Hard on the heels of last weeks’ glaring evidence of the Administration’s ham-handed management of public finances—in the form of the downbeat GDP results for the third quarter—and just days before the Supreme Court will presumably reject the government’s appeal against the July 1 ruling declaring the imaginative “disbursement acceleration program” (DAP) illegal, Malacañang has had the makapal na mukha to request a supplement of P23 billion for the 2014 budget.
The reason, according to Designated Talking Person Abigail Valte, is that the prohibition of the DAP left some programs and projects unfunded. “DAP critics have been saying that we should have not implemented DAP and, instead, asked Congress if we want something funded,” she said.
Besides discourteously reducing the justices of the highest court in the land to “DAP critics,” the Administration Valte speaks for is once again making the erroneous assumption that the rest of us have the same brainpower as the average chicken, and will see the move as a sincere effort by President B.S. Aquino 3rd and his Chief Fixer, este, Budget Secretary Butch Abad, to catch up on some much-needed work while still adhering to the basic directive from the Supreme Court that Congress, and not the Executive, gets to determine where money will be spent.
No. 23 billion times, no.
The explanation given by Abad for the downturn in government spending in the third quarter (it decreased by some 2.9 percent) was that government agencies had not gone ahead with approved spending after being issued “notices of cash allotment” or NCAs, due to confusion over expenditure procedures caused by the adverse ruling against the DAP. If that was true, what Abad was really saying was that:
• Expenditures were approved by the Department of Budget and Management, and
• Money for those expenditures was provided, but
• The money, for various reasons, was not actually spent by the agencies for which it was set aside. Therefore,
• The unspent money (based on the GDP expenditure data provided by the Philippine Statistical Authority, it should be around P9.2 billion) is still lying around somewhere in the government accounts.
That alone makes the request for P23 billion in additional funding—which, it should be noted, has to be spent in less than 29 days—highly suspect. Simply following through with the unmade expenditures would eliminate almost half the supposed need for additional funding, and in reality, probably all of it; after all, the law does not permit supplemental spending for new allocations, only to fill in deficiencies in already-budgeted programs, as several lawmakers who are unenthusiastic about the Administration’s “supplemental” request have already pointed out.
And again, it should be stressed that “projects that were supposed to be funded by DAP” should not even exist in the 2014 budget, according to the Administration’s own testimony to the Supreme Court. In late January, then-Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza—in a hearing also attended by Abad—informed the Court that the need for DAP had been satisfied and the program ended in mid-2013, which means, of course, that nothing in the 2014 budget should have been DAP-related. Abad, Valte, and the rest of the government officials who parroted the Palace line without thinking it through in the aftermath of the third-quarter GDP release obviously forgot about that.
A junior loan officer in an average bank would tear the government’s reason for needing extra money to shreds in two minutes or less; there is no reason why the Legislature should be any more inclined to be party to what is at best terrible fiscal management, and otherwise—not to put too fine a point on it—actually looks like a rather amateurish scam. “Not getting ripped off by their own government for a change” would be a nice Christmas present for the Filipino people, one that can be given at very little cost—it’s the least the people’s representatives could do, and they should see to immediately by rejecting the Palace’s extortion attempt without further discussion.