Another petition questioning the constitutionality of this year’s budget was filed by the Philippine Constitution Association (Philconsa) at the Supreme Court (SC).
The group asked the High Court to halt the implementation of provisions granting lump sums and discretionary funds to several agencies.
Philconsa’s petition will likely be merged with the petition filed on September 1 by a taxpayers group led by former National Treasurer Leonor Briones questioning the legality of the 2015 budget. Briones’ petition assailed the Special Purpose Funds (SPF), realignment of funds, and definition of “savings” in the General Appropriations Act of 2015.
In its 30-page petition for certiorari and prohibition, Phil¬consa asked the SC to issue a temporary restraining order (TRO) enjoining the executive branch from further implementing Sections 65, 70 and 73 of the 2015 GAA and special provisions for special purpose funds (SPF).
Leading the filing of the Philconsa petition was Leyte Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez, the group’s president.
Joining Romualdez are former Senator Francisco “Kit” Tatad, former Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno, former National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales and Archbishops Ramon Arguelles, Fernando Capalla and Romulo De La Cruz in filing the petition.
Named respondents were Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr., Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, Congress and the Commission on Audit.
The group asked the SC to order the Commission on Audit to issue a notice of disallowance to all disbursements and releases from the assailed GAA provisions.
The SC was also asked to issue show cause order against the Congress and Abad for “flagrant disobedience, resistance and disregard of the ruling of the high court in the (Priority Development Assistance Fund and Disbursement Acceleration Program cases).”
In this year’s GAA, Sec. 65 provides lump sum appropriations while Sec. 70 defines savings as portions or balances of any unreleased appropriations in the GAA that were not obligated. Sec. 73, on the other hand, contains Rules in the realignment of allotment classes and reprioritization of items of appropriations.
“Realignment of allotment classes and reprioritization of items of appropriations are species and varieties of transfer and augmentation prohibited under Section 25 (5), Article IV of the Constitution,” the group said.
“Congress only provided the lump-sum appropriations as the ‘faucets’ to open or the ‘wellsprings’ to tap/siphon to fund the Special Budgets prepared by heads of agencies and approved by the president. The Special Budgets constitute undue delegation of the legislative power of appropriations made by law. The Special Budgets prepared, enacted and implemented by the executive department are not appropriations made by law,” it added.
Philconsa asked the 15 man tribunal to declare as unconstitutional the definition of “savings” under GAA 2015 for violating section 25 (5) of the 1987 Constitution, which states: “No law shall be passed authorizing any transfer of appropriations; however, the President and the President of the Senate, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, and the Heads of the Constitutional Commissions may, by law, be authorized to augment any item in the general appropriations law for their respective offices from savings in other items of their respective appropriations.”
The group alleged that the 2015 GAA showed “scandalous and unconscionable freight” of lump sum appropriations amounting to P424,144,763,000 “cleverly embedded” in nine strategic departments and two agencies of the executive department, which the group said were “highly vulnerable to the whirligig of transactional, rent-seeking and patronage politics.”
“This case is the golden and historic occasion for the Supreme Court to establish an impregnable wall to block the genre of conscienceless politicians and politics to politicize, pollute and desecrate the Constitution in the preparation and implementation of the General Appropriations Act,” it added.