Lawmaker slams budget for ‘Cha-cha’ to be bigger than gov’t services fund

Lawmaker slams budget for ‘Cha-cha’ to be bigger than gov’t services fund

By Beatriz Marie D. Cruz, Reporter

A LAWMAKER criticized on Tuesday that a budget of P14-billion is allotted for the possible conduct Charter change (“Cha-cha”), citing how its allocation for 2024 is even bigger than the budget for social services.

In a statement, Albay Rep. Edcel C. Lagman said P14 billion is earmarked under the P5.768-trillion 2024 spending plan for the “conduct and supervision of elections, referenda, recall votes and plebiscites.”

“The Charter change rampage has a surfeit of funds,” Mr. Lagman said.

He said that the funding, which is under the budget of the Commission on Elections (Comelec), increased by 700% from P2 billion in the 2023 budget.

Mr. Lagman noted that the budget for the Department of Migrant Workers is at P9.9 billion, Department of Trade and Industry at P8.64 billion, and the Department of Agrarian Reform at P8.08 billion.

He also said that the election budget for next year is higher than allocations for the Office of the Ombudsman at P5.53 billion, the Department of Tourism at P3.44 billion, or the Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development at P3.31 billion. Party-list Rep. Elizaldy S. Co said that the Comelec personally asked for the budget increase, in which they initially requested P19.4 billion.

“Comelec Chairman George Garcia personally appealed during the budget hearing in Congress to restore their budget,” Mr. Co said in a statement.
In a separate statement, Mr. Lagman said that Mr. Garcia did not specifically request for a P12-billion increase in the Comelec’s budget.

Citing a text message, Mr. Lagman said Mr. Garcia only requested to restore P17.4 billion removed from the budget presented to Congress.

Comelec’s proposed budget was at P42 billion, but was trimmed by the Budget department to P27 billion.

Under the signed 2024 budget, P40.1 billion is earmarked for the Comelec.
Last month, House Speaker Ferdinand Martin G. Romualdez reopened proposals to amend the 1987 Constitution to ease economic restrictions.

Meanwhile, former congressman Neri J. Colmenares said that certain groups are asking people to sign a petition to amend the Constitution through a people’s initiative in exchange of “gifts” like 5 kilograms of rice.

“This ‘congressman’ is deceiving our urban poor communities, using the people to sign up in the petition for his personal political interests,” Mr. Colmenares said in a post on X (formerly Twitter).