The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) on Wednesday said that the P12 billion additional funding for the Commission on Elections (Comelec) in its 2024 budget can be tapped should a plebiscite for Charter change (Cha-cha) pushes through.
At the Kapihan sa Manila Bay news forum, Budget Secretary Amenah Pangandaman said the DBM respects the “wisdom of the bicam committee, the Senate and the House, when they added the amount to Comelec.”
Comelec chairman George Garcia, however, previously said that the P12 billion additional funding the poll body received from legislators is not intended for a plebiscite on Cha-cha.
He also explained that the poll body only requested for lawmakers to reinstate the slashed funding, not for an increase.
Pangandaman, meanwhile, said that since the amount is already included in the 2024 budget of Comelec, the poll body “will have to use the said amount.”
The Budget chief said should a plebiscite for Cha-cha proceed, “we are safe with that in terms of the funding.”
“We have an existing 12 billion under the GAA (General Appropriations Act) to go through the process…,” she said.
Last week, Senator Imee Marcos warned Comelec about facing technical malversation if the poll body will use its P12 billion additional budget for efforts to amend the 1987 Constitution.
"Hindi naman yata pwedeng palitan ang purpose ang pagkaintindi ko technical malversation kapag binago bago mo ang purpose,” Marcos said.
(It is not allowed to change the purpose of the funds. In my understanding, that's technical malversation.)
Pangandaman, however, clarified that the amount is “not solely for the purpose of Charter change but may be used for various activities of the Comelec such preparation of national and local elections, overseas absentee voting, continuing registration, recall, special elections, referenda, and other initiatives.”
Pangandaman further noted that “it is not intended specifically or solely to fund the proposed Charter change.”
She added that the Comelec has the discretion to use the amount for a plebiscite “if the government decides to pursue any change, or if the people’s initiative pushes through.”
Garcia, meanwhile, said that if a Cha-cha plebiscite pushes through, Comelec will prepare for it, but that it is “presumptuous” to say if the additional funding will be used for it.
The Comelec chief also said the national plebiscite will require a P13 billion budget, citing the need to accommodate 1.69 million overseas voters and overseas Filipinos. —VAL, GMA Integrated News