Random Thoughts

A re-enacted budget is never a problem

By Leonardo Micua

CONGRESS went on Christmas breakFriday without passing the 2019 general appropriations act, with leaders of the Senate seemed united in asking President Duterte to ignore the recommendation of Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno to call for a special session next week to approve the allegedly pork-laden budget.

Since Congress is not going back to work till January 14 next year, it is very likely that GRP will operate on a reenacted budget till a new one is passed into law and till congressmen and senators come to terms on whether to do away alleged budget “insertions” or not.

I’ve been part of the bureaucracy for the longest times, I can say that there is nothing wrong if GRP will operate on a reenacted budget. It will not be the first time for GRP to work on a reenacted budget. It happened duringPresident Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s term. There was no new general appropriations act enacted before the end of a fiscal year. However, the government was not alarmed because the government was confident the budget would ultimately pass towards the middle part of the succeeding year.

In Dagupan, the passage of the 2019 annual budget of P1.010 billion is the least of worries of Mayor Belen Fernandez. It was passed by the city council on Dec. 7 in a special session.

The annual budget was unanimously approved exactly 24 days before the end of the fiscal year in a session presided by assistant presiding pro tempore Councilor Jose Netu Tamayo, who subbed for Vice Mayor Marc Brian Lim who was on official business. It was the first time that the lone minority joined the majority in the SP in passing the annual budget. 

There was a time when Mayor Belen’s administration was threatened, too, by the shadow of reenacted budgets during the early years of her first term, in office.  One councilor reportedly demanded pork and used his vote as a leverage. But Mayor Belen stood her ground and never took one step backward in her crusade for good government and good governance.  In the end she prevailed over the evil.

The enacted P1.010 billion annual budget is the biggest budget ever enacted in the history of Dagupan, higher than the budget of any of the other seven cities in Region 1.

Recall that when Mayor Fernandez started her reign, her first enacted budget in 2014 was P628 million, then rose to P691 million in 2015, then P768 million in 2016, P868 million in 2017 and P948 million in 2018. In contrast, the last budget enacted by Mayor Benjamin Lim, in 2013 was only P612 million, good for a second class city!

So, you can see a whale of difference between the past and the present mayors in the matter of financing their respective administrations.

That is why when my good friend Freddie told me the continuous bashing of MayorBelen by her detractors on social media, comparing Christmas lights installed during the past and present administrations, including how we celebrateChristmas today compared to the lavish preparations in other towns, I could only reacted with a chuckle, and more chuckles.

I told Freddie, who is working in one radio station, that Christmas lights,though they fill the eyesight, are not a yardstick for good governance and never will it be a factor or mark for excellence in public service. Freddie also chuckled.

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We had a reunion with old office buddies last week atRembrandt Hotel in Quezon City.

Among those who came to the reunion were Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol, Ramon Tulfo, columnist of the Philippine Daily Inquirer and Special Envoy of President Rodrigo Duterte to China, Percy Della, sports columnist of the Inquirer based in CA. USA and a host of other past and present editors of Metro Manila dailies and abroad.

Piñol, Tulfo and Della, including Severino Samonte, Angelo Sambo, Armand Malapit, Jun Varela, who is now wheelchair-bound, Lito Tacujan and, of course,us, are perhaps the only surviving pioneers of the Philippines News Agency tapped by its founder, Jose Pavia.
Secretary Manny, who hosted the reunion already for a second time, dazzled us with his experience as a slot man in the graveyard shift, where he had to play”pusoy” with teletype operators and copy boys, with both feet up in the table to make him awake, while waiting for breaking stories from the field to come.

Mon admitted that his stint with PNA made him a better writer and person and what he is now. Staying on till the reunion is over, Mon went on to pledge P100,000 for an Ex-PNAer’s  trust fund, with a separate pledge of P50,000 from Secretary Manny.

Mon, who considers Tito Tagle, now deceased, as the best early editor of the agency, was definitely the toast of the day as he gamely had his photo taken in the company of his former colleagues from all departments of the agency, assured his ex-colleagues now in their 60s and 70s that if they have any problem, they could ring him up any time and presto, the help will be coming. He guaranteed his colleagues that the Chinese General Hospital in Manila will help secure big discounts to ex-PNAers seeking medical help. .

Mon admitted he may have a younger face now because of his frequent trips toDr. Belo’s Clinic but his knees, like the rest of senior citizens at his age, is no longer as strong as when he was younger.

Percy Della recalled our first meeting together at the National Press Club, the headquarters of the agency, when we were called by big boss JLP to Manila (he from Cuyapo, Nueva Ecija and me from Dagupan), to cover the Tour of Luzon. Without any hesitation, we agreed and off we went to perform our assignment.

We vowed to see each other in our next year’s reunion at the DA social hall.

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