DAP as a Breakdown of Checks-and-Balance

The points raised by Ben Diokno and Joaquin Bernas on the Disbursement Acceleration Program (see related article below) are valid. The administration must thoroughly respond to these points.

The power of the purse rests in the hands of Congress and no spending can be made by the executive on items not in the budget without the approval of Congress. There were items in the DAP that was not in the budget.

Now, it is acceptable to raise, as a legal basis for the DAP, the provisions in the Constitution and the Administrative Code that give the President the power to use savings. The Php72.11-billion DAP funds, as explained by the executive, came from savings.

The question, however, is: what do we mean by savings.

Diokno opines it is savings if these are "remaining funds from already enacted projects."

In the case of the DAP, the entire Php72.11-billion, as it is presented, are unreleased funds due to discontinued programs, reallignments and unprogrammed funds from GOCC remittances. None of it can be considered savings if the definition provided by Diokno is used.

I look forward to seeing a legally acceptable definition of savings used by the administration for the DAP.

But the angle that I want to highlight here is how the DAP, which at the very least invites inquiry, was not at all checked by the institution that is primarily supposed to check and balance the executive: the legislature.

The Senators who were given pork allocations from the DAP, in particular, knew about the program. As members of the body that has the power of the purse as well as the power to check the executive in the implementation of the budget law, the members of the Senate (especially those who received allocation and hence were knowledgeable) should have raised questions as a matter of inquiry.

But they did not. Why?

One, it is highly likely that they do not have the knowledge required to raise such questions. Two, it is also highly likely that they do not know that they can and they should raise such questions.

However, the most likely answer is that they did not raise questions because they had their cut. They were given pork to spend.

This is the problem of the pork system. Checks-and-balance relationship between the executive and the legislature collapses because the legislators partake a responsibility of the executive. As such, they become subsumed under the President being the head of the executive branch in the execution of the budget--a violation of the separation of powers.

That checks-and-balance relationship exist for a reason: it is precisely to prevent actions of the executive that could already be beyond and abusive of its powers. Because this could happen intentionally or unintentionally.

It is possible that because of the intention to serve (to provide resources for priority programs and meet the needs of the people), the executive overlooked (intentionally or unintentionally) a legal provision.

Had the legislature performed its mandate, the executive could have been made to answer; and accordingly could haven taken the necessary adjustments in the DAP, so that its desired objectives (which are indeed noble and could probably be the reason for the good showing of our economy) were served without going beyond what our legal framework allows.

What seems to be overlooked legally could have been avoided had the checks-and-balance relationship between the executive and the legislature exists. But it was not avoided. There was no check.

Again, this is because of the pork barrel system. Again, this is why the system of pork has to be abolished!