THE 2024 General Appropriations Bill (GAB) that mandates the allotted government budget for next fiscal year is “unconstitutional,” said opposition Senator Aquilino Pimentel III on Wednesday, December 13, 2023.
Pimentel said the bicameral conference committee brought up by P450 billion the funds allotted for the unprogrammed appropriations, increasing the total budget for fiscal year 2024 to almost P6 trillion with P4.019 trillion for programmed funds, P731.4 billion for unprogrammed allocations and P1.748 trillion in automatic appropriations.
Under the P5.7 trillion proposed budget of the Malacañang, P281.9 billion was allotted for unprogrammed allocations, which can only be funded if the total revenues exceed the target or if there are extra funds that can be spent.
“So, actually 2024 will be the second P6 trillion budget,” said Pimentel, adding that the 2023 budget was also close to P6 trillion due to the additional unprogrammed funds.
Pimentel noted Article 6, Section 25 of the 1987 Constitution that 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.”
He said this makes the final version of 2024 GAB unconstitutional as he called on his fellow lawyers to challenge it before the Supreme Court.
“Where did those come from? What happened now is that Congress gave the executive branch the authority to spend an amount even greater than what is asked by the executive branch. It’s as simple as that -- unconstitutional,” Pimentel said.
The 2024 GAB is up for the President’s approval after both chambers of Congress ratified it on Monday, December 11.
Pimentel is the only lawmaker who voted against its ratification before the Senate.
The biggest chunk of the 2024 national budget was allocated for education, health and social services.
It also includes P9 billion confidential and intelligence funds (CIF), which will be allocated to government agencies in charge of security operations, allocating zero secret funds to civilian agencies including the Office of the Vice President and the Department of Education, which earlier requested for P650 million CIF. (TPM/SunStar Philippines)