Monday, August 4, 2014

Instead of piecemeal amendments, better to codify budget laws and rules - Angara

MANILA-Instead of piecemeal amendments to budget laws, Congress should instead "codify" laws, rules including “best practices and reforms” on public sector budgeting, Senator Sonny Angara emphasized, in reaction to reports that Malacanang will push for a bill redefining budgetary savings and governing its use.

“The time has come to revisit all laws on public expenditures,” Angara said, explaining that the two principal laws guiding budgeting were conceived “when desktop computers were still alien in the bureaucracy.”

The senator, who is a lawyer by profession, was referring to the 37-year-old Presidential Decree 1177, issued by Ferdinand Marcos in 1977, and Executive Order 292, or the Administrative Code of 1987, which came into force a year after Corazon Aquino assumed power. 

“In fact, according to budget experts, whole sections of PD 1177 were attached to the Administrative Code. To a large degree, the portion on national government budgeting, which is Book VI, was copy-pasted from PD 1177," the lawmaker said.

Angara also noted that the two measures were “executive issuances.”

“They were not products of the legislative branch, but by a presidency possessing lawmaking powers,” he said.  

“But that should not be the excuse for consolidating all laws pertaining to government budgeting under one code. The main reason should be the wealth of experiences, reforms, initiatives, lessons of the Philippine budgeting system,” Angara pointed out.

“For example, in 1987 when the present Administrative Code took effect, the national budget was P121 billion. It has grown by 21-fold since. For next year, the proposed budget is P2.6 trillion,” he said.

Another factor which was not there when the two budget laws were drafted is the revolution in information technology, Angara said.

“Wala pang e-budgeting and paperless transactions noon. Budget issuances then were sent through snail mail. ‘Di tulad ngayon na hindi lang emailed, nasa Twitter pa. It won’t hurt if new technologies would be supported by a new legal infrastructure," the former congressman from Aurora said.

Angara explained that judicial decisions on budget aspects, such as the nullification of DAP and PDAF, might also require some corresponding adjustments in the law.

"There is also the need to future-proof the budget against an executive branch who will treat the “treasury as its own personal piggy bank,” the neophyte senator said.

“Ayos lang kung matino ang nakaupo. Pero paano sa darating na panahon kung merong gusto umabuso sa kaban ng bayan?" he exclaimed.

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