MANILA - Malacañang on Thursday said the cash-based budget system preferred by the executive branch will help lessen corruption.
This, following Senator Panfilo Lacson's warning that discretionary funds, a form of funding outlawed by the Supreme Court for being prone to misuse, may have been inserted into the proposed P3.757-trillion 2019 budget.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque argued that in a cash-based budget system, projects will be finished much faster, leaving little room for fund misuse.
Under this system, government may appropriate, bid out, complete and pay projects within a single year,
“Dahil natatapos po ang proyekto sa lalong mabilis na panahon, ‘yan po ay magreresulta sa mas mabilis na delivery ng proyekto at biyaya sa ating mga kababayan. Pupuwede rin po na mabawasan ang korapsyon, dahil maiiwasan po ang delays at kinakailangan na matapos na ‘no sa lalong mabilis na panahon ang mga proyekto. Baka po mabawasan ang mga ghost projects,” Roque said in a press briefing.
(Because projects are finished faster, the delivery of goods and services to Filipinos will also be expedited. This will also lessen corruption because it will prevent delays in project implementation. This might also lessen the existence of ghost projects.)
Malacañang and the House of Representatives had been at odds when the latter suspended budget hearings as lawmakers opposed the cash-based budget system.
After talks between President Rodrigo Duterte and House Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, the impasse was broken and the chamber agreed to resume budget deliberations.
For the longest time, lawmakers have been used to deliberating on an obligation-based budget, which allows the government to appropriate, bid out, complete and pay projects across 2 years or more.
As an effect of the cash-based budget, allocations for government agencies were also whittled down, reportedly prompting complaints from agency heads. Cash-based budgeting has been blamed for a cut of P300 billion in capital outlay or new projects in the 2019 budget.
Lacson, who never used discretionary funds as a lawmaker, said the standoff between the Palace and the House started because lawmakers could not accept budget cuts for the infrastructure projects in their respective districts.
“Some congressmen are protesting the budget cuts for ‘their infra projects’ aka PDAF,” Lacson said in a tweet, referring to the Priority Development Assistance Fund, which was scrapped after the bust of a multibillion-peso fund diversion scheme was busted in 2013.
“They need massive detox and full rehab(ilitation) so they can lick the more dangerous addiction for money. Tokhang may be good after all.”
Responding to Lacson’s statement, Roque insisted that the 2019 budget is “pork-free.”
“The President is unrelenting in his campaign against graft and corruption and he does not condone pork barrel,” Roque, a former lawmaker, told reporters.
Lacson has long kept close watch of possible insertions of discretionary funds in the annual budget.