House Minority Leader Neri Colmenares expressed misgivings about the expanded savings coverage incorporated in the proposed P2.606 trillion budget for 2015.
The House of Representatives approved budget measure on second reading before the clock struck midnight on Friday.
Dduring his interpellation of Davao Rep. Isidro Ungab, chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations, Colmenares said the expanded savings coverage wrongly empowers the President to stop projects of his political opponents by citing a vague “justifiable cause” at any given time.
Ungab had insisted that the measure was not much different from the definition of savings under the 2014 General Appropriations Act (GAA) as unspent programmed appropriations as a result of: unfilled positions, discontinuance or abandonment of the program/activity/project (PAP) for justifiable causes, non-commencement of the PAP and decreased cost resulting from improved efficiency during the implementation of after the completion by agencies of their PAP to deliver the targets and services.
But Colmenares questioned the intent of the expanded savings clause. “Why is that the President’s message to agencies is use it or lose it? Lose it to DAP? That is not the message that he should send. What he should have done is say that if you can’t use it, the. don’t propose it [in the budget]. We oppose this definition of savings because it effectively castrates Congress’ power of the purse,” he said.
“Year after year, we miscalculate the budget. This is worth at least P100 billon. I don’t think this miscalculation is acceptable to the Filipino people when it could have funded hospitals and other social services,” Colmenares added, referring to the P144 billion worth of DAP funds which was disbursed by the government.
Ungab said it is wrong to assume that the President has ill motives in spending savings.
“The goal is to spend this budget as much as possible, not to generate savings. Of course, there will be imperfections, but it doesn’t change the fact that the government’s intention to spend,” Ungab said.