Purge system not only of pork but also of Marcosian features
This year’s commemoration—the 41st—of declaration of martial law should prod the Filipino people not only to purge the budget system of the pork barrel fund, but also of all its “Marcosian features,” features that hinder democracy and distort the “executive-legislative balance” in the management of the people’s resources.
The Marcosian provisions in the budget system that are currently under the executive’s prerogatives are: (1) line-vetoing, (2) reenacted budgets, (3) unilaterally contracted loans, (4) impoundment and (5) reallocation of “savings.” These were inherited from Marcos’ 1973 Constitution and developed further under Presidential Decree No. 1177, or the Budget Reform Decree of 1977.
While there were attempts to adopt safeguards in the 1987 Constitution, we have seen how these Marcosian “legacies” in the budget system were not only kept alive but “honed to perfection.” During Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s reign, she impounded and line-vetoed budget allocations as a way to punish her perceived political enemies, reallocated so-called savings to create new forms of pork barrel funds, reenacted budgets in her favor, and unilaterally contracted loans which added to the country’s burden of illegitimate debts. Arroyo’s brazen manipulation of the executive’s budget powers for her political benefit exposed the continuing institutional weaknesses in our budget process and the budget system’s vulnerability to a return to a Marcos-style fiscal tyranny.
These provisions have also undermined Congress’ “power of the purse.” In theory, Congress wields the power to appropriate. However, Marcos’ interventions to concentrate fiscal powers in the executive have usurped the legislature’s power of the purse and weakened fiscal democracy.
It seems unlikely that President Aquino will tread Arroyo’s path. However, we believe it is necessary that budget reforms are implemented under his term. The current outrage against the pork barrel system must be taken as an opportunity to address these institutional weaknesses and curb the continuing dominant control of the executive over the budget. This is the long-overdue reform we must put in place.
As such, we call for the passage of House Bill No. 2256 or the Savings and Augmentation Bill, and House Bill No. 2257 or the Impoundment Control Bill. The former seeks to prevent the unscrupulous practice of realigning the so-called “savings” to dubious allocations, while the latter aims to regulate the executive’s authority to defer, rescind and reserve expenditures already approved by Congress. We also call for the passage of the Freedom of Information bill so that the bureaucracy cannot hide details of government expenditures from public scrutiny.
And although these budget reforms will weaken the executive’s fiscal powers, we hope that the Aquino administration will push for the passage of these bills. These reform bills are consistent with the President’s desire to find closure to the Marcos dictatorship’s dark past. We must protect the people’s resources from Marcos-style fiscal abuses.
—REP. BARRY GUTIERREZ, Akbayan Party List, [email protected]
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