MANILA - Former budget chief Butch Abad on Monday defended the use of government savings for the P3.5 billion Dengvaxia program, saying a Supreme Court ruling on the controversial disbursement acceleration program (DAP) allowed its use.
Speaking before a congressional inquiry on the Dengvaxia program, Abad said there is a need to make a distinction between realignment and use of savings.
"The use of savings is a constitutional provision. What the Constitution requires is that when you declare savings, you need to get the approval of the President. You can only augment a deficient item of appropriations, there has to be existing item and that it is deficient," he told lawmakers.
Abad said the Supreme Court ruling on DAP does not prohibit the use of miscellaneous personnel benefits funds (MPBF) as a source for government savings. These savings declared from the MPBF were used in the procurement of Dengvaxia, he said.
He said it was the Department of Health, then headed by Secretary Janette Garin, that requested for the funds based on research and data available at that time.
"Our actions were guided by prudence because there was this alarming problem and there was this potential cure to it," he said.
"We had to defer to them because, as far as we're concerned in the bureaucracy, they are the experts in this area," the former budget chief added.
Had they known the facts that are known today, Abad believes the DOH would have approached the matter differently, as they only made the recommendation based on given data.
Former President Aquino also justified why he used the savings of the 2015 budget to fund the Dengvaxia program. He added he did not know that the vaccine would be bad for seronegative patients.
"'Yung budget bakit yung 2015 na savings ang gagamitin? Ano ba option? Puwede humingi ng supplemental. Kanino hihingi ng supplemental? Sa Kongreso. Kailan natin hihingin? 'Di siyempre pagkatapos ng Christmas, New Year's break. Pag nagresume bago mag Holy Week break tapos bago mag adjourn ng sine die sa taon na mangangampaniya na on an an election year. Sa madaling salita, pag humingi ng supplemental budget kundi magagawa sa loob ng 1-2 araw kalimutan na natin," he said.
Incumbent Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno, however, said the use of MPBF as savings is no longer possible under this administration.
"Under our watch this will never happen. Precisely, we redefined the meaning of savings, savings out of MPBF…will no longer be considered savings. Even if you have savings, the question here - is that the best use of savings under the Constitution. The respective branches of government, they can use savings. But even if you have savings - is this the best use of savings in a drug that is not yet 100 sure," he said. With Patrick Quintos, ABS-CBN News