Requiem for a dream
Congress' power of the purse lost in appropriation
21 October 2014
ALL SOULS’ Day is still a week away but civil society groups said Congress should hold a requiem for its “power of the purse” that appears to have been lost in their appropriation work on the 2015 national budget.
“We challenge the Congress to truly represent the Filipino people in addressing the salient issues in the 2015 budget,” Social Watch Philippines said as it urged lawmakers to reject “contentions provisions” in the proposed General Appropriations Bill to regain its power over the budgeting process and “(win) back its honor.”
Social Watch, a network of around 100 civil society organizations and individuals, has sounded the alarm over the automatic and lump-sum appropriations in the proposed budget and the redefinition of the term “savings.”
Social Watch has also launched “Pera Ibalik sa Tao” or PISO, together with the Alternative Budget Initiative, #ScrapPork Network, Sanlakas, Freedom from Debt Coalition, and the #abolishpork movement.
In a unity statement, PISO rued that the new meaning given to the term “savings,” actually “subverts the collective will of the people; if this budget is passed with this redefinition of savings, then (it) can now be declared at any time of the year by the Executive for so-called justifiable causes.”
Pera Ibalik Sa TaO Unity Statement-20 October 2014) by Julius Mariveles
With this new definition of “savings,” it said, all the debates, hearings, and consultations with the general public “will be rendered moot and useless, because the Executive Branch is now given a free hand in handling the people’s money.”
Under the 1987 Philippine Constitution, the President will recommend the national budget but “the form, content, and manner of preparation of the budget shall be prescribed by law.”
Social Watch, in a separate statement, also pointed out that the 2015 budget is an “election budget” and considering the fact “that it was passed alacrity by majority of the members of the House, it is very possible that the 2015 budget will be passed on third and final reading with all its overstatements, errors, lumps, and sly redefinition” of “savings.”
"Requiem for Congress’ Lost “Power of the Purse”
Briones, lead convenor of Social Watch Philippines and a professor emeritus at the University of the Philippines, also pointed out that the lump-sum funds and certain provisions in the 2015 GAB will also legitimize the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), which was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.
Briones explained that of the proposed P2.6 trillion in the National Expenditure Program (NEP), Congress will only debate in detail the P1.3 trillion budget of government agencies but the debate will not include the P761.2 billion for personnel expenditures, which is generally accepted by Congress as presented by the Executive.
This means that only P599.7 billion will be up for scrutiny by the Congress.
Click on to read more about the redefinition of savings on “Debating over a meaning.”