No vetoes seen as Marcos inks 2024 budget today — senator

No vetoes seen as Marcos inks 2024 budget today — senator

SENATOR Joseph Victor “JV” G. Ejercito said on Tuesday that he does not expect President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. to veto items in the P5.768-trillion national budget for 2024, which he is set to sign into law today, Dec. 20.

“We are confident that there probably won’t be items that will be vetoed since controversial funds, like the confidential and intelligence funds, were solely allotted to national security agencies,” the senator told a news briefing. “We really did our best… on the part of the Senate; and I would say we don’t have controversial issues regarding the budget.”

Earlier, Senate President Juan Miguel F. Zubiri expressed confidence that the President would be signing the government’s spending plan for 2024 on Wednesday.

Congress ratified the Bicameral Conference Committee report on the national budget last Dec. 11, with the education, infrastructure, and defense agencies receiving the biggest funding increases.

Lawmakers had stripped confidential and intelligence funds (CIF) from civilian agencies, with only about P9.5 billion of these funds being realigned to security agencies mandated to use them.

But Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Martin “Koko” D. Pimentel, III had questioned a P450-billion increase in unprogrammed appropriations which lawmakers approved — reason why the total allocation in unprogrammed funds ballooned to P731.4 billion from the P281.9 billion recommended by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).

These are funds put on standby in case of additional priority programs when revenue collections exceed the targets.

On Monday, Mr. Pimentel told CNN Philippines that Mr. Marcos should veto the increase, saying he would challenge the legality of the boosted unprogrammed appropriations before the Supreme Court.

“Usually, we will only be able to use it (unprogrammed funds) or utilize it once it is available,” Mr. Ejercito said. “I think it will be allotted to projects or programs that would have more impact, which will be classified as a priority.” 

Mr. Ejercito said he would leave it up to the President to veto or take away provisions in the budget. It would also be up to the courts to decide if the increase was legal or not, he added.   

Under the Constitution, Congress is barred from increasing appropriations recommended by the President “for the operation of the government as specified in the budget.”

Senator Juan Edgardo “Sonny” M. Angara, Senate Finance Committee chairman, had said that the increase was to “carve out fiscal space” in programmed appropriations, or items to fund specific state projects. — John Victor D. Ordoñez