MANILA, Philippines - Senator Joker Arroyo, the lone lawmaker in the upper House who disapproved of the proposed 2013 national budget, on Wednesday described its various versions as "xerox copies" of each other.
Arroyo, in explaining his vote, criticized the swift passage of the 2013 General Appropriations Act (GAA) sponsored by Senator Franklin Drilon.
"If you look at the budget as prepared by Malacanang, and the budget as approved by the House, and the budget as we in the Senate has just approved, all these three look alike as if they are xerox copies. Aren't we expected to scrutinize and if need be, make changes thereon?" he asked.
He also lashed out at the lump sum appropriations in the national budget which, he says, grow every year.
"This year, the gargantuan lump sum appropriations which are ultimately disposable by the President, directly and indirectly, has become bigger. This is anathema to budget making. Itemization of expenditures, whenever possible and practicable, is the preferred mode," Arroyo explained.
He expressed concern that lawmakers have "lost the power of the purse."
"Over the years, every President seeks to enlarge his powers in the budget. And over the years, every Congress feebly tries to rescind this executive encroachment but the legislature always loses out. For the 2013 budget, the president has more powers than in the 2012 budget," he warned.
He said it took the Senate only 5 days of passive plenary deliberations, from sponsorship to period of amendments, to complete the debate on 2013 budget.
"In contrast, we spent 2 weeks of heated debates on the P40 billion sin tax measure," he said. - report from Jasmin Romero, ABS-CBN News