MANILA - House Minority Leader Ronaldo Zamora urged President Benigno Aquino III not to be combative in his penultimate State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday.
Aquino has been combative towards the Supreme Court (SC) in his last three speeches after the court declared unconstitutional his administration's multibillion-peso Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).
"He's taking setbacks in the SC not in the right way. I would have thought he would have taken that as a guidance as to how he should be proceeding. There are many things he can do. I don't think the President should engage in an all-out, burn- bridges approach," Zamora said.
"I hope the President adopts something like a more careful tone. I hope he doesn't go into the SONA with all torpedoes being launched," he added.
One of these is making sure the next budget law is tightened.
"Make sure there's more careful language used to distinguish programmed and unprogrammed funds, making sure cross- border funding, which clearly the SC has disallowed, will no longer be used. Tightening language may do wonders. It will involve a lot more work," he said.
Another is for Congress to define what savings is in the budget. The court and the executive had clashing definitions of what government savings is.
The DAP aggregates money withdrawn from unimplemented projects midyear.
"You give it a name and call it a program rather than savings, I'm not sure that will fly. What the President needs is better lawyers and better accountants, that may be the start of something important."
"One of the things you should do is work out projects and programs. What you want to do is give Congress the role they should have been undertaking, to itemize the budget to the greatest extent possible. Not that everything has to be done on a line-by-line basis, [but] tighten up on specific provisions," Zamora said.
Zamora added that the SC decision is quite strict. "What you can do is start with when do you declare savings? How do you define savings? Get it out of specific programs. The answer, the thing is very clear, yes."
He hopes Aquino will instead address "how inclusive growth can be accomplished in the last two years. He mentioned it starting two years ago. Inclusive growth isn't going to happen because of SONAs. It's going to happen because of specific programs."