DEPARTMENT of Budget and Management (DBM) Secretary Amenah Pangandaman has maintained that the unprogrammed appropriations in the P5.768 trillion budget for fiscal year (FY) 2024 are constitutional.
In a media forum on Wednesday, January 17, 2024, Pangandaman explained that unprogrammed appropriations are standby funds that can only be used if several funding conditions are met.
She said the unprogrammed fund allocation is not part of the P5.7 trillion proposed budget.
“Unprogrammed appropriations are not automatically allocated, and can only be released if several funding conditions are met,” said Pangandaman.
She added that these appropriations can only be touched when the government, through the Bureau of the Treasury, is able to collect excess revenue in the total tax revenues or any of the identified non-tax revenue sources from its revenue target, or new revenue from new tax or non-tax sources, or should foreign or approved financial loans/grants proceeds are realized.
Pangandaman also noted that in order for government agencies to access the unprogrammed funds, they will be required to submit the necessary documentary requirements to ensure that spending stays within allowable limits.
Opposition Senator Aquilino Pimentel III earlier said that the 2024 General Appropriations Act (GAA), which is up for President Ferdinand Marcos’ approval, should be declared unconstitutional after the allotted funds for unprogrammed appropriations was increased by P450 billion, raising the total national budget for 2024 to P6.489 trillion, far higher than the President’s P5.7 trillion proposed budget for the said fiscal year.
Pimentel noted Article 6, Section 25 of the 1987 Constitution, which states, “The Congress may not increase the appropriations recommended by the President for the operation of the government as specified in the budget. The form, content, and manner of preparation of the budget shall be prescribed by law.”
On Monday, January 15, 2024, opposition lawmakers from the lower chamber of Congress led by Albay Representative Edcel Lagman filed a petition for a writ of preliminary injunction before the Supreme Court, seeking to restrain the respondents from funding, releasing and implementing the excess appropriations.
Aside from Pangandaman, other respondents were Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri, Speaker Ferdinand Martin Romualdez, Senator Sonny Angara, Representative Elizaldy Co, Executive Secretary Lucas Bersamin, and former national treasurer Rosalia De Leon.
The petitioners, which included Camarines Sur Representative Gabriel Bordado and Basilan Representative Mujiv Hataman, also asked the SC to nullify the excess in unprogrammed appropriations included in the 2024 GAA.
“If unprogrammed appropriations are increased beyond the ceiling imposed by the President, their subsequent funding and release, whether righteous or contrived, will balloon the government’s expenditures beyond the fiscal program,” the petition reads.
Pangandaman said the administration welcomes any petition that would question the constitutionality of the use of unprogrammed appropriations, as it demonstrates that democracy in the country is alive and at work.
"That's democracy at work," she said.
“We respect and acknowledge the right of any individual, and/or groups to file petitions in our courts to address the issue, since it is the Judiciary that has the ultimate authority to make determinations on questions of law, including the Constitution. Baka from their [lawmakers'] end, there are still gray areas. If there are petitions at the Supreme Court, we welcome it. At the end of the day, malalaman natin kung ano ba talaga. From our end, we think it is constitutional. It may be due to differences in opinion and interpretation,” she added. (TPM/SunStar Philippines)