Opposition Sen. Chiz Escudero on Friday said he is pushing for the repeal of two laws that enable the President to exercise considerable power over the national purse, stressing that the allocation and disposition of public funds should solely be a Congressional prerogative.
“The Constitution exclusively grants to Congress the power to authorize certain officials, including the President, to augment any item in the general appropriations law for their respective offices from savings in other items of their respective appropriations. But these two laws allow the President to do more, which I believe is an encroachment of the Executive on the powers of the Legislative,” Escudero said.
The two laws, Presidential Decree No. 1177 and Book VI of Executive Order 292, specifically grant the President power and authority on the preparation, disposition and management of the national budget, which by practice actually supersedes any policy that may be laid down by Congress under any appropriations law.
“In a way, it is an informal veto of the appropriations made by Congress in the national budget. I believe this is wrong, because the Constitution specifically gives Congress power over the purse,” Escudero said.
For the purposes of amending these two laws, Escudero filed Senate Resolution No. 900, which urges the Senate Committee on Finance to undertake a review of the prevailing statutes, “with the end in view of reverting to Congress the true power of the purse as prescribed by the Constitution.”
He said that the laws allow room for circumventing constitutional limitations on appropriations. As an example, he said, the Executive branch can withhold the release of certain funds set aside for specific purposes by Congress, which can later be deemed as savings but used inappropriately.
“There is so much room for abuse. We cannot allow certain officials like the President to frustrate the policies laid down by Congress in the General Appropriations Act. Every allocation had been set aside for certain purposes and the will of Congress should be respected,” Escudero said.
The senator said the decree was promulgated during the Marcos regime, where executive and legislative powers were being exercised by the President. The specific provisions of PD 1177 relating to these powers were copied verbatim into Book VI of EO 292.
“In my opinion, this is not what the framers of the 1973 and 1987 Constitutions had in mind when they imbued the Office of the President and other high officials with some form of power over the national budget.
There is a need to review these laws and consequently amend, or even repeal, them in order to safeguard the allocation and disposition of public funds,” he said.
The senator added that the two laws are also the same statutes that provide for automatic debt servicing, “which have financially tied the country without resistance to its debts to the prejudice of the government's ability to provide allocations for its priority programs and projects, like education, housing or job generation.”