Editorial, Bohol Chronicle
President Carlos P. Garcia of Bohol, widely known for his "Filipino First Policy", could also be considered as a fine statesman.
Queried why he did not lift his presidential finger to asphalt at least the picturesque coastal roads of the tourist province by utilizing the National Budget," Caloy" (as fondly called) said" "I am the president of the country, not just of Bohol."
So it was only in the waning years of the 9-year GMA presidency or about 50 years after Garcia's presidency (1957-1960) that the Bohol Circumferential roads were finally asphalted.
Unbeknownst to many, the "power of the purse" or the authority to use the National
Budget for a specific purpose, has always been in the hands of the President.
Over they years, critics have mocked the derided "pork barrel" of Congress ( P 200 M per senator and P 70-Million per Congressman every year) as graft ridden and weakening the economic fabric of the nation through inefficient projects.
Truth to tell, in a given year, the "Pork Barrel" or PDAF would make up for onlya mere 2.0% of the entire budget. Even the automatic debt servicing is about 21% of the entire budget (depending on currency mix and interest rates).
Sadly, two independent sectors which are supposed to buttress the "check and balance" nature of democracy are given a pittance: Judiciary (less than 1%) and the Constitutional Commissions ( Comelec etc)) also (less than 1%).
The rest of the budget - a whooping 75%- or P 1.2 Trillion of the 2010 P 1.6-Trillion approved National Budget is under the control of the President of the Republic of the Philippines.
This numerical control is further embellished by the fact that the President appoints all of the 21 Cabinet secretaries who distribute the budget largesse and the over 100 agencies (directly)under the Office of the president excluding the numerous Government-owned and controlled corporations or GOCCs.
There is also the technical leeway provided by the so-called Special Purpose Funds (SPF) as contrasted with the "line item budget funds" which cannot be released without the specific approval of the President. This SPH which was only 37% of the entire budget (back in 2002) was now already at 51% ( by 2008) -giving more centralization of "power of the purse" to the President.
That is the reason why many would die to be president of this country-some spending billions of their own money to lay claim on this yearly "pot of gold" called the National Budget.
That is the kind of leeway used why a sitting president was able to divert P 459-Million worth of projects for the second district of Pampanaga (where she is set to run in May 2010 as congressperson), way above the P 70-mllion PDAF--as documented by Rep Risa Hontiveros.
As the exit of GMA from the presidency is imminent in June 2010, the battle for the "power of the purse" is raging full throttle in Congress.
First , both houses slashed the Debt Service by P 65-Billion.The way we see it this could only be done if the exchange rate, interest rate and inflation rate used the by Executive in the initial budget was bloated to reflect a higher debt service.
P30-Billion of that went into padding the budget of the DPWH- probably the most graft-ridden department (for years), mainly through pet projects of those close to the administration.A high-ranking DPWH secretary was shot dead mysteriously near DPWH office premises last year as were some old-hand contractors(not in the news) What gives?
Then, they handcuffed the hands of the President by inserting the rider to disable her from "impounding" releases already approved as part of the Budget. One noted that P400-Million was stricken off the anti-TB camapaign by the impounding method even as two presidential choppers worth P 2-Billion was locked into the Budget.
GMA, can veto that rider, however.
The DBM had argued for a reduction of the DPWH Budget because of backlogs in execution. The P 30-Billion DPWH "insertion" is a post -GMA Game Plan by the legislators since their execution can be good for two years under "Capital Outlay" section of the Budget.
The Personnel Expenses and MOOE (Maintenance and Operating" sections have to be expended within one year - in contrast.
But the most glaring example of how a vengeful president can use the "power of the purse" to twit if not emusculate the enemies is the fact that for many years the PDAF of the militant groups like Bayan and Gabriela as well as those of some opposition senators have not been released. So there.
Placing the fate of the nation- through the implementation of the National Budget-largely on the shoulders of a president -has been seen to have been abused mercilessly.
We yearn for the election of a president with enough allies in Congress who will fight for real-Mckoy "budgetary reforms"- a de fact clipping of preident's own hands from being inserted into a stupendous cookie jar called the National Budget.
It is really about time.