MANILA, Philippines–Opposition party-list Bayan Muna is rejecting proposed changes to be made by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to the 2015 national budget, which was okayed last week by the House of Representatives.
The DBM is looking to include provisions granting the Palace the ability to declare any item savings and allocate these as pork barrel funds to be used by its political allies.
Referring to errors in the amounts that the DBM aims to change, Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares said: “The DBM has admitted that there are errata in the budget we passed. We’re going to demand that the moment they insert the errata, [the budget] must be subjected to deliberations again. We didn’t see these errata, so we approved the wrong budget. It’s as good as if the second reading did not take place.”
The proposed 2015 General Appropriation Act (GAA) was approved by the House on Friday, upon second reading. A third reading is to take place, for final approval, but this will be just a formality.
Colmenares, however, claimed that the DBM sought insert a “redefinition” or “reprioritization” of savings in a number of budget items.
“These terms are pork (barrel funds). For example, a P1.5-billion budget for a bridge. The DBM will then say it is reprioritizing and these (funds) wouldn’t be for a bridge but for another (project. That is the only definition of pork. It is a public fund in which only one person decides the project and the beneficiary,” he said
As such, Colmenares stated that he would ask Budget Secretary Florencio Abad and Davao Rep. Isidro Ungab, the appropriations committee chair, to clarify the matter of the alleged errors.
“It is unclear whether the DBM has officially admitted that they have inserted errata in the budget. The moment they admit that they inserted something, that makes it invalid,” he said.
Meanwhile, Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. said he was unaware of any errors, and dismissed Colmenares’ supposed attempt to nullify the approval of the budget.
“We expected the budget to be approved as scheduled in the House. I believe he (Colmenares) is just questioning the definition of savings. About the errata, I don’t know about that,” Belmonte said.
Abad likewsie pointed out that the budget is now out of the hands of Malacañang.“ The House has approved the budget on second reading. If Representative Colmenares wants that approval reconsidered he should address himself to the House. It is beyond the executive.”