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Solon questions illegal, DAP-like realignment of DAR budget

8 August 2014 No Comment

News Release

August 8, 2014

Reference: ACT Teachers Rep. Antonio Tinio (0920-9220817)

 

ACT Teachers Rep. Antonio L. Tinio slammed agrarian reform officials for their illegal juggling of funds in the Department of Agrarian Reform budget.

This illegal realignment surfaced when DAR employees failed to receive their salaries for July.  According to the employees, the DBM informed them that it was awaiting requirements for a proposed juggling of over P400 million in the DAR’s current budget.

As revealed by Tinio during the DAR’s budget hearing before the House Committee on Appropriations yesterday, the proposal was contained in a letter dated June 10, 2014, signed by DAR Undersecretary Perry Villanueva with the approval of Secretary Virgilio de los Reyes, endorsing “the recalibration of the DAR’s 2014 targets and budget in relation to the approved 2014 General Appropriations Act (GAA).”  (Please see the four-page letter in the attached file.)

The “recalibration” calls for the transfer of P412.447 million appropriated by the 2014 GAA from the regional offices to the DAR Central Office.  The letter cites as reasons for the so-called recalibration “critical activities that need fast and immediate actions…not funded under the GAA.”  It also said that “there is also a need to conduct an Impact Assessment of CARP for its 25 years of implementation,” adding that “the program is “urgent but not funded under the 2014 GAA.”  The new activities to be funded under the recalibrated budget include “LAD [Land Acquisition and Distribution] activities for Hacienda Luisita” and “DAR-NAPC Partnership.”  (Full list in Annex A of the letter.)

Upon Tinio’s questioning, DAR officials said that the proposal has already been approved by the DBM.

“What the President does, his Cabinet officials will do as well. If the President usurps the power of the purse of Congress and aggressively justifies the same to the public, is it any wonder that DAR officials now feel entitled to do the same?” said Tinio. “The President committed unconstitutional acts through his Disbursement Acceleration Program. Now DAR officials appear to be committing similar acts through so-called budget recalibration.”

The lawmaker noted that “there’s no such animal as recalibration” in the laws and regulations pertaining to budget execution. “It’s a new-fangled term invented by DAR to justify illegal juggling of funds appropriated for specific purposes by Congress. It’s actually technical malversation, a criminal act prohibited by the Revised Penal Code.”

“The Supreme Court decision on DAP reminded us of the basic tenet of the Constitution that ‘no money shall be paid out of the Treasury except in pursuance of an appropriation made by law.’ And yet we have the DAR asking that its current budget be used for activities not funded under the 2014 GAA, not just once but twice in the same letter. What’s worse is that the DBM approved it. It seems clear that this Administration really thinks of the Constitution as a mere scrap of paper,” said Tinio.

Tinio pointed out that the DAR “recalibration” directly relates to the ongoing debate on the Aquino administration’s proposed redefinition of savings and augmentation. “This is exactly what will happen if Congress adopts Malacañang’s DAP-inspired redefinition of savings and augmentation. Agencies will feel free to disregard the appropriations given to them as a mandate by Congress and craft their own budgets without Congressional authorization. This subverts transparency and undermines effective oversight on the use of the people’s money.”

Upon Tinio’s motion, the Committee on Appropriations resolved that DAR and DBM would be summoned for another hearing to explain the so-called recalibration.

“We cannot remain silent in the face of another usurpation of the powers of the purse by the President and his alter egos,” concluded Tinio. ###

[Attachments: 4 pages of the DAR letter containing the approved recalibration]

 

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