DBM withdraws errata for 2015 budget

Angela Casauay

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DBM withdraws errata for 2015 budget
Party-list lawmakers have suspected that the errata submitted by the budget department could be midnight insertions in what they call an 'election budget'

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) has withdrawn the errata for the proposed P2.606 trillion budget for 2015 after party-list lawmakers raised concerns that the corrections could lead to “midnight insertions.”

Davao City Representative Isidro Ungab, chairman of the appropriations committee in the House of Representatives, said he was “not informed of any reason by the secretariat” on why DBM withdrew the errata.

“As per our secretariat, DBM submitted their errata last Friday but was later withdrawn. It was not returned to the committee. I have no idea how many pages (the corrections were) since I did not see the said errata,” Ungab said. 

The House of Representatives passed the proposed P2.606 trillion budget for 2015 on second reading Friday, September 26. 

It was the biggest budget ever approved for a year leading up to a national election. Budget watchdog Social Watch Philippines has called it an “elections budget.”

Following the approval, the House created a small committee to discuss individual amendments from lawmakers. Members of the sub-committee met Thursday, October 2.  

During plenary deliberations on the budget bill, ACT Teachers Representative Antonio Tinio asked for a copy of the proposed corrections when he interpellated Ungab. Tinio warned that the errata could be “midnight insertions” that would create more lump sums in the budget. 

Tinio’s ally in the Makabayan bloc, Bayan Muna Representative Neri Colmenares, later called for the withdrawal of the passage of the budget since lawmakers were not able to discuss and consider the errata. 

Eastern Samar Representative Ben Evardone earlier said in a press conference he was “told” the errata was 100 pages long, although he admitted that he did not see it himself. 

Asked to explain the corrections, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad told reporters on the sidelines of a Senate hearing that the corrections only covered typographical errors and wrong figures. 

Some of the corrections included wrong performance indicators for some government agencies, Abad said. 

It also included reallocations that had yet to be indicated in the budget bill, including increased allocations for additional classrooms and farm-to-market roads under the Department of Public Works and Highways.

Abad said the DBM also had to recompute the number of people the Department of Social Welfare and Development needed to serve after the poverty rate went down by two percent.

During budget deliberations, the leftist Makabayan bloc had opposed lump sums in the budget, as well as Malacañang’s proposed changes on how “savings” are defined under the General Appropriations Act. 

Under Section 67 of the general provisions of the proposed 2015 budget, the executive branch will be given the power to declare as savings unused funds as a result of programs, activities, or projects that were discontinued or abandoned “for justifiable causes at any time during the validity of the appropriations.”

Colmenares warned the provision could allow Aquino to realign the budget at will by stopping projects at any time and declaring funds intended for them as savings. Abad, meanwhile, admitted the proposed redefinition of what would constitute as savings intends to cure the Supreme Court decision declaring certain acts under the administration-backed Disbursement Acceleration Program, a pump-prime mechanism meant to boost the economy, as unconstitutional.  

Congress is currently on recess. Lawmakers will report back for work on October 20.   Rappler.com

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