Palace won't revive bills clipping Noy's powers over discretionary funds
MANILA - Malacañang does not have any plans to file new bills, or to revive or support bills that clip the powers of the Chief Executive over discretionary funds, stressing the need for the government to be able to immediately respond to contingencies.
Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office Secretary Ricky Carandang said there were no discussions on proposals to limit President Aquino’s use of Special Purpose Funds (SPF) and other lump sum allocations.
As of Aug. 31 of this year, the President has P125.5 billion in SPF as posted on the website of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).
President Aquino on Wednesday explained the reason why the chief executive should have access to lump sum appropriations especially in times of calamity.
Aquino said it would take time if disbursements to respond to calamities or contingencies would need congressional approval instead of just his signature based on recommendations.
The Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) and savings that could be used for the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) were not inherently evil, except for those who took advantage of the system.
“I can even probably say, when I started out in Congress, my belief is the same as theirs,” Aquino told reporters in Brunei where he attended the 23rd Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit on Wednesday.
Aquino explained his position when asked about calls to totally scrap PDAF and DAP.
Aquino had declared the PDAF, commonly known as the pork barrel, was “abolished” and no longer part of the budget proposal for 2014 that Congress is deliberating on.
The release of PDAF from the 2013 budget had also been suspended by the President after the P10-billion pork barrel scam broke out.
The Supreme Court (SC) has also issued a temporary restraining order against using the PDAF. Being a law, the SC said only Congress has the power to abolish PDAF.
Aquino said they had asked the SC to lift the TRO on PDAF allocation for scholars and medical assistance for indigent patients.
He said it was good to prevent misuse of funds but the government’s hands should not be completely tied in disbursing funds so it could still address the needs of the people in times of emergency, especially those at the grassroots level.
While the SC was hearing the issues on PDAF and DAP separately, Aquino asked the DBM to see if they could utilize savings to fund much-needed programs and projects.
Aquino said he would like to make sure they would not be violating any law or order of the SC in funding these programs and projects, especially for the poor.
Aquino stressed PDAF should not really be for and about lawmakers but their constituents.
The President also said they were correcting the mechanics of DAP as he conceded the system was imperfect, but reiterated it was legal and constitutional.
Malacañang asserted it was legal and constitutional to realign savings to existing programs and projects but conceded they would have to go to Congress for new programs.
When he was still senator, Aquino filed Senate Bill No. 3121, the proposed Budget Control and Impoundment Act, which would allow the executive branch resources from unused appropriations, but not unilaterally because it must seek congressional consent, thus preserving the balance of power between branches of government.
Left-leaning members of the House of Representatives have filed two bills they branded as a “strong legislative response” to the President’s perceived intrusion into Congress’ power of the purse.
Akbayan party-list Representatives Barry Gutierrez and Walden Bello filed consecutive House Bill Nos. 2256 and 2257, also known as the Savings and Augmentation Bill and the Impoundment Control Bill, respectively.
These measures were filed amid mounting calls in the House of Representatives to probe the DAP for lack of a law to support its existence.
At the same time, Malacañang said there was no schedule yet for convening the Legislative Executive Development Advisory Council (LEDAC) where the priority measures of the executive branch would be discussed.
Earlier, Presidential Legislative Liaison Office Secretary Manuel Mamba said they would push for the passage of the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill and the Bangsamoro Basic Law in the 16th Congress, along with 15 other proposals that Aquino has certified as urgent.
Mamba said they would like to convene the LEDAC this month.