Presidential fiat-A A +A
Tuesday, July 8, 2014
ON July 18, 2012, the Department of Budget Management issued Circular 541, declaring that due to the “under-spending of various agencies”, the President ordered on June 27, 2012 “the withdrawal of all unobligated allotments of all agencies with low level of obligations as of June 30, 2012 both for continuing and current allotment”. The said funds were realigned and pooled as Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).
The pooled withdrawn allotments, according to Section 5.7 of the same Circular, may be spent or disbursed in the following manner:
1. Reissued later to the original program or projects from which it was withdrawn or realigned to other existing programs and projects of the agency from where it came.
2. Augment existing programs and projects of other agencies
3. Fund priority programs and projects not considered in the 2012 budget but expected to be started or implemented within the current year.
Questions were raised, can Malacanang claim these “midyear” withdrawn funds as savings that it can realign to other items? No part of a fund appropriated for a fiscal year can be deemed as savings before the end of that fiscal year. Also, funds withdrawn and realigned does not qualify as savings under the law.
The problem with porks lies on its nature which encourages patronage politics. It also becomes a source of corruption in the bidding of projects and its implementation. Thus, government officials, with the aide of unscrupulous business entities and individuals are able to profit from the impoverishment of the public.
Malacanang has defended itself from the allegation. "With savings and realignment, the President is given the power to do that under the Constitution," Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte said. It was also found that Malacanang started DAP in 2011 long before NBC Circular 541 was issued.
In many ways, DAP is a presidential pork barrel. While ordinary pork barrels are provided by law, it only rest through a presidential fiat. Its disposition rests on the discretion of the pork holder to select the projects and their beneficiaries. Under the system, the budget can be realigned anytime of the year, from projects approved by Congress to project and budgetary items not found in the General Appropriations Act. In effect, the President drafts, approves and implements the budget.
With patronage politics, public funds intended for basic services such as health care, clean water, infrastructure, housing and livelihood are provided as if it is a privilege for local communities to have it.
On July 1, in response to the filing of nine petitions that questioned the power of the executive branch to control budgetary appropriations, the Supreme Court ruled on the constitutionality of the DAP. It identified as unconstitutional, three schemes under the DAP. These are the creation of savings prior to the end of the fiscal year and the withdrawal of these funds for implementing agencies; the cross-border transfer of the savings from one department to another and the allotment of funds for projects, activities and programs not outlined in the General Appropriations Act.
The DAP has already been identified by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) as the source of additional funds released to senators and congress representatives after the conviction of Chief Justice Renato Corona in 2012. That speaks for itself. But other than that, where did the fund went? Email comments to firstname.lastname@example.org
Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on July 08, 2014.