Davao Officials Denounce Malacaang for IRA-Cha-cha Scheme

Mar. 29, 2006

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By Germelina A. Lacorte and Cheryll D. Fiel

DAVAO CITY Officials in this city resent the Arroyo administrations alleged attempts to gain support for the drive to amend the Constitution as a condition for the release of the citys share of Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) funds.

Its unfair, city councilor Peter Lavia said, referring to the planned release of some 17.5 billion pesos of IRA funds that had been retained from local government units in 2000 and 2001.

Lavia said these funds would only be released if local government officials would support the administrations peoples initiative campaign for Charter change that would, in turn, pave the way to a shift to a parliamentary form of government.

The city has 207 million pesos of unclaimed IRA funds, according to Councilor Bonifacio Militar, chairman of the City Councils committee on finance.

For these money to be released, the national government has given City Hall two options: either to monetize it through a program called Miracle (Monetization of Internal Revenue Allotment Collectibles for Local Empowerment), where the city will receive 30 percent less of the total amount, or to receive the amount in equal installments for seven years.

Militar said that instead of availing itself of the monetization program, City Hall preferred to use the fund as collateral for possible bank loans to avoid complications arising from the Charter-change campaign.

He said local governments who would opt for monetization would have to commit their support for Cha-cha before the funds could be released. Thats how its going to be. Theyre going to ask whether we are for Cha-cha before they release the funds, said Militar.

Lavia said the national government is using the IRA in this carrot-and-stick approach. Its unfair because its the local governments funds in the first place. They should release it without condition because weve been providing to the public the devolved functions of the national government.

Lavia called the situation ridiculous. The IRA is our money. According to the local government code, it is the just share of the LGU of our national taxes. Therefore, it should have been automatically released. But what happened? Our national government is using its padrino style of politics. They are withholding the funds from the LGUS so that governors and mayors would have to go to Malacaang and ask for favors, Lavia said.

Many right thinking local officials did not apply for monetization because of the strings attached to Cha-cha, Lavia told davaotoday.com.

City administrator Wendel Avisado said the national government should not force local governments from begging for their moneu. That is the peoples money. They should not behave this way, Avisado told reporters last week.

Militar said that while the national government has been spending money to push for the peoples initiative drive, local government units are starving for funds to carry out projects in the countryside.

Early this month, the City Council approved a resolution to avail of the Miracle program. Mayor Rodrigo Duterte also earlier asked the City Council to come up with an enabling law for the city to avail of the IRA collectibles as the money will be used to finance the citys sanitary landfill project.

About 17.5 billion pesos of IRA funds have accrued in the national treasury after the national government decided to retain 10 percent of the IRAs released in 2000 and 2001.

The government only decided to release the retained IRA funds, but through the Miracle program, after the Supreme Court ruled that the 10 percent retention was unconstitutional.

Davao Citys IRA share increased to 1.6 billion pesos last year from 1.39 billion pesos in 2003. (Germelina A. Lacorte and Cheryll D. Fiel/davaotoday.com)

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