In the news item “Senators stand by Aquino on Dengvaxia decision” (12/16/17), it was reported that Sen. JV Ejercito questioned the use of savings to purchase the antidengue vaccines and decried the absence of the required appropriation from Congress for the P3.5-billion immunization program undertaken during the previous administration, thereby precluding congressional intervention.
In relation thereto, former budget secretary Florencio Abad was quoted as saying during the Senate hearing on the controversial purchase of Dengvaxia vaccines that “it is normal for the government to use savings to purchase medicines.”
It appears that Abad is skating on thin ice, as it were, by making such an assertion which, in my view, is an egregious error that has raised “red flags.”
On the contrary, savings per se are not normally utilized as funding source for government financial transactions.
Savings arise from unexpended balances of appropriations authorized in the annual General Appropriations Act for the national government which, as mandated by law, “shall revert to the unappropriated surplus of the General Fund at the end of the fiscal year and shall not thereafter be available for expenditure except by subsequent legislative enactment” (Sec. 28, Ch. 4, Bk. VI, Executive Order No. 292, s. 1987, the Administrative Code of 1987) because of the constitutional injunction that “No money shall be paid out of the Treasury except in pursuance of an appropriation made by law” (Sec. 29 (1), Art. VI, 1987 Constitution) Thus, it is clear that Abad’s use of savings without any legislative appropriation to purchase the antidengue vaccines is assailable as legally and constitutionally infirm.
I am curious to know if the questioned expenditure was subjected to audit examination and scrutiny by the Commission on Audit with a view to determining its legality and propriety. Given the legal and constitutional infirmity of the expenditure, as just demonstrated, it should have been disallowed outright in audit. In the interest of transparency, the COA should forthwith emerge from its cocoon of silence and report to the people its audit intervention in the premises.
At the same time, former budget secretary Abad has a lot of explaining on why he should not be indicted for inexcusable/culpable violation of the law and the Constitution.
BARTOLOME C. FERNANDEZ JR.,
retired senior commissioner,
Commission on Audit