With the Department of Defense (DND) getting one of the highest allocations in the ₱5 trillion spending bill that the House of Representatives recently approved, a veteran senator questioned the department’s realignment of a portion of the military’s regular line-item budget to a special purpose fund that can only be released with the approval of President Rodrigo Duterte.
MANILA — At the Senate hearing on the DND’s proposed budget for 2022, Senator Panfilo Lacson asked Defense secretary Delfin Lorenzana why the agency proposes that ₱35 billion of its regular budget be transferred to a special purpose fund.
The DND is seeking a ₱222 billion budget for next year, higher by ₱17 billion of what it got in 2021, making the department one of the five sectors that will get the highest allocation in next year’s national budget.
“Since the DND budget is part of the General Appropriations Act, its funds are usually released automatically as a matter of law so I found it strange that Lorenzana wants to realign it to an SPF,” Lacson pointed out while noting that an SPF is used only to augment the regular budget and released only upon approval of the president.
“Transferring funds to the SPF would effectively turn the amount into a ‘lump sum’ that would be released only upon the approval of Duterte and his successor next year,” he added.
In reply, Lorenzana explained with the unlikely reasoning for the transfer as a way for the budget of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to remain valid for over a year as SPF because as regular allocation this would only be available within one year.
The defense chief also disclosed that the AFP needs the SPF because the AFP’s procurement of assets was implemented over several years and it might take more than a year to perfect the contracts.
Mr Lacson, however, argued that the ₱35 billion is already line items for two military modernization laws that four previous administrations since 1995 had implemented via an itemized budget.
“Why transform an otherwise itemized amount under the AFP modernization program into lump-sum funds? It might cause problems. It’s either that or you are not ready yet to present the itemized list of equipment to be procured…Are you not ready to identify the equipment to procure?” the senator queried.
He reiterated that if the DND transfers the amount to an SPF, it effectively becomes a lump-sum appropriation without specified purpose, which is considered an informal practice and outlawed by the Supreme Court. (TRC/JuanManila)