House, DBM stick to their guns on issue of 2019 budget
A reenacted budget for 2019 became a very real possibility on Tuesday as Malacañang and the House of Representatives hardened their positions in a standoff over spending reform.
Worried about the consequences of a reenacted budget, opposition Senators Franklin Drilon and Risa Hontiveros appealed to the congressmen to resume their deliberations on the P3.76-trillion proposed budget for 2019.
But Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman said Malacañang must step back precisely to avoid those consequences.
Projects will be derailed
In a statement, Lagman said the Duterte administration’s ambitious infrastructure project would be “derailed” because new projects could not be implemented pending reenactment of the old budget.
He said appropriations for capital outlay—expenditures for new assets—also could not be repeated if these had already been completed.
Lagman said “no administration would welcome a reenacted budget” because it would effectively be a “rebuke of the President,” whose budget proposal was contained in the National Expenditure Program submitted by the budget department.
Drilon, the Senate minority leader, did not relish the idea of reenacting the P3.77-trillion budget for this year, saying it would make President Duterte look “weak,” because he could not get his budget proposal approved by the House despite having the support of a supermajority there.
Detrimental to BARMM
Having a reenacted budget, he said, would “prejudice” every citizen and be “detrimental to the economy and the implementation of crucial laws such as the Bangsamoro Organic Law.”
Other programs would be sidetracked as well, he added.
“If the government operates under a reenacted budget, then there can be no new programs and projects in 2019 to help pump-prime the economy because there will be no capital outlay,” Drilon said.
Hontiveros said the concerns of the congressmen about the cash-based budget system the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) wanted to implement in 2019 could be tackled without delaying the approval of appropriations measure.
“Let us use the budget process to address the strategic issues of procurement and the general competency of the bureaucracy in terms of planning and execution in order to design good policies for efficient delivery,” she said.
Hontiveros warned that a reenacted budget would give the executive branch the chance to abuse public funds.
She noted that a reenacted budget was a fixture during the time of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, during which officials played fast and loose with the people’s money.
President’s pork barrel
Once this year’s budget is reenacted, the executive could realign funds that it could use at its own discretion, Hontiveros warned.
“Lest we forget, the 2019 midterm elections are just around the corner. With a reenacted budget, the government creates so-called savings from the reallocated funds for projects already completed last year to buy political support,” she explained.
“In such a scenario,” she added, “the reenacted budget becomes the President’s pork barrel.”
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