(Lead) Palace says Aquino should have discretionary power over certain funds

By Janice Cave

MANILA, (PNA) — A Palace official said Tuesday Pres. Benigno Aquino III should still have discretionary power over certain funds, including government proceeds from Malampaya gas, but this would be subject to further policy discussions.

Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Sonny Coloma Jr defended the use of the discretionary funds, particularly the calamity funds.

“Halimbawa…doon sa aspeto ng ibang discretionary funds, katulad ng calamity funds, hindi po mainam na lahat ay iaasa sa pagkuha ng permiso o awtoridad sa Kongreso dahil baka kailangan ng mas expeditious action sa parte ng ehekutibo,” Coloma said at a media briefing.

Quoting Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, Coloma said Purisima would further look into the complicated accounting treatment of the Malampaya funds.

“Kaya, katulad din ng sinabi ko, ‘yung opinyon ni [Finance] Secretary Purisima hinggil doon sa pagsasalagay sa ayos, doon sa accounting treatment ng Malampaya Fund, we will—this will be subjected to proper policy discussions, and what can emerge from such discussions is a view that will strengthen the integrity of public funds,” Coloma said.

Sen. Ralph Recto said he would push for a bill to abolish presidential decree 1234 which empowers the executive department to use Malampaya funds whenever there is need for money for appropriations.

Reports said Purisima favored amending PD 1234 but Coloma clarified that this is just Purisima’s view and not the Palace’s stand on the issue.

Quoting Purisima, Coloma said the practice of treating the government’s share in the Malampaya gas and commingling it with the general fund was inherited from the Arroyo administration.

“Ang ayon po sa kanya—medyo teknikal po ito, ano—sa isang banda, ito ay isang revenue account na kabilang sa general fund. Sa kabilang banda naman, ito ay special account na pwedeng i-disburse, ano. So sabi niya, ito ay problematic from an accounting point of view, ngunit nililinaw po ni Secretary Purisima na ito pong practice na ito, itong accounting system na ito ay minana pa mula sa nakaraan at ito ay sakop ng mga probisyon ng P.D. 1234,” Coloma said.

Earlier, an official of the National Teasury admitted that there is little left of the P131 billion collected from Malampaya revenues in the past three years as it was “commingled” with the general fund and spent on various projects.

Recto said this practice complicated the accounting procedures provided in PD 1234.