MANILA – Social Watch Philippines lead convenor and former national treasurer Leonor Briones raised red flags in the proposed P3.002-trillion national budget for 2016, including the P500-billion lump sum funds which she feared may be abused in the coming general elections.
“Since this year and 2016, the budget will be a big influence in the elections – that’s been the practice,” Briones said in an interview with dzBB.
“Of course if you’re the administration and you have a candidate, there’s always the preference for areas where your party is strong or where your candidate is based,” she added.
Regarding the national budget allocations, the services given the highest budget were the social services with P1.1059 trillion, economic services with P829.6 billion, public services with P517.9, defense with P129.1 billion, and lump sums, special purpose funds, and un-programmed funds with P500 billion.
Briones then questioned the P500 billion lump sum funds which President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III’s administration could use with discretion in various ‘unsustainable’ projects.
Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr., for his part, earlier gave the assurance that the House committee on appropriations would scrutinize the proposed national budget in their deliberations and ensure that the funding is justified.
Committee chairman Davao City Representative Isidro Ungab also encouraged free and full debates during the budget deliberations.
“We will focus first on the macro-economic assumptions and the general parameters the administration used in putting together the proposed national budget for next year. After that, we will go into the details – department by department, agency by agency. We hope to do that in the next two to three weeks,” he said in a Philippine Star report, adding that he hoped the budget would be approved after the second hearing.
Present in the spending program’s first hearing were Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, Economic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan, Internal Revenue Commissioner Kim Henares, Customs Commissioner Alberto Lina and Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas governor Amando Tetangco.