Just errata? DBM inserts new items in 2015 budget – Bayan Muna

Angela Casauay

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Just errata? DBM inserts new items in 2015 budget – Bayan Muna
Among the insertions identified by the party-list group is P423 billion for the Department of the Interior and Local Government, which is headed by the ruling party's presumed standard bearer in the 2016 elections

MANILA, Philippines – Party-list representatives accused the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) on Monday, October 27, of inserting new items in the proposed 2015 budget in the guise of errata resubmitted to the House of Representatives.

Months after the proposed budget was submitted to Congress, the DBM sent a list of items that it claimed were mere just errata. It withdrew the list in early October when some congressmen demanded to scrutinize the items. It had since submitted again a 269-page errata.

However, Bayan Muna lawmakers said the list contained items that Congress had not deliberated on. In a statement, the party said the following are among the insertions that they have identified so far:

  • P423 billion for the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG’s budget in the original proposal is P104.571 billion)
  • P8 billion contingent fund for the Bangsamoro
  • P3.281 billion for the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit
  • P1.6 billion for the Department of Finance-Bureau of Customs 

This is the first time that specific details of the errata have been revealed, a month after it was first submitted to the House appropriations committee.

Bayan Muna Representative Neri Colmenares earlier threatened to take the matter to the Supreme Court should administration allies in the House insist on passing the budget without tackling the items included in the errata.

The 2nd reading vote marks the end of the period of amendments for a bill. When a bill is taken up for 3rd reading, all amendments previously approved in the 2nd reading are included in the final version of the bill for final voting. 

Colmenares said the insertions “undermine the power of Congress,” which has the power of the purse among the government branches under the Constitution. 

The House is set to pass the 2015 budget on 3rd and final reading this week before Congress goes on a Halloween break. 

Tagged by budget watchdog Social Watch Philippines as an “elections budget,” the 2015 budget is the biggest budget approved for a year leading up to a national election. 

The DBM errata were first submitted to the House appropriations committee just days after the House passed the proposed 2015 Appropriations Act in September. 

DBM withdrew the submission after party-list lawmakers slammed the document as being “midnight insertions.” 

But DBM resubmitted the errata just as the House was set to pass the bill on 3rd and final reading. 

Palace defends insertions

The budget department has yet to make the errata public. 

In a Malacañang briefing, Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda defended the errata, saying that 80% of the document is composed of corrections to typographical errors. 

Other details include the disaggregation of projects under the Grassroots Participatory Program, which the House required the DBM to do, Lacierda said. 

Lacierda admitted the executive branch submitted “additional provisions” noted by Bayan Muna, including the P8 billion contigent fund for the Bangsamoro, P3.3 billion in the “international commitment fund” for the hosting of the 2015 APEC Summit, and the P1.6 billion fund for general administration and support services of the Bureau of Customs. 

He did not mention the P423 billion for the DILG, which is headed by the ruling Liberal Party’s presumed standard bearer in the 2016 elections.

The errata also “identifies the additional requirements of various agency programs,” such as the  P53.5 million for the forest land management project for loan proceeds of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, as well as P299 million for expenses for market and product development of the Department of Tourism, and P92.7 million for the establishment of the Department of Trade and Industry Go Negosyo centers.

Bayan Muna wants the House to tackle the budget bill anew due to the insertions.  

Under the general provisions of the 2015 budget, the House approved Malacañang’s proposed changes to the definition of “savings, a move aimed at “curing” unconstitutional acts under the Disbursement Acceleration Program, a pump prime mechanism meant to boost the economy. 

The changes under Section 67 of the General Appropriations Act include giving the executive branch the power to declare projects that have been discontinued “for justifiable causes at any given time.” Bayan Muna has also opposed this provision.  Rappler.com 

Summary of 2015 Budget Errata

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