DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/29 August) — “The DAP (Disbursement Acceleration Program) and PDAF (Priority Development Assistance Fund) never left us… they are still alive and kicking,” former senator Panfilo Lacson Sr. on Friday said as he lambasted the proposed P3.002 trillion budget for 2016, claiming most government agencies have no absorptive capacity to allocate the funds for development projects.
Lacson told the 8th General Membership Meeting of the Davao City Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Inc. (DCCCII) at the Grand Men Seng Hotel that he will file a petition before the Supreme Court on September 1 to prohibit the implementation of “pork barrel” in its latest form.
“I cannot really understand dahil while we keep on saving, we keep on borrowing,”
Lacson said, adding the Executive Department amassed some P500 billion from the unspent budget of the government agencies last year as savings, when these could have benefited far-flung municipalities in the countryside.
The savings would then be redirected to fund the lumpsum projects at the discretion of President Benigno S. Aquino III, which the Supreme Court has declared unconstitutional, Lacson said.
He said underspending of government funds would hurt the gross domestic product (GDP) of the country to a certain extent.
“The bottomline is why propose a bigger budget if we cannot spend it all? We are having a budget deficit year in and year out, so I don’t think we have experienced a balanced budget,” he said.
Lacson proposed the budget be downloaded directly to the local government units (LGUs) and to make them accountable for whatever infrastructure and livelihood projects they fund.
That way, he added development will trickle down to the grassroots level.
“Lahat ng budget naiipon sa Metro Manila, pag may pumunta na mga mayors, they will have to beg for projects, they have to beg for funds. Why don’t we just download the budget to them, give them enough responsibility, and make them accountable? That model is implementable and doable because andami na sobra sa national budget. That P500 billion, kayang-kaya mag trigger ng development,” he said.
Lacson also proposed that national government not set target revenue collections on income generating-agencies upon which they base the budget appropriation for the next year, to prevent budget deficit.
“Siguro ang mas magandang approach, if I may suggest a modification, dapat tanungin ang revenue-collecting agencies, magkano ang kayang i-collect, and then we base our proposed budget sa makokolekta in such a way hindi magkakaroon ng deficit,” he said.
Last Monday, Bayan Muna representative Carlos Isagani Zarate said Malacanang cannot just declare unused funds as savings without the approval of Congress.
If a government agency fails to obligate the funds by June 30, 2016, the Executive Department can declare it as savings, Zarate added.
Even if the agencies will be able consummate all the funds for projects by the timeline set by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), he said chances are no budget will be left for the next officials for their projects.
Malacanang has given Congress until October 9 to pass the 2016 proposed budget. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)