Lacson bucks DND bid to convert ₱35-B AFP modernization budget as 'lump sum fund'

Published October 2, 2021, 2:55 PM

by Vanne Elaine Terrazola

Senator Panfilo Lacson has questioned the proposal of the Department of National Defense (DND) to transfer some P35 billion from the budget of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to an appropriation whose release will depend on the President.

Senator Panfilo ‘Ping’ Lacson (Senate of the Philippines)

At the Senate finance subcommittee’s deliberation of the P297-billion proposed 2022 budget of the DND Friday, October 1, Lacson asked why the DND sought to transfer the amount to the Special Purpose Fund (SPF).

“You are proposing that P35 billion…be transferred from your regular budget to the SPF. Why is that? The SPF is used to augment the regular budget and is released only upon approval of the President,” he asked DND Secretary Delfin Lorenzana at the committee hearing.

Lorenzana explained that unlike the regular budget, the SPF would not lapse after one year. He noted that the AFP’s procurement of assets is multi-year and that “it will take more than a year to perfect the contracts”.

But Lacson disagreed with Lorenzana’s explanation, stressing that under the AFP Modernization Program, the procurement of equipment is government-to-government.

In its presentation to the Senate panel, the DND proposed to place the AFP Modernization Program and its programmed allocations as an SPF, claiming that the Republic Act No. 10349 dictates that the funds for the Revised AFP Modernization should be treated as separate and distinct from the regular appropriations of the DND and the AFP.

The SPF is defined as “appropriations in the GAA provided to cover expenditures for specific purposes for which the recipient department have not yet been identified during budget preparation.”

Lorenzana said they have are already identified the projects for which to use the funds on.

“It’s either that or you are not ready yet to present the itemized list of equipment to be procured. Kung ginawa mong SPF magiging lump sum ‘yan (If you transfer the amount to the SPF it effectively becomes a lump sum appropriation). Are you not ready to identify the equipment to procure?” Lacson told the DND chief.

“Bakit natin gagawing lump sum ang otherwise itemized na under AFP Modernization Program? Baka magkaroon ng problema (Why transform an otherwise itemized amount into a lump sum? It might cause problems),” he maintained.

Lorenzana said they will “look into it” and consider Lacson’s comments.

Senator Ronald dela Rosa, who presided over the hearing as one of the vice chairperson of the Senate Finance Committee, agreed with Lacson that it would be better to keep the amount in the regular fund.

“Instead of making their life miserable, we’d like to make their life easier,” Lacson pointed out.