Transparent vs opaque

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The tiff between Majority Leader Rolando Andaya Jr. and Budget Secretary Ben Diokno over next year’s stalled budget has become a lopsided contest against Andaya mainly as a result of their credentials.

Andaya, a former Budget secretary, had alleged the appropriations bill had several irregularities and had to be reviewed, particularly on what he claimed as insertions of projects made by Diokno.

Diokno denied this and countered that Andaya and his cohorts in the House leadership are merely sore about being denied access to the P45 billion Road Board fund that they usually tap for election campaign money.

President Rody Duterte wanted the Road Board abolished, while economic managers wanted the return of the Motor Vehicle User’s Charge, which the graft-prone body manages, to the National Treasury which Diokno rightly said would have to be both in place before the funds are used.

The records of both officials as budget secretary, including Diokno’s stint under former President Joseph Estrada, say a lot on whose term is opaque and transactional and whose is transparent.

Three budgets, in 2001, 2004 and 2006, were reenacted for the entire year, while another four, in 2003, 2005, 2008 and 2009, were partially-reenacted, according to Diokno.

Andaya was Budget secretary from February 2006 to February 2010.

Also, in implementing the reenacted budgets, the regime that included Andaya exercised carte blanche authority to rewrite the budget.

“They even reenacted the budget for capital outlays, allowing the administration to fund new projects, contrary to the Constitutional provision that no money shall be paid out of the Treasury, except in pursuance of an appropriation made by law,” Diokno said.

Rody’s budget for this year has been stalled due to delays caused by the House leadership which meant the national budget for 2018 was deemed reenacted.

Joint Resolution 3 on the reenacted budget only extended the validity of 2018 appropriations for Capital Outlays and Maintenance and Other Operating Expenses and does not cover Personnel Services. This contradicted Andaya’s claim that the extension will allow possible funding sources for the compensation adjustment from remaining appropriations and that the cash-based budget has been set aside since the 2018 budget was still obligation-based.

Diokno said budget implementation was micro-managed during the Arroyo administration, including Andaya’s term at the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) which means that most of the decisions on the funds use came from the Executive.

In contrast, the current budget system is rules-based and there is less discretion in budget releases during implementation.

Diokno said under General Appropriations Act (GAA)-as-Allotment Order policy implemented since 2017, the GAA has served as the official fund release document for regular programs in the budget.

The release of government funds was sped up as a result.

At the start of the year, 77.5 percent or P2.920 trillion of the P3.767 trillion obligation program were released under the scheme.

Diokno said the GAA-as-Allotment Order was also the policy during Estrada’s term when it was called “WYSWYG” or What-You-See-is-What-You-Get.

“Unfortunately, the policy was scrapped when former President Arroyo took office. Once again, we went back to an opaque, slow, hard-to-track and discretionary budgeting regime,” Diokno said.

He said from then on until the term of the yellow Noynoy Aquino, micromanaging the budget through the release of Special Allotment Release Orders on the leadership’s discretion for political support became the trend.

Diokno said transparency has been the rule since Rody took over.

Issuances are published regularly on the DBM website as a guide on the budget processes.
Due to the reforms undertaken, the DBM under Rody was ranked first in Asia and 19th in the world for budget transparency. It is also ranked third in public participation.

Removed from the budget, which Andaya and his House allies are protesting, is political discretion that is the usual source of corruption.

The cash-based budgeting scheme do away with the arbitrary use of the budget which triggers panic for Andaya and his House cabal.

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