Olongapo SubicBay BatangGapo Newscenter

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Vice gov's league to GMA: Intervene in Zambales budget row

By Ding Cervantes, The Philippine Star

IBA, Zambales: The League of Vice Governors of the Philippines (LVGP) has asked President Arroyo to intervene in the budget controversy rocking the Zambales provincial government.

This, amid claims that the provincial government's 2005 budget has virtually placed the Sangguniang Panlalawigan (SP) under the full control of Gov. Vicente Magsaysay.

In a unanimously approved resolution, the LVGP, headed by Bohol Vice. Gov. Julius Ceasar Herrera, questioned the zero budget allocation for the office of Zambales Vice Gov. Ramon Lacbain Jr. for this year.

Zambales' 2005 budget amounts to about P450 million.

Lacbain accused Magsaysay of having "the grand design to control the legislative branch to have full control of the provincial government" and to make him a lame duck vice governor.

Lacbain added that Magsaysay "assumed control of 58 percent or P17,086,495 of the funds needed by the provincial board in the 2005 budget of the province."

He said Magsaysay has also placed under his control some P11.3 million for the salaries and benefits of the provincial board's employees which used to be under the jurisdiction of the vice governor as presiding officer of the provincial legislating body.

"This means that the governor gets to appoint all casual employees for each board member and even the office of the vice governor," he said.

The STAR tried to reach Magsaysay for comment to no avail.

Under the 2005 provincial budget, Magsaysay's office would also assume control of some P4.3 million for the hearings of the board's committees and another P1.5 million for the travel and training expenses of the board members.

"Magsaysay gets to sign the vouchers and checks of provincial board members every time they travel, contrary to the Local Government Code which vests such authority on the vice governor as presiding officer," Lacbain said.

While the budget for the vice governor's office was reduced from P3.3 million last year to zero this year, he said that of Magsaysay's office was pegged at P95 million.

"The governor has made me a lame duck vice governor. What can you expect from a vice governor without a budget and a provincial board with a minimal budget?," he said.

He added that every board member gets a monthly allocation of P45,000 from the governor for assistance to indigents, while the board's committees get P25,000.

In its resolution forwarded to MalacaƱang, the LVGP also alleged that provincial board secretary Katheryn Fan anomalously prepared the 2005 provincial budget sometime last September without authorization from Lacbain who was her immediate superior.

Lacbain said Fan, who is now facing charges of usurpation of authority and grave misconduct with the Office of the Ombudsman, apparently carried it out upon Magsaysay's instructions.

LVGP officials said they would also elevate the Zambales budget controversy to the Union of Local Authorities of the Philippines (ULAP).

Lacbain said the provincial board approved the 2005 provincial budget "within a minute" after Magsaysay submitted it last Sept. 20, ahead of the Oct. 15 deadline of submission of the annual budget as provided for in Republic Act 7160.

Lacbain said he was attending an official function in MalacaƱang with President Arroyo when the provincial budget was approved.

"I want to perform my job well for the people of Zambales who elected me to my second term. I deserve to have a budget of my own as an elected official," he said.

Lacbain added: "Over and above the removal of my budget, the recall of my service vehicle and the intervention of the governor in the affairs of the provincial board, I demand that the development fund of Zambales must not only be allocated for infrastructure but also for economic development through agriculture, fisheries, livelihood, investments promotion and tourism."


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