Tuesday, October 4, 2022

Funding For Martial Law Museum ‘Congress-Introduced,’ DBM Insists

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It was Congress that introduced the funding requirement included in the previous national budgets for the establishment of a museum for martial law victims, the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) reiterated on Saturday.

The latest statement came as the DBM clarified that a special provision (SP) for the planned memorial was initially not included when it submitted a National Expenditure Program (NEP) to Congress.

The latter, however, would eventually make “adjustments” to include such a provision.

“At the outset, we wish to clarify that the funding for the Martial Law Museum in the past few years is Congress-introduced,” the DBM said in a press statement. “We note that when a project is not included in the National Expenditure Program but was made part of the General Appropriations Act (GAA), then the item is considered as a CICA (Congress-Introduced Changes/Adjustments).”

The DBM already explained on Thursday that the SP for the planned memorial was not part of the NEP submitted by the department to Congress “even in the past years.”

However, Philstar.com, in its fact-checking report published Friday, noted that the NEPs transmitted by the DBM to Congress from 2017 to 2020 contained the SP for the use of a trust fund for the establishment of the martial law museum.

According to the report, the SP “only disappeared” in the 2021 and 2022 NEPs, which still contained a line item for the “establishment, restoration, preservation of the memorial/museum/library/compendium.”

The DBM noted that the SP was included in the 2016 NEP to administer the use of the PHP152.3 million trust fund for the establishment, restoration, preservation, and conservation of the memorial, museum, library, and compendium in honor of human rights violation victims.

However, the reportorial requirement of the SP in the 2017 NEP was revised to “require” its submission to the Senate President and the House Speaker, the DBM said.

The policy, it said, was “adopted and retained” in the 2017 to 2020 GAAs approved by Congress.

The DBM said the provision was later removed in the 2021 and 2022 NEPs, in accordance with the issuance of Congress Joint Resolution (JR) 4 in 2019, which extends the availability and release of funds for martial law victims.

“In the 2021 GAA, Congress included the SP and revised its title and body. The revision provided that the Department of Budget and Management shall release the accrued interest of PHP659.2 million, as of Feb. 19, 2020, notwithstanding the expiration of the balance of the said principal of PHP10-billion Reparation Fund, as of Dec. 31, 2019,” it said.

“In the 2022 NEP, the SP was recommended to be deleted in line with the passage of JR No. 4, s. 2019. However, the same was reconsidered and formed part of the CICA in the 2022 GAA, reflecting the accrued interest as of Feb. 19, 2020.”

The department also cited that under the 2022 GAA, the SP was placed under “Conditional Implementation” by the President, “subject to the release of funds to reconciliation with the latest certification from the Bureau of the Treasury (BTr) and the balance of remaining amounts.”

“As of May 31, 2022, this balance amounted to PHP569.8 million, per BTr Certification dated June 29, 2022,” it said.

The DBM added that the Human Rights Violations Victims Memorial Commission (HRVVMC) was only able to use about PHP127 million of the PHP381 million released to the commission on June 11, 2021, leaving a balance of PHP253.8 million as of Sept. 14, 2022.

It also said the HRVVMC’s proposed retention of the SP in the 2023 NEP did not materialize, given the implementation of JR 4.

The DBM, nevertheless, emphasized that the validity of the trust fund for the planned memorial for martial law victims “has been extended several times, despite the fact that no museum has been built until now.”

It also reiterated that there are still available funds for the project.

“To correct the misimpression that this particular project did not receive an allocation, we note that since its funding is categorized as Trust Receipts, the funds/balance are available until they have been fully utilized by the implementing agency, subject to budgeting, accounting, and auditing rules and regulations,” it said.

HRVVMC executive director Carmelo Crisanto earlier said the construction of the martial law museum may become a “white elephant” because of a lack of funding in 2023. (PNA)

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