THE Senate approved on third and final reading the proposed P3 trillion national budget for 2016, with the Defense department getting the biggest additional fund.
With 14 affirmative votes, one negative vote and no abstention, the Senate passed the proposed 2016 General Appropriations Act (GAA) after three days of marathon deliberations.
The Defense department received an additional P10 billion, followed by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) P4 billion; and State Universities and Colleges, P4.2 billion.
The Senate slashed the budgets of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) by P2.7 billion and P1.7 billion, respectively.
Next week, Congress will thresh out differences between the Senate version and that of the House of Representatives at the bicameral conference.
Drilon said one of the amendments he introduced in the national budget was the reinstatement of the P500 million to the proposed budget of the Commission on Elections which is intended to speed up the transmission of elections results.
However, Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago slammed the administration for proposing an “ambitious” and lump sum-ridden national budget.
In a privilege speech, which was delivered by Senator Joseph Victor Ejercito, Santiago said the proposed budget is “ambitious” given the Aquino administration’s “epic underspending record” since it came into power.
She noted that the government underspent by P670 billion from 2011 to 2014 and P190 billion in the first seven months of 2015.
“It is not as if the Aquino administration is meeting its promised outputs and outcomes at less cost. It is simply failing in meeting its promises to the Filipino people,” Santiago said, citing poor infrastructure, high unemployment rates, and chronic poverty.
According to her, underspending is rampant because of the government’s “sheer incompetence; the practice of deliberatively bloating the budget request so it can play around with the artificial ‘savings; and poor budget planning by including projects that are not implementation-ready.”
But aside from underspending, Santiago said the most dangerous budget threat is “the continued presence of pork-like allocations and the provisions for lump sum appropriations.”
The practice, she said, creates a “budget within a budget” without the consent of Congress and extends to the heads of departments and agencies a power they do not have.