Another petition questioning the legality of Republic Act 10651 or the 2015 General Appropriations Act (GAA) was filed by a group of concerned citizens at the Supreme Court (SC) on Wednesday.
Among the petitioners were former Biliran congressman Glenn Chiong, taxpayer Manuelito Luna, college sophomore Aristarchus Lamarck Luna and Samahang Magbabasura Incorporated.
Named as respondents in the petition were Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr., Senate President Franklin Drilon and Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr.
In their 69-page petition for certiorari and prohibition, the petitioners asked the High Court to declare the 2015 budget unconstitutional.
They also sought the issuance of a writ of prohibition and preliminary injunction to stop the government, its officers and agencies, including government-owned and -controlled corporations, from implementing the 2015 GAA.
The petitioners claimed that the 2015 national budget is constitutionally infirm because it contained lump sums and discretionary funds amounting to more than a trillion pesos, which is almost half of the entire national budget.
“Notably, close to half (45.8 program) of the total expenditure program for 2015 are considered Special Purpose Funds [SPFs]. Total SPFs amount to P1,194.6 billion — of which P378.6 billion are new programmed appropriations and P816 billion are automatic appropriations,” they said.
Among the questioned lump-sum appropriations are the P2-billion contingent fund; P1 billion for rehabilitation and reconstruction program; P31.1-billion allocation to local government units; P7.4-billion international commitment funds; P118.1-billion miscellaneous personnel benefits funds; P140.6-billion pension and gratuity funds and P372.9-billion debt service fund.
“Due to the innumerable and significant lump sums in the 2015 GAA, a considerable number of which are automatically appropriated, Congress’ vaunted spending power has become illusory; and that Congress itself had become a surplusage,” the petitioners pointed out.
They said that through “the restructuring of the definitions of savings and augmentation and the provisions on utilization of savings,” and “the restructuring for the utilization of Unprogrammed Appropriations,” the executive and legislative departments revived the practices under the controversial Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), which had been declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.
The petitioners also questioned the P47-billion “legislators’ insertions,” which according to them, are a form of “pork barrel.”
“Perhaps, the most infirm part of Republic Act 10651 (the 2015 GAA) are the legislators’ insertions into the budgetary requirements of the Department of Public Works and Highways and four other NGAs [national government agencies]. These insertions are nothing but “pork barrel” funds,” they said.
According to them, the executive branch, particularly Abad and President Benigno Aquino 3rd and Congress, committed grave abuse of discretion in preparing and approving the national budget for the current year.