No way to remove presidential discretion in budget - Palace

by Jorge Carino, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 13 2014 07:06 PM | Updated as of Aug 14 2014 03:06 AM

MANILA - Malacanang said it's next to impossible to heed critics' calls to abolish all the discretionary powers of the executive department in the national budget.

The statement was made by Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda amid threats from anti-pork barrel fund groups to launch a signature campaign for a People's Initiative to remove the discretionary powers.

Lacierda explained there are certain funds under the national budget where the exercise of discretion is required for practical purposes. Funds for disaster response in calamity is one, he said.

"You cannot define with exactitude the amount that you're going to identify to a particular storm or particular natural calamity. These things are force majeure and we only provide a fund for that. If you're asking people to just say 'put a budget, strict budget, for that--for this and that--for a particular natural calamity,' that is an impossibility," he said.

He said there are funds that, by nature, should remain as contingent funds.

“They themselves know it can never happen that way by the sheer nature of natural calamities that are [visiting] in this country,” he said.

Lacierda also defended the Palace against allegations that the Aquino administration is institutionalizing the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), by maintaining congressional pork through informal arrangements between departments and lawmakers.

He insisted DAP is constitutional, only certain acts were declared as unconstitutional.

"What are they? The definition - the way executive branch interpreted savings. On the other hand, you also have the Supreme Court saying without doubt, without reservations that DAP produced beneficial effects for the country. We are able to move slow-moving projects to the fast-moving projects," said Lacierda.

The Palace reiterated there's nothing wrong with redefining savings to make Congress agree with it.

He said nobody has questioned the beneficial effects, and importantly, by a third party like the Supreme Court.

"Kung nakakatulong sa bansa natin, bakit natin hihindian, babawalan? We know already how the Supreme Court defines it, so let's find a way to make it constitutional, and that's what we're doing,” he said.