Palace confident 2015 budget can pass judicial scrutiny
Jess Diaz, Aurea Calica (The Philippine Star) - December 25, 2014 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Malacañang is convinced the P2.606-trillion General Appropriations Act (GAA) for 2015 would be able to stand judicial scrutiny.

President Aquino signed the budget measure on Tuesday, noting that it has no more Priority Development Assistance Fund or pork barrel and that most appropriations were very specific to avoid irregularities.

Former Iloilo Rep. Augusto Syjuco, Jr. urged the Supreme Court (SC) on the same day to declare the 2015 GAA unconstitutional.

 Syjuco said the legislative and executive departments managed to appropriate lump sum funds “similar to pork barrel allocations” earlier stricken down as unconstitutional by the high court in its rulings against the PDAF and the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).

 Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said that in preparing the national expenditure program, officials took into consideration the provisions of the Constitution and existing laws.

Coloma expressed confidence the budget implementation would not be disrupted by Syjuco’s petition.

“Everything was done to make sure that we comply with the Constitution and the laws,” Coloma said.

He said the judiciary has its own processes and the executive branch was determined to implement important programs for reforms and progress in the country.

 Syjuco identified these lump sum funds as the President’s Special Purpose Funds (SPF), which has an appropriation of  P501.67 billion; and the Grassroots Participatory Budgeting (GPB) or “bottom up budgeting” which Syjuco branded as a “DAP clone” or “DAP junior,” amounting to P20.9 billion.

 Appropriating a single lump sum amount which may be tapped for multiple purposes, and subject to the discretion of the executive, is “constitutionally infirm,” Syjuco argued.

 Syjuco also questioned the definition of “savings” as “portions or balances of any unreleased appropriation, which have not been obligated as a result of the discontinuance, or non-commencement of a project, activity or program (PAP) to causes not due to the fault or negligence of the agency.”

He argued that such definition ran counter to the ruling of the SC on DAP concerning the proper usage of “savings.”

Syjuco stressed that the definition of savings in the GAA 2014 “referred to final discontinuance or abandonment” of projects, while the term in the GAA 2015 now referred to discontinuance or abandonment of projects “at any time.”

 Syjuco also filed a separate petition assailing the law authorizing the P22.47-billion supplemental budget, which was also signed by Aquino on Tuesday. 

No contest

Militant party-list group Bayan Muna said it does not intend to question the constitutionality of the entire P2.606-trillion 2015 national budget.

“Our problem is that if we question the 2015 budget and the Supreme Court issues a temporary restraining order, we will go back to the 2014 budget, which will automatically be reenacted,” Rep. Neri Colmenares has reporters.

He said a reenacted outlay “is worse, since it serves as presidential pork barrel.”

“We would rather have the 2015 appropriations act, instead of giving the President a recycled 2014 budget,” he said.

Colmenares added that if ever, they would just challenge the definition of savings in the Congress-approved outlay for next year.

“We are still studying whether we will question it or not,” he said.

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