President Aquino gave the Filipino people a flimsy excuse for the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP)—that it is necessary to expedite the release of "savings" because waiting for the end of the year would be too late.

That projects are slow-moving is not an excuse to exercise fiscal dictatorship. Aquino should not use the Cabinet's failure to efficiently release funds to blackmail and force us to agree to his remedy--DAP. Besides, many of the needs he mentioned would have been addressed by an effective budget planning process.

We have to remember that the budget transmitted to the Congressional Appropriations Committee is drafted and designed by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM). What eventually becomes General Appropriations Act (GAA) is, for the most part, what the DBM produced. This leads us to two possible conclusions: either they have not planned the budget as thoroughly as possible or, and worse, they planned it in such a way that would "necessitate" an allocation beyond what Congress appropriated.

Aquino have skirted two solutions staring his administration at its face: 1) whip up his Cabinet and make it more efficient, even as it had to address good governance issues, and 2) include as part of the proposed budget the items he would have funded to begin with, including contingency funds for disasters. For items the administration could not have prepared for, there is always the legal and constitutional recourse of asking the Congress for a supplemental budget—something which Aquino said they will be doing to cover for DAP-funded projects. Why didn't they just ask for a supplemental budget to begin with?

The Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC) insists that the solution for a sclerotic and unresponsive budget is not an overly powerful executive who will steal the Congressional power of the purse. The end does not justify the unconstitutional fiscal means.

A truly rational and responsive budget can only arise from fiscal democracy, facilitated by stable democratic institutions. Shortcutting the process is a slippery slope towards fiscal dictatorship. By insisting that his administration's shortcuts are justified, Aquino walked a step closer to being the kind of president his father died fighting against. ###

 

 

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