EDITORIAL - Budget overhaul
Rosalinda L. Orosa (The Philippine Star) - August 2, 2014 - 12:00am

When Malacañang and Congress work on a new definition of savings that the executive can impound for realignment to other projects and programs, the two branches must be mindful that the new rules will be carried over to the next administration. The rules must minimize opportunities for abuse by any future president.

The 16th Congress, upon the request of President Aquino, is considering the passage either of a law or a joint resolution defining what will constitute savings. Malacañang wants to be able to declare “savings” at the end of every semester, or midway through the fiscal year. A Liberal Party congressman, meanwhile, is proposing a quarterly declaration of savings – an idea reportedly mentioned to the Supreme Court by the Department of Budget and Management.

The new rules are being worked out after the SC struck down the Disbursement Acceleration Program. Among the principal prohibitions in the SC ruling on the controversial DAP is the impounding of “savings” by Malacañang before the fiscal year is over, ostensibly to speed up project implementation.

 If the proposed new definition of savings is approved, it would clash with the SC prohibition. The high tribunal had earlier also scrapped the Priority Development Assistance Fund, the official name of the congressional pork barrel, amid a raging scandal over lawmakers’ alleged skimming of their PDAF allocations through bogus non-government organizations.

Lawmakers are now barred from receiving lump sum appropriations for their pet projects that they can earmark for funding and implementation long after the annual national budget is approved. The SC has also scrapped cross-border fund transfers, or the realignment of funds from one branch of government to another.

Congress can redefine savings to hew to the ideas of Malacañang and the budget department, but laws cannot go against the Constitution, as interpreted by the SC. There are debates on whether a joint resolution of the two chambers of Congress would be legally binding, but it also cannot go against the basic law of the land.

When President Aquino and his budget advisers push for a DAP clone in the 2015 GAA, they must remember that they are seeking rules that may be applied by the next administrations, unless invalidated again by the SC. The scandals over the PDAF and DAP showed a budget system that calls for a thorough overhaul. Any changes must promote good governance rather than the perpetuation of the status quo under a different guise.

 

A LIBERAL PARTY DEPARTMENT OF BUDGET AND MANAGEMENT DISBURSEMENT ACCELERATION PROGRAM MALACA PRESIDENT AQUINO PRIORITY DEVELOPMENT ASSISTANCE FUND SAVINGS SUPREME COURT WHEN MALACA WHEN PRESIDENT AQUINO
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