Don’t you wonder why
Normally, the President submits the budget to the House of Representatives immediately after her State of the Nation Address during the opening session of Congress in the last Monday of July. The House has to approve the budget from August to October for immediate submission to the Senate. The Senate in turn will deliberate on it to be followed by the deliberations within the bicameral committee to reconcile the Senate and the House versions. The Senate and the bicameral committee have two months (November and December) to finalize the budget so that the President could sign it by the end of December.
What happened is that the House, led by Arroyo’s reliable ally, Speaker de Venecia sat on the proposed budget for eight months and passed it only on the same day the Senate was to adjourn for a five-week break during the Lenten season. This pattern only suggests that the President and her allies were not really interested in having a fresh budget at all. This is because the only way the Senate could pass the budget when the senators resume session in May 15 is when they pass the House version wholesale without even touching it. But this is also dangerous because that would mean the Senate is going to pass a budget that is full of pork to bribe local government executives so they would dance to the tunes of Malacañang: Cha-cha, evading the second impeachment attempt, and the 2007 mid-term elections.
The senators, of course, will have to examine the budget for several weeks and this scenario is also crazy because if they are to go through the motion of deliberating it, we might just end up having a fresh 2006 budget only somewhere in September! And while the Senators are cracking their brains out, the reenacted budget prevails, thus giving Malacañang all the money for its political machinations. The Senators could deliberate the budget the death but Malacañang doesn’t really care because it already has the cash and the flexibility to spend on whatever “project” it fancies sans the accountability that is usually attached to having a fresh budget.
Of course, Malacañang is not really interested in a budget to be signed in September because the real game plan, it appears, is Cha-cha and Arroyo’s political survival which, according to the time-table of Speaker Jose de Venecia, will commence by July. How would Malacañang do that against people’s opposition and possible thumbs down from the Supreme Court, boggles the mind (unless they already got enough numbers among the Supreme Court judges). But that danger is even secondary. The immediate danger here is the rise of the Devil’s budgeting system, one that is completely politicized and brazen and could completely sidetrack the country from addressing important socioeconomic problems.
Once the government politicizes the budgeting process, every planning exercise being done by the country’s planning bodies completely vanishes in the wind. No one will respect the country’s planning process anymore knowing that government decisions are always subject to the whims and caprices of the occupants in Malacañang and all their sycophants in Congress, the bureaucracy, the local government units. The immediate casualties in this politicized budgeting process are the Filipino people outside the circle of power because government expenditures will be driven by the imperatives of political quid pro quos. For one, the 2005 reenacted budget doesn’t contain much for capital expenditure. It doesn’t bother Malacañang of course because that’s not the primary reason for deliberately delaying the passage of the 2006 budget.
Arroyo and her apologists have been stressing that the country’s economy should strengthen its firewalls against the noise of politics. This is plain hypocrisy. By tampering with the country’s budgeting system, it’s no less than the President and her minions themselves who are actually tearing down the firewalls of the economy. And she has to do it simply because she needed to ensure her own political survival even at the expense of the economy and the people’s well-being.