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Betrayal of Public Interest:
Approval of Budget Means Death to Fiscal Democracy
MANILA, Philippines—Members of debt watchdog, Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC), today visited the dead: three days before the annual Filipino tradition of trooping to graveyards to remember the departed.
“The Office of the House of Representatives reeks of death: death of the power of the purse. We mourn, but we seek justice and call on the Filipino people to remember the faces of those who surrendered, maimed and murdered the democratic space for budgeting the people’s money so that they won’t escape when justice is served,” said Sammy Gamboa, FDC Secretary-General.
Dressed in black, the members of the group laid a wreath and lighted candles outside the gates of the lawmakers’ office in Batasan, Quezon City, in anticipation of the approval of the proposed 2015 national budget on its third and final reading today. The approval was earlier announced by House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte, Jr.
According to Gamboa, the approval of the budget does not only mean death to fiscal democracy but is also tantamount to the solons’ betrayal of public interest.
“FDC has appealed to this Congress to reform the budget for there can be no people-centered budget and budget process without repealing the law on automatic appropriations for debt service and without ending the Executive’s fiscal dictatorship. But this Congress hears only a single voice: that of Malacañang’s,” added Gamboa.
The 1987 Revised Administrative Code enshrines the provision for automatic appropriations for debt, which FDC claims, severely compromises the legislative’s power of the purse because these appropriations do not pass Congress’s scrutiny.
Since Congress cannot increase the budgetary ceiling, only a little amount of the budget is left for Congressional reallocation. Moreover, since the executive can unilaterally contract loans as provided for in the 1987 Constitution, the executive retains the option of further constraining the Congress’s future fiscal space by increasing the deficit today.
Gamboa also stressed the need to finally clarify the ambiguous provisions of the budget law that enable fiscal dictatorship. Specifically, Congress must prevent the abuse of “savings”, “deficit”, “augment”, “impoundment”, “reenacted budgets” and other budgetary terms that only serve to clip the Congressional power of the purse.
“There are pending bills that seek to clarify these ambiguous definitions but these are either ignored or not prioritized. And now the Malacañang-supplied definition of savings, to the tune of how it defined savings when it implemented the illegal Disbursement Acceleration Program, will be given legality when the House approves the national expenditure program,” said Gamboa.
Joining the protest action were leaders from the Partido ng Manggagawa and grassroots organizations, PIGLAS Kababaihan and Kongreso ng Pagkakaisa ng Maralitang Taga-Lungsod. They also lamented and vowed to seek justice for the death of a loved one: that of the people’s democratic fiscal space. And to them, Congress is its graveyard