Diokno: Lawmakers want higher 2019 budget due to elections
MANILA, Philippines – Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno speculated that lawmakers' opposition to the "smaller" cash-based budget for 2019 is due to the upcoming mid-term elections.
"Probably [due to elections.] Most likely," Diokno said in response to Lyndia Jumilla's question on an ANC's Beyond Politics interview Tuesday night, August 14.
Some lawmakers at the House wants to increase the proposed national budget for next year, saying the shift to cash-based budgeting would lead to "huge cuts" in agencies' funds should the shift be implemented.
For the longest time, agencies' budgets have followed two-year, obligation-based budgeting, which disburses payments as obligations or commitments that may not necessarily be delivered within the same year.
But the proposed shift to a cash-based budget would limit contractual obligations and disbursing payments to goods delivered and services rendered within the fiscal year.
"The congressmen would like to increase the budget probably because of that illusion that it is lower. But you cannot compare the 2018 budget to the proposed one. That's like comparing apples to oranges," the budget chief said.
Supposedly the first cash-based budget, the submitted 2019 National Expenditure Program (NEP) amounts to P3.757 trillion or 19.3% of the country's projected gross domestic product for next year. (READ: What is cash-based budgeting?)
Most lawmakers say this amount is smaller than the 2018 obligation-based budget of P3.767 trillion. However, the 2018 budget's cash-based equivalent at P3.318 trillion, making the 2019 budget still 19.3% higher.
Diokno maintained that the Constitution does not allow Congress to appropriate higher than the budget cap set by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).
"[Based on] the constitutional limit, Congress may not increase [the budget ceiling]. Like in a private corporation, the President submitted a budget. The board or Congress cannot tell the CEO that he needs more money. That doesn't happen," Diokno said.
"They (Congress) ask you to reduce. But Congress may not increase [more than the ceiling]," he added.
Change in leadership: Diokno also said the opposition to cash-based budgeting happened after a change in House leadership.
He said he doesn't know why House Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo would be opposed to such reform, but he said at least the Senate is supportive.
"It boggles my mind. After a change of leadership [in the House], this is bad now, because there was no change in the [appropriations committee] chairmanship. I know Karlo [Nograles], he's for it. But I'm really boggled," Diokno said.
Should Congress reject the proposed expenditure program, the government will have to reenact the 2018 budget.
"Plan B is a reenacted budget. We're not saying there will be a reenacted budget, but we have to prepare for a contingency," Diokno said.
"We go through the 2018 budget line by line to see which will survive. Some of the projects will be done and you cannot repeat that. Those will be savings," he said.
According to Diokno, the DBM "can always submit" to Congress a list of projects for a supplemental budget if there are big savings under a reenacted fiscal plan.
Deemed as corruption-prone, a reenacted budget means that government expenditures next year will be funded by the same amount and within the same allocations as provided in the 2018 approved budget.
During Arroyo's time as president, budgets were reenacted 4 times.
Diokno had previously vowed to correct past government spending habits, and stressed there would be "no reenacted budget in the next 6 years." – Rappler.com