Are we back in the dark ages of the budget?
Continuing with the legally challenged Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) is just like reverting to the “dark days” of the budget under former Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s term, Senator Panfilo Lacson said in his privilege speech on Thursday night.
“The way I look at it, if we cannot scrap the DAP and fail to convince the Supreme Court to declare it as unconstitutional, it would be as if we were back in the PGMA administration.”
The senator raised several questions on DAP, a mechanism formulated by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) and the Development Budget Coordinating Committee (DBCC) on September 2011 and approved by Pres. Benigno Aquino 3rd a month after.
Lacson asked as to how much of the P142.23 billion released from DAP was actually sourced from savings and additional revenue sources and why was 9 percent of it or P12.8 billion was coursed through the senators.
“If the programs and projects were actual budgetary items in the GAA [General Appropriations Act], why the need for the endorsement of legislators? Does it mean that they were not originally included in the GAA?” Lacson asked.
“If that is so, then the release of the P12.8 billion fund to these programs and projects under DAP is illegal and unconstitutional.”
According to Lacson, there is a total of P669 billion funds available for DAP under the 2012 budget appropriations. These include the overall savings, earmarked revenues, unreleased and continuing appropriations, unobligated allotment, and unprogrammed funds.
He also pressed that if the DAP was approved by the DBCC–an inter-agency body composed by the Executive Secretary and the heads of the DBM, Department of Finance, National Economic and Development Authority, and Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas—and the so-called Cabinet Clusters, then several others escape accountability.
“Therefore, other members of the DBCC and the Cabinet Clusters escape accountability. They must also be named respondents,” Lacson said.
In the six petitions against DAP filed before the Supreme Court, only three are named respondents, namely Aquino, DBM Secretary Florencio Abad, and Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr.
Lacson also added that the National Budget Circulars (NBC) 541 and 543 are designed to “strengthen and facilitate” the funding requirements of DAP.
NBC 541, dated July 18, 2012, allowed the DBM to withdraw agencies’ unobligated allotments as early as June 30, 2012.
NBC 543, on the other hand, changed the two-year validity to one year of all obligations under maintenance and other operating expenditures (MOOE) and capital outlays (CO).
The two NBCs were issued a year after the DAP was formed.
“Clearly, the two DBM [NBCs] were designed to strengthen and facilitate the funding requirements of DAP,” he said. JHOANNA BALLARAN