ARMM’s budget for 2012 slashed by P1.26-B

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/17 Sept) – The Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao’s (ARMM) budget for 2012 has been reduced by P1.26 billion despite earlier pronouncements of pouring in massive resources to  “reform” or “transform” the region.

A press statement from the ARMM media bureau on September 17 said the ARMM proposed a P13.732-B for next year but the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) slashed the amount to P12.469, “reducing the maintenance and other operating expenses (MOOE) and capital outlay (CO) in the region instead of increasing it in line with the rising inflation rates.”

According to the press statement, ARMM Executive Secretary Naguib Sinarimbo, Regional Secretaries Kadil Sinolinding Jr. of Health,  Baratucal Caudang  of Education and Pombaen Karon-Kader of Social Welfare said Malacañang pushed for the passage of RA 10153 to reform the region but reduced the region’s budget for 2012.

The proposed 2012 regional budget is actually higher by P615.823-million than the 2011 budget of  P11.853-B but “the truth is the slight increase is mandated by law for the government’s salary standardization program applicable to all regions,” the statement read.

It added that the DBM-capped budget of ARMM next year is broken down as follows: P8.9-billion for salaries of at least 28,000 employees including 22,000 teachers; P2.1-B for MOOE; and P1.3-B for capital outlay. The ARMM’s 2011 budget covers P8.1-B for salaries, P2.2-B for MOOE and P1.4-B for capital outlay.

Contrary to public perception about ARMM budgets, Sinarimbo lamented, other regions in the country have been receiving bigger subsidies from the national government since the inception of the autonomous region in 1990.

“It’s ironical that the ARMM is more often than not ridiculed for its being one of the poorest in the country, yet the national government is giving it minimal budget yearly,” he said.

In a presentation on the “Realities in the ARMM” during the Tapatan sa ARMM on August 31, Sinarimbo said that while the common perception is that ARMM has a huge budget, it actually accounts for less than one per cent of the national budget.

Sinarimbo sdaid that in 2008, out of the P1.3 trillion budget, ARMM’s was only P8.2 billion or 0.0066 per cent share equivalent; in 2009 out of P1.4 trillion, ARMM’s was P9.9 or 0.0069%; in 2010 out of P1.5 trillion, ARMM’s budget allocation was P9.8 or 0.0063% and in 2011, out of P1.6 trillion, the ARMM’s budget share is P11.1 billion or 0.0067%.

Regional allocation for ARMM by national government agencies is also miniscule. From 2008 to 2010, the Department of Education’s budget allocation for regions 1 to 13 has been on the average of P7.7 billion with ARMM getting only P4.5 billion or a difference of at least P3 billion.

The ARMM press statement quoted  AusAID Education Specialist Tess Felipe as saying in a press conference last Friday that  the “gaps between the DepEd-ARMM and the national DepEd” are among the reasons her agency opted to allocate P3.5-billion to address the high illiteracy rate in the region by providing educational facilities in school-less villages in the autonomous region.

It also quoted ARMM Education Secretary Caudang as saying that for the Aquino administration to institute its avowed reforms in ARMM, it should revisit first the national expenditure program (NEP) which the DBM invokes in capping the yearly budget of the autonomous region.

“The NEP standards are unrealistic in the countryside…The DBM people should go to rural areas and see for themselves the absence of government services…We have almost 600 barangays in ARMM without public schools…Why don’t we have funds from the national government to fill up the gaps?” Caudang,  former dean of the College of Law of the Mindanao State University, said.

“A true reform initiative is always coupled with its needed subsidy…Reforms-advocating personalities wanting appointment in the ARMM expect so much but their allies in Malacañang and Congress give the region dismal budgets,” the press statement quoted Sinarimbo as saying.

The press statement quoted Sinolinding as saying the people serving now may not be the choice of Malacanang “but we have proven our worth” in public service, citing their feat in gaining recognition from well-meaning agencies in the local and international communities.

The 21-year old ARMM has been criticized for so many problems, among them ineptitude and corruption.  At the national level, two of its governors had become the dominant face for what ails governance in the ARMM: Nur Misuari, chair of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) who served from 1996 to 2001 and who was criticized as an absentee governor and an inefficient administrator,  and Zaldy Ampatuan, elected in 2005 and reelected in 2008 but detained since December 2009 as one of the suspects in the massacre of 58 victims in Ampatuan town, Maguindanao on November 23, 2009. Ampatuan’s reign has been criticized for massive corruption, especially with the release of  a report of the Commission on Audit on the corrupt practices under the Ampatuan administration in 2008 and 2009.

Ampatuan’s vice governor for two terms, Ansaruddin Alonto Adiong, assumed the post of Acting Governor since December 2009.

Sinolinding, a recipient of national and foreign awards in public service, said the performance of the ARMM’s Department of Health in 2010 and this year has been rated favorably by the World Health Organization and the Department of Health.

Malacanang pushed for the passage of RA 10153, the law that reset the August 8, 2011 elections in the ARMM to synchronize it with the mid-term polls in May 2013. The law also authorized the President to appoint officers-in-charge to serve the ARMM from September 30, 2011 when  the three-year term of elective officials ends, until June 30, 2013.

Passed by Congress on June 6, it was signed into law by the President on June 30, six days after the supposed start of the campaign period.

At least seven petitions were filed before the Supreme Court questioning the legality and constitutionality of RA 10153.

On September 13, just as the Screening Committee was interviewing in a public forum in Cotabato City the shortlisted nominees for OIC Governor and OIC Vice Governor, the Supreme Court announced the issuance of a temporary restraining order (TRO) stopping the implementation of RA 10153 and that if the cases are not resolved by September 30, the present set of officials should continue to serve on holdover capacity as mandated by RA 9054, the law amending RA 6734, the Organic Act of the ARMM.  (MindaNews)