Next president limited by Aquino admin budget for 2 years – Briones
MANILA, Philippines – With only 22 days to go before election day, the 5 candidates for the presidency are busy with the final stretch of their campaigns, holding multi-city sorties, discussing with various sectoral groups, and promising ambitious projects and programs if they win the race to Malacañang.
But former national treasurer Leonor Briones pointed out that whoever wins the presidency will have to work with the national budget created under the Aquino administration for at least two years.
The new president is set to take oath in July – 7 months into 2016. The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) announced in January that it has already released 90% of the P3-trillion budget to government agencies.
Meanwhile, budget preparations for 2017 has already started, and Congress is set to start its hearings by June.
If the new president's campaign promises and new projects or programs are not in the 2016 and 2017 budgets, Briones raised concerns that this may mean committing unconstitutional acts.
"They cannot touch the 2016 budget anymore because that's already committed. So if they say they [want to give] free lunches to school children, how much is that? Is that budgeted for 2016?" Briones said.
She added, "If it's not in the 2016 budget, the new president cannot do very much unless he does exactly what the preceding administration did – transfer funds and create savings."
The same can be said for the 2017 budget, she said, because it has been prepared under the current administration's budget department, and will already be laid out by July.
"The new president, even if he will oversee the 2017 budget, the 2017 budget is already made. The process starts in February. By July, it will be presented by the DBM, this [administration's] DBM," she said.
Briones is the lead convenor of Social Watch Philippines, which lobbied against the government's controversial Disbursement Acceleration Program. Critics said the spending scheme was unconstitutional because it allowed the executive to augment items in the budget, which is a function of the legislative branch.
In July 2014, the SC struck down 3 schemes under DAP as unconstitutional.
Of the 5 presidential candidates, Briones said that only two have so far made clear positions on lump sum appropriations: Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, who said he wants to abolish the DAP and lawmakers' pork barrel, and Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago, who has rejected the redefinition of savings.
Unawareness of budget
Briones said that the candidates' many promises to voters show that they do not understand the budget process and how they plan to fund their programs.
"It shows a total unawareness of the budgetary implications of what their promises are. And this is why the voters are always disappointed for at least 2 years. Kasi hindi naman niya hawak 'yung budget na 'yan. Akala ninyo 2016 lang...ang 2017 nakalatag na rin 'yan (Because he or she does not hold the budget. You'd think it is only for 2016, but the 2017 budget is already laid out)," she said.
Among the candidates, the administration bet Manuel Roxas II may stand to gain from this if he wins, since the Liberal Party candidate's platform hinges on continuity of the programs under the incumbent's administration.
If the new president wants to push for his own priority programs, he or she will have to go through the bureaucratic process.
"Kung opposition ka, you'll really have to dismantle the entire budget...You have to bear in mind, the bureaucracy is still there. Ang papalitan lang naman political appointees eh. You'll have to introduce a new concept para mapasok 'yung priority mo," she said. – Rappler.com
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