Press Release
May 29, 2006


Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago said it is Pres. Arroyo, not Congress, who will decide whether there will be charter change this year, because the proposed 2006 budget does not include funds for a national plebiscite on a new charter.

At the ongoing Senate budget hearing, Santiago questioned Comelec chair Benjamin Abalos, who admitted that the Comelec budget does not include funds for chacha, but only includes funds for the 2007 national and local elections.

Since the Comelec has no money, it has to come from the Office of the President, which is the only agency that can afford it. The proposed 2006 budget House version gives Malacañang P3.537 billion, said Santiago, a finance committee vice-chair.

Santiago said the ongoing Senate-House chacha talks are overshadowed by Pres. Arroyos power to release funds for a chacha plebiscite.

The tail cannot wag the dog. For example, if Pres. Arroyo decides to back an interim Parliament by August, only she has the power to release funds that will make it possible. She does not have to depend on Congress or the Comelec, Santiago said.

In a related development, Santiago in effect warned DENR Secretary Angelo Reyes to refrain from using his bureaucracy of 22,101 persons for his alleged senatorial ambition, and instead to reduce the number of DENR personnel.

The DENR bureaucracy is bloated, with almost two-thirds or 64.5 percent of its budget going to salaries, wages, and related personal services. This is a strong temptation for any DENR secretary to run for senator, because he would have so many people nationwide campaigning for him, Santiago said.

Santiago said that there were only 20,425 DENR employees right after the implementation of the 1996 Decentralization Act, but now there are 22,101 employees.

Their set-up is a classic in duplication. DENR already has 16 regional offices. In addition, the Environmental and Management Bureau also has 16 regional offices. And the Mines and Geosciences Bureau also has 16 regional offices! How inefficient and wasteful is that? Santiago said at the Senate budget hearing yesterday (Monday).

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