Sep 092014
Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa on Monday defended before members of Congress Malacañang’s redefinition of savings in the proposed 2015 national budget, saying the executive crafted the new meaning in good faith.

“Insofar as the executive is concerned, the [new definition of savings] was proposed in good faith, believing that we are correct and we do not violate any provisions of the Constitution,” Ochoa told lawmakers at the budget briefing of the Office of the President Monday night.

Last July, the Supreme Court voted unanimously to strike down as unconstitutional specific acts of the Aquino government’s Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).

One of the DAP acts that was declared unconstitutional was the withdrawal of unobligated allotments from the implementing agencies, and the declaration of the withdrawn unobligated allotments and unreleased appropriations as savings prior to the end of the fiscal year and without complying with the statutory definition of savings contained in the General Appropriations Act;

Following the SC’s adverse decision on the DAP, the Palace changed the definition of savings in the proposed 2015 national budget to mean  portions of allocations that “have not been released or obligated” due to “discontinuance or abandonment of a program, activity or project for justifiable causes, at any time during the validity of the appropriations.”

The General Appropriations Acts from 2011 to 2013, when the DAP was implemented, defined savings as funds that are “still available after the completion, or final discontinuance, or abandonment of the work, activity or purpose for which the appropriation is authorized.”

Ochoa refused to answer other questions on savings and DAP, citing the pending resolution of the motion of reconsideration filed by Malacañang.

However, he added that it will be up to Congress to approve the new definition of savings when it passes the national budget for next year.

Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Neri Colmenares, meanwhile, appealed to his colleagues not to approve Malacañang’s new definition of savings, arguing that this would make the budget prone to abuse by the President.

“The new definition of savings will make the entire budget process here useless and for naught… since the President can technically stop any project by the start of the year after the budget has been approved,” Colmenares reasoned.

The Department of Budget and Management has proposed a P2.606 trillion national budget for 2015. — DVM, GMA News

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