Agenda item for 2012
By JUAN L. MERCADO, email@example.com
Call this the
“Deadbeat Bill”. When Congress reconvenes after the Christmas break,
it should make time for House Bill No. 2009, despite the impeachment
trial for Supreme Court chief justice Renato Corona. If approved into
law, the measure could help stem today’s flood of government officials
who welsh on settling cash advances.
Failure to settle,
within a whittled-down period, becomes “prima facie proof of
malversation of public funds”. That’d call down jail terms and fine
Cash advances that
national government officials failed to settle exceeded P4.8-billion
in 2005 alone, says bill author Pasig City Rep. Roman Romulo “This is
a disturbing situation… What about the succeeding years to the
Consider the advances
that then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo took out for foreign and
local travel. In 2009, the Office of the President exceeded P594
million allocated by Congress for this purpose. Worse, over P367.3
million in cash advances for travel remained unliquidated as of August
31 this year, Commission on Audit records show.
“Efforts to identify
officials, who whelshed on payments, were hampered, Executive
Secretary Paquito Ochoa, Jr. admitted. Lists of those who traveled
with the President were not available. Some former disbursing officers
National officials do
not command a monopoly on this reluctance to pay back what government
advanced. Flip through the latest Commission on Audit’s latest annual
financial report on Local Governments (Vol III).
This documents an
epidemic of local officials, thumbing their notes at government bill
collectors. The contagion cascaded from Tugegarao in the north to
Tawi-Tawi in the south, from Palawan in to west to Samar in the East.
Here are some telling excerpts from the auditors:
On the western
Philippine flank, Puerto Princesa city accumulated a staggering P180.4
million worth of unliquidated advances. That whooper is the biggest
bill in all 136 cities.
Philippines, Samar racked up P25.8 million in unpaid advances.
outstripped that at P59.9 million.
Up north, unliquidated
cash advances in
amounted to P5.77 million. Management proved lax “in monitoring their
liquidation.” It shied away from clamping on sanctions such as
“withholding of salaries to settle cash advances. Of P836,207
disallowed, only P73,167 was paid.
Tawi-Tawi, unliquidated cash advances totaled P2.3 million. And Marawi
City granted cash advances even before previous releases were settled.
Unliquidated cash advances in Zamboanga Sibugay climbed to P34.4
Surigao del Norte
accumulated P43.8 million worth of IOUs because previous bills were
not settled. Cotabato City’s bill stood at P31.8 million.
“A small debt produces
a debtor,” the Roman author Publius Syrus once noted. “A large debt
creates an enemy.”
How big are the IOUs
of local government officials? The latest COA does not provide sum
totals. You can, however, guess the bill by looking at the number of
As of today, there are
43,356 cities, provinces, towns and barangays. Can we say: Each one,
without exception, has unsettled bills with with Juan Q. Taxpayer?
“We have to resolve
this issue”, Rep. Romulo said. HB 2009 would amend Article 217 of the
Revised Penal Code. It would thereby stiffen the curbs that
Presidential Decree 1445 already imposes on cash advances. How?
First, it’d make
refusal or failure of a public officer or employee, to settle cash
advances, prima facie proof of malversation or misappropriation of the
Second, the Bill would
clamp on tougher penal clauses. Persons who dodge settling cash
advances “shall suffer the penalty of perpetual special
disqualification”. He may not get a government job. Nor can he run for
Third, there would be
a jail term too. ”Depending on the amount involved, the penalty of
imprisonment ranges from prision correcional to reclusion
Fourth, there will be
stiffer fines too. Official found guilty must cough up a sum “equal to
the amount of the funds malversed or equal to the total value of the
Capacity of LGUs,
however, is sapped by its failure to collect what should be its main
financial prop, namely real estate taxes.
Flabby collection by
LGUs has now ballooned unpaid real estate taxes to P1.29 billion, says
the Commission of Audit.
An analysis of audits
conducted on 81 provinces, cities and towns, reveals “failure of LGUs
to intensify collection efforts,” notes
COA in it’s latest financial report on provinces, cities,
municipalities and barangays (Vol III).
Local officials shrink
from clobbering real estate tax deadbeats. Often, these belong to
political elites. Yet, administration of judicial sanctions are
High time LGUs
revise obsolete assessments on land. The treasurer’s list of
delinquent taxpayers should be published. More important “enforce
remedies” to collect overdue levies.