PRESIDENT Duterte has fulfilled his own promise that he would sign the General Appropriations Act of 2020, or the National Budget, on January 6, 2020, the first working Monday of the year.
The government spending law totaled P4.1 trillion, 12 percent higher than the delayed GAA for 2019. The President had all the days of the long Christmas vacation to pore over the printed volume called the enrolled copy of the GAA, and the signing ceremony on Monday just confirmed that he had fully studied the document and was convinced that it would benefit the nation.
In signing the document, Duterte affirmed that “as in previous years, we will continue to allocate a great portion of our national budget for infrastructure development and social services — programs that will directly touch the lives of our people.”
Here is a rough breakdown of what the GAA contains vis-a-vis the government’s expenditure program. Of the P4.1 trillion budget, 36 percent will be set aside for education, health care, housing and social welfare. Another 29 percent will be used to fund infrastructure, tourism, trade, job generation, and agriculture, while 11 percent will be allotted for debt servicing.
Budget and Management Secretary Wendel Avisado said that the President did not veto any item in the 2020 budget. Duterte even said that the passage and signing of the budget on time is proof that, with the “invaluable” help of Congress, the government can effectively work together to enact key measures that will support its development agenda in the next two and a half years.
Duterte extended to Congress his thanks for giving an all-out support for his fiscal policies, including the cash budgeting system and the full implementation of the Comprehensive Tax Reform Program. Take a bow, Senate President Sotto and Speaker Cayetano.
While no presidential veto was made, it does not mean that the warnings and words of concern aired by Sen. Ping Lacson late last year fell on deaf ears.
President Duterte was emphatic in his exhortation to all officials of the Executive department about judicious use of the national budget for projects and programs. He said, “Together, let us ensure that every peso in the budget will never be used to support the selfish greed of the few, but spent exclusively for the benefit and service of Filipino taxpayers.”
Duterte himself will be the best marshal to ensure that this warning is heeded by his men — for he wields the power to hire and fire, and he seems serious in fighting graft and corruption in his administration. Congress can help by implementing a genuine and efficient oversight function over these matters.