The Supreme Court (SC) has ordered Malacanang and Congress to explain on a petition filed by the Philippine Constitution Association (Philconsa) seeking to halt implementation of provision of lump-sum and discretionary funds in the 2015 national budget.
The regular Tuesday deliberation of the SC en banc mandated the Palace, the Senate, the House of Representatives and the Commission on Audit (COA) to file its comment within 10 days.
The deliberations were presided by acting Chief Justice Arturo Brion.
Only eight justices of the High Court participated in the en banc sessions since seven of the justices were on leave, including the four most senior justices–Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno and Justices Antonio Carpio, Presbitero Velasco Jr. and Teresita Leonardo-de Castro.
No temporary restraining order was issued by the SC but it ordered the respondents to file their respective comments to the petition.
The Philconsa petition was an addition to a petition already filed before the High Court.
A similar petition was filed last September 1 by a taxpayers’ group led by former National Treasurer Leonor Briones.
Their petition assailed the special purpose funds (SPFs), realignment of funds and definition of “savings” in the General Appropriations Act (GAA) of 2015.
Philconsa had 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 the SPFs.
The petitioners were led by Philconsa president and Leyte First District Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez.
Joining Romualdez were former senator Francisco Tatad, former Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno, former National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales and Catholic Archbishops Ramon Arguelles, Fernando Capalla and Romulo de la Cruz.
Named respondents were Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr., Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, Congress and COA.
Philconsa also pleaded to mandate COA to issue notice of disallowance to all disbursements and releases from the assailed GAA provisions.
The SC was asked to issue show cause order against 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].”
Philconsa also asked the 15-man tribunal to declare 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.”