Lawmakers question unprogrammed funds before SC

Lawmakers question unprogrammed funds before SC

By Beatriz Marie D. Cruz, Reporter

SEVERAL lawmakers have filed before the Supreme Court (SC) a petition challenging the legality of adding P449.54 billion in unprogrammed appropriations under the 2024 national budget.

In a 27-page petition filed on Monday, the petitioners said: “The Constitutional prohibition on the Congress from exceeding the totality of ceiling of the appropriations proposed by the President in the National Expenditure Program includes the ban on increasing the amount proposed by the chief executive for both the programmed and unprogrammed appropriations.”

Under the 2024 National Expenditure Plan (NEP), the President proposed a total of P281.9 billion in unprogrammed appropriations. This jumped to a total of P731.45 billion under the 2024 General Appropriations Act (GAA), the congressmen noted.

They said that both the House and Senate versions of the 2024 budget reflected unprogrammed appropriations totaling to P289.1 billion only. However, the bicameral conference committee added P449.54 billion in the unprogrammed appropriations.

Lawmakers who petitioned against the move cited section 25(1) under Article 6 of the Constitution, which states that “Congress may not increase the appropriations recommended by the President for the operation of the government as specified in the budget.”

“It is indubitable that the excess of P449.54 billion in unprogrammed appropriations is constitutionally infirm. It is an expenditure outlay inside the Constitution. It is akin to an outlaw which must be slain on sight,” read a portion of the petition.

“This unconstitutional excess outlay was appropriated with grave abuse of discretion,” it added.

The petition was filed against Congress, represented by Senate President Juan Miguel F. Zubiri and House Speaker Ferdinand Martin G. Romualdez, as well as Sen. Juan Edgardo M. Angara and Party-list Rep. Elizaldy S. Co, who head both Chambers’ respective appropriations panels.

Aside from the lawmakers, the petition was also filed against Executive Secretary Lucas P. Bersamin, Budget Secretary Amenah F. Pangandaman, and National Treasurer Rosalia V. De Leon.

Petitioners of the case were Albay Rep. Edcel C. Lagman, Camarines Sur Rep. Gabriel H. Bordado, and Basilan Rep. Mujiv S. Hataman.

In December, Senate Minority Leader Aquilino D. Pimentel III also said the bicameral committee’s increase in the unprogrammed appropriations is “unconstitutional.”

Citing the Constitution, Mr. Pimentel told reporters: “Congress may approve the appropriations proposed by the President for the operation of the government, but it cannot increase the appropriations.”