Palace ‘soft pedals’ on Ping
MALACAÑANG on Saturday appeared to have adopted a “soft stance” in the face of former Senator Panfilo Lacson’s harsh accusations on the misuse of public funds leading to what he claimed to be “fiscal dictatorship.”
In a statement, Presidential Communication Operation Office Secretary Herminio Coloma said the Aquino government” was open to “supporting appropriate legislation and other reform initiatives” that would address the concerns raised by Lacson.
Coloma added that he had also noted Lacson’s concern on ‘too much fiscal discretion by any branch of government’ as being ‘unsupportive of the principle of check and balance.’
Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte, meanwhile, said that Lacson, a known ally of the administration, is free to express his opinion “on any matter.”
In his speech at the Philippine Constitution Association, Lacson accused the Aquino government of violating the constitution and misusing public funds to impose “fiscal dictatorship.”
He added that the country is now saddled with a debt of more than P5 trillion, which he said allowed the government to accumulate “savings” that it could use to perpetuate “greed and corruption.”
Coloma admitted that the national debt had increased, but noted that while the debt increased, the national revenues also “increased proportionately”.
“The difference between revenues and borrowings is the budget deficit in proportion to gross domestic product (GDP) which is the key indicator of a country’s financial health,” Coloma explained.
He claimed that when President Benigno Aquino III assumed office in mid-2010, the budget deficit was more than four percent of the GDP, but through sound fiscal management, the Aquino government
was able to reduce the budget deficit to 2-percent.
“For this reason, the Philippines has been given investment-grade ratings by all reputable credit rating agencies,” Coloma said.
The Palace official added that while the government share Lacson’s outrage against the misuse of public funds arising from the pork barrel system, he disagrees with the former senator and Aquino ally in questioning the legality of the Disbursement Acceleration Program.
He, however, added that the government would “join him (Lacson) in leaving this matter to the judgment of the Supreme Court.”
Vale, on the other hand, said that the Aquino administration has been very upfront with the reforms that they are implementing, including the DAP,
“We have been very upfront with the reforms we’ve been instituting especially when it comes to the people’s budget,” she said over state-owned radio.
Meanwhile, the Palace said it welcomes the decision of the Supreme Court to defer from issuing a temporary restraining order against the DAP.
Valte said that issuing a TRO against DAP would affect the ongoing programs of the Aquino administration.
She said that government lawyers, through the Office of the Solicitor General are preparing for oral arguments in November, as they get ready to defend the legality of the DAP.
“The Office of the Solicitor General is currently preparing to represent the Executive during the oral arguments,” she said.
DAP funds were reportedly released to several senators last year after the conviction of former Chief Justice Renato Corona, with some senators allegedly receiving between P50 and P100.
But the Aquino government and its allies argued that the DAP was created to accelerate government spending based on the President’s power to realign funds.