It took the House of Representatives less than an hour to pass the P2.268 trillion proposed budget for next year which was shorn of the Congressional discretionary fund or the Priority Development Asssistance Fund (PDAF) of the lawmakers.
Voting 219- 22, House members approved the budget bill on third reading. The measure transferred the jurisdiction of the P25 billion PDAF to various government agencies such as the Department of Education and Commission on Higher Education (P3.691 billion), Department of Health (P3.691 billion), Department of Labor and Employment (P3.691 billion), Department of Social Welfare and Development (P4.713 billion) and the Department of Public Works and Highways (P9.654 billion).
“Not all those requests for amendments were accepted. The major amendment we did is that we scrapped the PDAF and distributed the lumpsum fund to various agencies,” Rep. Isidro Ungab of Davao City, Chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations, said.
But Reps. Neri Colmenares of Bayan Muna party-list and Joselito Atienza of Buhay Hayaang Yumabong party-list said Congress put the country at risk because it has approved an unconstitutional budget.
Colmenares and Atienza noted that House Bill 2630 does not outlaw the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), a mechanism used by President Benigno Aquino 3rd to realign the unused fund appropriated by Congress to his priority projects to spur economic growth.
“This budget is unconstitutional because it allows the President to impound or release the budget in the middle of the year without the courtesy of seeking Congressional approval. This is not a budget for the interest of the people so I am voting no,” Colmenares said.
“We do not know what budget we are passing, if how much and what it contains,” he added.
Atienza said that it was the first time he encountered such voting for the budget.
“What if the Supreme Court declares the DAP unconstitutional and all the lump sum appropriations of the Executive? Then we have approved an unconstitutional budget,” he added.
But for Rep. Ben Evardone of Eastern Samar who also serves the Vice Chairman of the House Appropriations panel, the bill embraced reforms to plug fund misuse and wastage with the realignment of PDAF.
He also defended the President’s control of discretionary funds.
“What is a President without the wherewithal to respond to a crisis? What is a President that cannot fund the most basic humanitarian gesture? What is a President without the flexibility to act on a matter of national urgency?” Evardone said.