MANILA (UPDATE) - Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Neri Colmenares believes the Aquino administration has as much as P500 billion in savings to date.
Colmenares said the government had P223 billion in savings in 2013. He said the National Expenditure Program (NEP) also listed some P257 billion in funds for 2014.
The lawmaker said the savings could easily have gone to the disbursement acceleration program of Malacanang if it had not been struck down as unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.
"Malaki pala pwede na DAP based sa sinubmit na NEP ng Malacanang. Bakit kailangan mangutang? Napakalaki savings, P500 billion na savings 2013 at 2014," he said.
Aside from government’s savings, Colmenares also intends to ask the government about its proposed redefinition of savings and the lump sum items in the proposed 2015 national budget.
As much as P500 billion in lump sum special purpose funds are present in the proposed budget.
Colmenares explained that the Palace's proposal to allow government to declare savings midyear to realign it to other projects, a mechanism similar to the now unconstitutional disbursement acceleration program, allows the government to have two budgets. The first budget is from January to June and is approved by Congress while the second is from July to December based on the realignments of the executive.
The party-list representative said that based on the Palace's proposal, the executive will be empowered to discontinue projects anytime so these can be realigned as savings.
He said this would facilitate the bloating of the budgets of agencies with a bad record of project implementation.
The Makabayan bloc is preparing for the start of budget deliberations at the House of Representatives Wednesday.
The deliberations will begin with the Development Budget Coordinating Committee presentation on the macroeconomic fundamentals and the use of savings.
Kabataan party-list Rep. Terry Ridon has said the Makabayan bloc will actively scrutinize the budget.
GRASSROOTS PARTICIPATORY BUDGETING
The Makabayan bloc met with their staff earlier today to prepare for the budget deliberations. The lawmakers are zeroing in on Malacañang's proposal to legitimize DAP-funded projects by redefining savings.
Ridon said the bloc will scrutinize the grassroots participatory budgeting (GPB) formerly known as the bottom up budgeting. He said this is a DAP clone for local government units since it gives local executives the power to allocate money for projects without congressional approval.
In an earlier statement, the lawmaker said GPB will get a 4.5 percent or close to P1 billion increase next year, with the total proposed GPB budget for 2015 pegged at P20.9 billion.
This is according to the proposed 2015 national budget submitted by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).
This P20.9 billion budget for LGU projects is on top of the P501-billion “Special Purpose Funds” for 2015, which includes a P2.9-billion Local Government Support Fund.
Under the GPB process, select LGUs are asked to come up with a "wish list" amounting to an average of P15 million worth of projects that they want to be funded by the national government, through consultations with local basic sector organizations (BSOs) and civil society organizations (CSOs).
Ridon has said the GPB is "highly vulnerable to corruption" for containing a "DAP-like" provision that enables local government officials to cancel and replace projects already indicated in the annual General Appropriations Act (GAA).
Administration critics say the GPB could be used as preparation for the 2016 elections.
Liberal Party member Bolet Banal has denied this, saying the LP has yet to finalize its 2016 plans.
The GPB is administered by the Department of the Interior and Local Government headed by Secretary Mar Roxas, who is one of the possible contenders in the 2016 polls.