by Rick DaligdigThank you for reading this post, don't forget to subscribe!
This is the busiest time for our Congress. Right now plenary debates are ongoing for the passage of the 2024 National Budget. The Marcos Jr. Administration asked the Congress, comprised of the House of Representatives and the Senate to pass the Php 5.768 trillion national budget for the fiscal year 2024. Compared to the 2023 budget, it is 9.5% higher and comprises 21.7% of our GDP. Broken down the Education Department has the biggest chunk in our budget amounting to Php 924.7B, followed by the Public Works with Php 822.2B, Health with Php 306B. The Agriculture Department has proposed a budget of Php 181.4B and Social Services at Php 209.9 B. Php 699.2B will go to our debt burden which comprises 12.1% of the proposed budget. For the common Juan Dela Cruz, how does our government arrive or determine how much the budget needs of a department? Let’s take a short walk.
After the President delivers his yearly State of the Nation Address or SONA. He will submit to the House of Representatives the National Expenditure Plan or NEP for the next year. Before that the Department of Budget and Management together with NEDA and other technical working groups, started to craft the national budget which is the one that the President submits to Congress.
The Congress based on our Constitution has the power of the purse meaning they are solely authorized to pass or not the budget proposal, they have also the power to reduce the budget of a particular agency or department and to increase the budget but they are not authorize to increase the total propose budget of the executive branch.
There will be a series of committee hearings to determine if the requested budget of a particular department is justifiable or not. After this, the Plenary discussion starts. When the House passes its General Appropriations Bill then it will transfer to Senate. If the approved version of GAB of the two Houses has differences then they will form a bicameral committee to iron out those differences. If they are agreed to the last version of the Bill then it will go to the President. The President on the other hand has the power to veto, either the whole or line items in the proposed GAB. If the President finishes reviewing the bill then that’s the time it will signed into law or become the General Appropriations Act (GAA).
Aside from the National Budget, another issue right now is the request for Confidential and Intelligence Funds or CIF of some agencies. In nature, CIF is the funds used in intelligence surveillance of civilian agencies and gathering intel or data and information classified as a matter concerning to our national security.
The security agencies like Defense and Interior Local Government Department have this. As for the Office of the President, it is pretty obvious that, being the Commander in Chief his office needs to have this fund to monitor and deter the forces that intended to overthrow the government. Some members of the House representatives questioned why the Vice President needed the Confidential Funds. They fear that these less auditable funds by the Commission of Audit will be a breeding ground for corruption.
They also questioned if the transferring of the contingent fund of the Office of the President to the Office of the Vice President is legal or not. If they think that the existing procedure in liquidating and auditing those funds are inefficient maybe this is the right time to pass a law on how to have a check and balances on those funds and not sort in a mere political grandstanding and use these issue to tarnished the name of sitting official. We have the Supreme Court whose the final arbiter of the law so once and for all we will know if the acts or procedures in using and liquidating the Confidential Funds are constitutional or likewise.
The Filipinos are hopeful that our dear congressmen and senators will pass the National Budget on time. Our country cannot afford to have a reenacted budget as it will hamper our economic recovery as well as the services that the government needs to provide to the people. As we quote the DBM briefer on the proposed budget “It aims to secure a future-proof and sustainable vibrant economy for the Philippines as envisioned by the Philippine Development Plan 2023-2028.” Let’s do our work!