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2015 budget meant for 2016 polls? Not so, says Malacañang

The proposed 2015 national budget is intended to promote inclusive growth and improve the lives of Filipinos, not finance the administration’s massive war chest for the 2016 elections, Malacañang declared yesterday.

Presidential Communications Operations Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. asserted that the government is neither hiding anything in the proposed P2.606-trillion national budget nor planning any sinister plot for the upcoming polls, adding the public is free to scrutinize the outlay to ensure each peso is not wasted.

Coloma made the pronouncement after the 2015 budget proposal was demonized by some groups as an alleged administration tool for the upcoming elections.

“Ang pambansang budget para sa 2015 ay may temang ‘kaunlaran para sa lahat,’ sapagkat naglalayon itong isulong ang pag-angat at pag-asenso ng milyon-milyong Pilipinong nasa laylayan ng lipunan. Matatamo ito sa pamamagitan ng wastong paggugol ng pondo ng bayan [The proposed 2015 national budget carries the theme ‘inclusive development’ because it aims to improve the welfare of millions of Filipinos especially the poor],” Coloma said.

“Malinaw na ang pambansang budget para sa 2015, katulad ng mga sinundan nito sa ilalim ng administrasyong Aquino, ay tumatalima sa mga prinsipyo ng matuwid na daan. Para sa mga nag-iisip na ito ay gagamitin sa pamumulitika, tunghayan na lang po ang kongkretong record. Aksyon, hindi salita, ang pinakamabuting pamantayan [It is clear that the proposed 2015 national budget, like previous budgets under the Aquino administration, adheres to the principle of the straight path. To those thinking it will be used for politicking, they should consider the concrete record. Actions, not words, are the foremost basis],” he added.

Aquino earlier asked Congress to pass the proposed 2015 national budget, which is 15.1 percent higher than this year’s outlay, in a bid to accelerate spending on social services and infrastructure development.

Of the P2.606-trillion expenditure program, social services will get the largest share of the budget at P967.9 billion, followed by economic services (P700.2 billion), general public services (P423.1 billion), defense (P115.5 billion), and debt burden (P399.4 billion).

The budget proposal also includes a P501-billion Special Purpose Funds (SPC), also known as lump sum funds under the control of the President, which will go to pension benefits, calamity and contingency measures among others.

“We have anchored our reform agenda on our conviction that greater transparency and citizen’s engagement ensure a budgeting system that works solely for the people and by the people,” the President said in his budget message.

However, former National Treasurer Leonor Briones expressed concern that the 2015 budget bill might be used to benefit the person who will be endorsed by Aquino in the 2016 presidential polls. Half of the budget, Briones claimed, is intended for lump sums and automatic appropriations. Lump sum funds, which are budget items not detailed in General Appropriations Act, supposedly make such resources vulnerable to abuse.

Coloma, however, maintained that the government’s 2015 budget bill is open to public scrutiny to ensure the funds go to the intended purpose.

“Welcome po ‘yung pagbusisi dahil wala naman pong ikinukubli. Bawat taon naman po ay hayag at bukas ang libro ng ating pamahalaan para sa pagsusuri ng mga mamamayan at mga mambabatas [We welcome any review of the budget because we are not hiding anything. Every year, the government’s books are open to scrutiny of our people and our lawmakers],” he said.

“Handang-handa po ang mga Cabinet secretary at ang mga pinuno ng iba’t ibang ahensya na ilahad at ipagtanggol ang kani-kanilang mga budget. Wala pong problema sa aspetong ‘yan. Welcome po ang kanilang pagbusisi [The cabinet secretaries and other heads of various agencies are ready to present and defend their respective budgets. There is no problem with that aspect],” he added.

Coloma noted that since 2010, the administration has pursued budgetary reforms, including the early submission of the National Expenditure Program so it can signed into law before the end of the year. The President usually signs into law the government’s budget proposal around December, a stark contrast to the previous administration of running on a reenacted budget.

“Sa ganitong paraan ang budget noong 2011, 2012, 2013, at ngayong 2014 ay naging epektibo simula sa unang araw ng Enero ng bawat taon.

Malayong-malayo ito doon sa nakaraan na kung saan ay hindi naipapasa ang budget at puro reenacted budget ang ginamit na batayang batas sa paggastos ng pondo ng bayan [Through this process, the budgets in 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014, the budget came into effect at the first day of January of every year. This if far from the previous practice that the budget was not passed on time and a reenacted budget was used in public spending],” Coloma added.

Coloma said they hope the lawmakers will approve the 2015 budget proposal soon.

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    2015 budget meant for 2016 polls? the people can tell after the 2016 election.