Senators question P67-B unprogrammed funds in budget

By Ron Gagalac, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 06 2010 07:39 PM | Updated as of Oct 07 2010 03:39 AM

MANILA, Philippines - Senators on Wednesday sounded the alarm over the P66.9 billion unprogrammed funds in the proposed 2011 national budget.

At the hearing of the Senate Finance Committee, Sen. Teofisto Guingona III asked Budget Secretary Butch Abad if the department can do away with the unprogrammed funds since there are no specific items for which these will be utilized.

Guingona pointed out that such funds were a major source of corruption during the previous administration of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

"Specify the purpose for what it is intended, it is so broad. It gives DBM [Department of Budget and Management] a blank cheque to almost everything. Congress should know what it is authorizing about," he said.

However, Abad said the unprogrammed funds were necessary for quick response to unforeseen events such as natural disasters.

"There are events you cannot anticipate that you should provide for," he said.

Abad added it would be unreasonable if Congress will have to approve funding each time a disaster happens.

Sen. Francis Escudero agreed with Abad. "I agree that the President must have some flexibility in terms of funding such unforeseen events."

But he noted, "I join Senator Guingona that there must be some limitations to it."

Senate Finance Committee chair Franklin Drilon, for his part, suggested that DBM outline where the unprogrammed funds could possibly be used.