MANILA, Philippines – The Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC) branded the recent decision of The House Committee on Appropriations to abruptly end the budget presentations of the Office of the President (OP), Office of the Vice President (OVP) and its attached agencies as Congress’ capitulation to the “fiscal aristocracy” of the President.

Lawmakers said they will instead discuss the nitty gritty of the President and the Vice President’s budgets in the sub-committee level “out of respect for the highest positions in the land” which they said was “more or less a tradition in the appropriations committee.”

FDC criticized it as a feudal custom that has no place in our modern budget process. The group said that while the budget briefings are mere presentations, lawmakers often use them to extract details, clarifications and to develop legislative measures concerning different budget proposals.

“To insulate the President and the Vice-President’s budgets from such process wherein other government agencies and officials were duly subjected into, just to keep up with tradition is pure aristocracy,” FDC Vice President Edwin Chavez said.

Chavez said Congress’ apparent default in the scrutiny of the President and the Vice President’s budgets is virtually an admission of defeat if not of its insecurities to the enormous fiscal powers wielded by the executive department.

“In a time when the annual national government budget is being asked to be scrutinized for alleged double insertions, unreleased funds as well as illegitimate loans and projects, Congress’ decision to cut short the proceedings of the budgets of the two highest positions in government is a sign of weakness,” Chavez said.

At the start of Congress deliberation of the proposed P 1.41 trillion 2009 National Government Budget, FDC already challenged Congress to reclaim its lost constitutional power of the purse by curbing the executive department's unregulated fiscal powers.

It called for the clipping of presidential powers by amending the Revised Administrative Code of 1987 as instituted by Executive Order 292. The group specifically called for the removal of the automatic appropriations for debt service (Section 31-B) and the presidential powers of impoundment (Section 38) and realignment of savings.

It also enjoined Congress to put limits and parameters on the unilateral contracting of loans by amending the Foreign Borrowings Act of 1966 and the Official Development Assistance Act of 1996.

Meanwhile, the group castigated presidential son and Pampanga Rep. Juan Miguel “Mikey” Macapagal Arroyo for seconding the motion to set aside the President’s proposed 2009 budget. The group said it was typical and expected of a congressional representative who promotes more of his family’s interest instead of the people’s welfare. -30-

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