MANILA - A reenacted national budget next year may give the president more discretionary powers on aligning funds and opens the doors for the creation of his own confidential fund, an analyst said Tuesday.
Joyce Cuaresma, a professor at the University of the Philippines National College of Public Administration and Governance, also warned that this may pave the way for the president to use unprogrammed funds for other purposes such as the upcoming midterm elections.
She made the statement amid delays in Congress' review of the proposed P3.76-trillion 2019 national budget.
The House of Representatives has promised to approve the appropriations measure next week, giving the Senate only a week to review and pass it before the chamber goes on Christmas break.
“Lugi ang taumbayan. Kung 'di ka naka-programa sa presidente, halimbawa sa basic education, DSWD (Department of Social Welfare and Development), lahat ng 'yan walang pondo sa 2019,” Cuaresma told ABS-CBN News in an interview.
(The people will be on the losing end. If the projects are not programmed with the president, for instance in basic education and DSWD, all of that will have no funds in 2019.)
The absence of an approved budget might also enable the president to create a "pork barrel" fund or confidential fund, Cuaresma explained.
The Supreme Court had invalidated discretionary funds such as the corruption-ridden Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), or Congress' pork barrel fund, and the Disbursement Acceleration Program over illegal disbursements and realignments.
"May panahon na nagkaroon tayo ng DAP (Disbursement Acceleration Program), puwede rin magkaroon ng ganiyang problema,” she said.
(There was a time when we had the DAP, that same problem can happen again.)
A reenacted budget in 2019 means the government would implement next year the same budget plan of the current year.
But Cuaresma said Congress should only allow a reenacted budget until the end of January since going beyond the said period is already "inefficiency."
Senate President Vicente Sotto III on Tuesday underlined his chamber's stand not to allow the hasty passage of the proposed 2019 budget.
“We have to scrutinize. It's the people’s money. We cannot be complacent or reckless on its passage. It's not our fault if we suffer a reenacted budget,” he said in a text message.
- report from Sherrie Ann Torres, ABS-CBN News