Should Congress redefine gov’t savings? Quimbo thinks it should
MANILA, Philippines — The House of Representatives should amend its definition of savings in the budget law so as to allow the use of these funds even after the practice was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, a lawmaker said Tuesday.
Marikina Rep. Romero ‘‘Miro’’ Quimbo was reacting to a proposal by President Aquino III in his fifth State of the Nation Address (Sona) on Monday for Congress to pass a resolution to ‘‘clarify definitions and concepts’’ on the pooling and realignment of government savings.
“The definition of savings in the Constitution is as defined by law. It is in the hands of Congress to redefine it,” Quimbo said in a press conference. Quimbo chairs the lower chamber’s powerful ways and means committee that tackles government’s fiscal, monetary and financial affairs.
He added that redefining the definition of savings could be a way to comply with the Supreme Court’s decision declaring as unconstitutional some parts of Aquino’s Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).
In its decision handed down early this month, the high court outlawed the practice of using unspent funds for projects not included in the approved budget and even before the fiscal year is over.
The court also declared as unconstitutional the failure to comply with the definition of savings in the budget law, or the General Appropriations Act, passed by Congress every year.
Quimbo made the statement after President Benigno Aquino III urged Congress in his fifth State of the Nation Address to pass a joint resolution to “clarify definitions and concepts” on the pooling and realignment of government savings.
The 2013 budget law defines savings as “portions or balances of any programmed appropriation which are free from any obligation or encumbrance…”
Quimbo added that the proposed measure would harmonize “the intent of the constitution as well as empower the executive to carry out and address contingencies…”
The bill would also help government “comply with the strict requirements of the Supreme Court,” Quimbo said.
Asked what are the proposed amendments, Quimbo said they would need to clearly define when a project is abandoned from which savings may originate.
He also said they would amend the definition to say savings can still be used before the end of the fiscal year.
“This is to respect the decision of the Supreme Court and to recognize the need of the executive to mobilize savings as empowered by the Constitution,” Quimbo said.
The DAP became controversial after Senator Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada, who is detained for plunder over the pork barrel scam, said funds from the savings-impounding mechanism were given as incentives to senators who voted to convict ousted Chief Justice Renato Corona.
President Aquino had warned that the high court’s decision on DAP might lead to a clash between two equal branches of the government and intervention from the third branch.
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