Recto asks DBM to publicize agencies 'promissory notes' on 2014 budget
The online news portal of TV5

MANILA, Philippines – With the P2.268-trillion national budget having been signed into law by President Benigno Aquino III, the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) should now publish the promissory notes issued by agencies in exchange for using people’s money.

This call was made by Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto, who noted on Monday that the most important feature of the 2014 national budget is not the scrapping of the Special Allotment Release Order (SARO), but “the matching of countable outputs with every peso” received by agencies. “Spending is now linked to performance benchmarks. The peso sign now comes with a performance guarantee. And these guarantees are part and parcel of the budget,” Recto said.

Recto described the 2014 national budget, which President Aquino signed as Republic Act 10633 last Dec. 20, as “having gone micro by detailing what an agency must deliver.”

“Among the  “performance guarantees” embedded in the national budget are “the maximum 7-minute response time of firemen to distress calls and a 25-percent increase in the number of police patrols,” Recto said.

He cited as an example the “written vow” of the Philippine National Police to pursue with earnest the minimum 629,258 crime investigations it will conduct this year and to “increase by 25 percent its number of foot and mobile patrols.” 

In the case of the Bureau of Fire Protection, the agency committed a five- to seven-minute response time to 87 percent of the 5,185 distress calls it expects to get in 2014, Recto said.

One particular interest to Metro Manilans, Recto said, is whether the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) can deliver on its promise of an average travel speed of 29 kilometers per hour on the 197 kilometers of roads under its jurisdiction.  The MMDA has also pledged a maximum 15-minute response time to 90 percent of traffic obstruction. For this year, it has a budget of P2.65 billion, a P1.2- billion increase from last year’s P1.48 billion.

Recto stressed the beauty of requiring these “promissory notes” is that “big- ticket items get itemized.”

“In the case of the Department of Public Works and Highways, its budget says 1,022 gravel roads will be paved, while 605 kilometers of national roads will be built.  The Department of Agriculture has also indicated that it will repair 1,500 kilometers of farm roads,” Recto said.

Another major recipient of funds for 2014, the Department of Social Welfare and Development, has attached a menu of targets to its budget. In addition to the beneficiaries of its “mega P62.6 billion” cash transfer program, it will be serving meals to 2,568,811 schoolchildren next year.

The Department of Education has pledged an 84-percent National Achievement Test passing rate for 12.56 million secondary school students.

Over at the Department of Health (DOH), the hospitals it directly operates have pegged a target of 106,000 surgeries. The DOH has a budget of P80.8 billion for 2014, or a nearly P30-billion jump from what it got last year.

Another government hospital, the Philippine Heart Center, has promised that mortality rate from cardiac surgeries will not exceed 3 percent.

Even defense agencies are not exempted from revealing what is expected of them.

“The Army has given the assurance that 90 percent of its 176 tactical battalions can be made combat-ready within one hour upon receipt of orders from higher authorities,” he said. “This is the response time the people would expect from them the next time a calamity will hit the country,” Recto said. He was referring to the crucial role played by soldiers as first responders in the aftermath of super typhoon Yolanda. They cleared roads and bridges, rescued survivors, ferried the injured and brought vital food, water and supplies to hard-hit areas.

As to documents, the Land Registration Authority said it will be able to release 666,283 land titles while the Department of Foreign Affairs said it can issue 3,418,000 pieces of passports and other consular documents.

Recto said that under the national budget, the Land Transportation Office is obliged to make public the number of days it would take to release a car license plate.

The Department of Transportation and Communications has also vowed to inspect 100,000 land transport franchise holders and to impose penalties on violations discovered. It has pledged to increase rail speed to an average 48 kilometers per hour.

Recto urged the Department of Budget and Management to ensure that agencies comply with their promises.  “If this will be done, then we are assured of a higher rate of return on public money spent.”