Friday, October 25, 2013

Good Intentions Do Not Cure Constitutional Defects

On Wednesday the Senate Finance Committee headed by Senator Chiz Escudero passed the President’s mammoth pork barrel, euphemistically called Special Purpose Fund (SPF), for 2014 amounting to a massive P600B. Along with it, it also endorsed to the plenary session the Executive Department’s unprogrammed funds for P139B and DBM’s close to a billion-peso lump sum outlay, both derivative nomenclature for the same fatty pork barrel.
Senator Escudero promised the committee would introduce amendments to the bill that would itemize “as best as we can, as far as practicable,” and that there would be provisions on their release, on reporting requirements and transparency, “so that it will make it almost like a line item.”
He cited as reason for its seeming hasty approval of the SPF its being “pressed for time to approve the budget (next year’s) within the year.” This sounds like a good intention. But that is besides the point. “Almost like a line item” is not a line item, thus not in consonance with the constitutional requirement that proposed expenditure be made as line items.
This persisting disregard of the edict of the constitution is what has taken us to the mess we are in now. If the Executive department is too indolent to craft the budget for Congress to deliberate and approve in time before the year ends, and in a manner that satisfies the requirements of the Constitution, then we must go the US way of shutting down the government for Congress’ Failure to pass the Budget Law or the General Appropriations Act (GAA).
The line mechanism prescribed by the Constitution is in acknowledgment of the perils of discretion in the use of funds. Where there is discretion, there is always corruption, as we have painfully learned.
Sadly, the Senate while condemning pork barrel, moves quickly anew to perpetuate the same in next year’s budget. This is proving what has been observed before of Lawmakers’ chorus in demonizing pork barrel as outrage over its scam erupted: it was hokey.

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