Is Congress losing power of the purse?

by RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 21 2014 02:14 PM | Updated as of Aug 21 2014 10:15 PM

MANILA - Social Watch Philippines convenor and former National Treasurer Leonor Briones said only a fraction of the P2.6 trillion national budget for 2015 will undergo Congressional scrutiny.

In a media forum, Briones said: “Napansin ko over the years, talagang lumiit at lumiit ang jurisdiction ng Congress sa [National Expenditure Program]. Sa State of the Nation Address, sabi niya ang national budget P2.606 trillion. Very exciting yan. Pero kung titignan ang ipapasa ng Kongreso, ang GAA ay P1.7 trillion lang.”

Briones explained the P2.6 trillion includes some P866 billion in automatic appropriations, which Congress doesn’t review.

Of the remaining P1.7 trillion, about P500 billion are special purpose funds under presidential control. Another P700 billion are personnel services.

This leaves a mere P600 billion in agency budgets for projects that will undergo scrutiny.

Briones reminded the public that Congress has the power of the purse, according to the 1987 Constitution.

She renewed her call for vigilance over the budget especially since the government has asked Congress to pass laws redefining savings.

One proposal would allow the president to declare savings anytime of the year, which means it can be realigned without congressional authorization.

“Kailangan na bantayan natin kung ipapasa yung bills. Ang DBM may proposed bill na sila mismo sumulat na babaguhin ang definition ng savings. May isa ring congressman na gustong baguhin ang konsepto ng savings. First sentence pa lang ng congressional bills, the president can already declare savings anytime of the year,” she said.

Briones said Congress has to play ball with the executive for purposes of reelection, that’s why the public will have to be vigilant.