Militant solons oppose redefinition of ‘savings’ | Inquirer News

Militant solons oppose redefinition of ‘savings’

By: - Reporter / @deejayapINQ
/ 08:56 AM October 03, 2014
Davao City Rep. Isidro Ungab. Photo from congress.gov.ph

Davao City Rep. Isidro Ungab. Photo from congress.gov.ph

MANILA, Philippines–Minority lawmakers in the House of Representatives formally voiced their opposition to the redefinition of “savings” in the proposed General Appropriations Act of 2015, which they said trampled on the congressional “power of the purse.”

In an Oct. 1 letter to the appropriations committee chair, Davao City Rep. Isidro Ungab, the Makabayan bloc assailed the expanded definition of savings that the executive branch wrote into its budget proposal.

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The new definition circumvented the Supreme Court decision last July that struck down Malacañang’s Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), said party-list representatives Neri Colmenares and Carlos Zarate of Bayan Muna, Luzviminda Ilagan and Emmi de Jesus of Gabriela, Antonio Tinio of ACT Teachers, and Terry Ridon of Kabataan.

New definition

FEATURED STORIES

Under Section 67 of the proposed budget law, savings refer to “portions or balances of any programmed appropriations in this act which have not been released or obligated as a result of any of the following:

  • Discontinuance or abandonment of the program activity or project (PAP) for justifiable causes, at any time, during the validity of the appropriations;
  • Noncommencement of the PAP for which the appropriations is authorized within the first semester of FY [fiscal year] 2015, unless the implementing agency shows that the PAP may still be undertaken or accomplished in FY 2015. For this purpose, noncommencement shall refer to the inability of the agency or its duly authorized procurement agent to obligate an allotment within the first semester of FY 2015; and
  • Decreased cost resulting from improved efficiency during the implementation of the project or after the completion by agencies of their PAP to deliver their targets and services approved in this Act.”

The minority lawmakers pointed out that where the proposed 2015 budget law defines savings as portions or balances “which have not been released or obligated,” the 2014 General Appropriations Act (GAA) defines savings as “any portions or balances of any programmed appropriation in this Act free from any obligation or encumbrance.”

What’s in a word

Also, the proposed budget law for 2015 deletes the word “final” before “discontinuance of projects” in the 2014 law and adds the phrases “at any time” and “justifiable cause,” the lawmakers noted.

This means that the President has sole discretion to discontinue and abandon any program activity or project (PAP) and the funds appropriated for it can now be considered savings and subject to realignment, they said.

“This gives unconstitutional power to President Aquino to transform any appropriation or item in the GAA as ‘savings’ by giving him the discretion to discontinue, even temporarily, any PAP at any time,” they said.

The proposed budget law for 2015 also grants Aquino the unconstitutional power to “transform any appropriation or item in the GAA as ‘savings’ by withdrawing funds for PAP not yet obligated within the end of the first semester even though said PAP can still be obligated in the second semester,” the Makabayan lawmakers said.

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“Section 67 renders the power of the purse of Congress porous at the least and void at its worst,” they said.

In voiding the DAP, the Supreme Court ruled that savings and standby appropriations can be declared only at the end of the fiscal year. The executive branch has appealed the ruling.

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TAGS: Congress, General Appropriations Act of 2015, Isidro Ungab, Militant Lawmakers, minority lawakers, savings
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