q: Kaya ba kailangan natin ng postponement para kahit papano ay malinis sa katiwalian?

That's correct. It is the principal reason why we have to postpone and the Senate President made that on record that this is the rationale for the postponement of the election, the effort to have an opportunity, space to institute reforms. It is really seen here, the need for reforms is really needed in the ARMM.

Q: Ano yung assurance na ang itatalagang OIC ay makakapag institute ng reforms?

There is no assurance but I think we can be certain that with the present electoral process that we have, the election will not result in someone who would be able to correct all of these shenanigans. Nothing is certain in this world but we believe that given the fact that there will be a vacuum in the leadership of ARMM because we have to institute reforms particularly in the electoral process, we believe that there is a greater chance of instituting reforms with the appointment of officials, rather than having the elections now. That is why we have to postpone the elections to 2013 to synchronize with the national election.

Q: Sa 2012 budget may mga lump sum like donations, papasa po ba ito?

Honestly we are at a loss. The present process that they follow is that they put in P1 billion and then the projects are discussed without any program of work. All of this presumably takes place afterwards. But when I proposed that the process be inverted so that they talk about the projects first, how much it will cost, what are the priorities and then fund it, apparently the ARMM is telling me that the law allows them to do this. They have P1 billion out there and there are other items which are in lump sum. I feel frustrated that not only are there so many roadblocks in the authorization process, worse, in the implementation process where there is a brazen disregard for all the laws.

Q: You mentioned kino consider nyo na preliminary submitted ang ARMM budget?

That's correct because we have asked them documents to justify items that we are questioning. We will await their submission and we will decide as to whether or not to call another hearing depending on their submissions.

Q: Target ni Pres Noy mapanagot daw by next year ang lahat ng gumawa ng katiwalian under GMA? Ito bang nakukuha niyong information malaki ang naitutulong?

Talagang malaki dahilan sa ito ay dokumentado at report ng CoA.

Q: Kakayanin ni PNoy ang target?

Sa palagay ko. Mabuti yung naglalagay siya ng deadline para ang kanyang gabinete ay talagang magtatrabaho to meet that deadline.

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