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The nine Representatives who voted against the “Bayanihan Act” also want to help the Duterte administration combat the COVID-19 pandemic, but did not want to enact a law which contains provisions offensive to the Constitution.

The generation of forced or contrived savings by impounding, discontinuing, reprogramming, and reallocating budgetary items for projects, programs and activities in the General Appropriations Act (GAA) has been struck down as unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in Araullo vs. Aquino (G.R. No. 209287, July 1, 2014), which invalidated the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) together with the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).

It was ruled that the questionable budgetary procedure amounted to “transfer of funds” prohibited by Section 25 (5) of the Constitution.

What the High Court entombed for being unconstitutional, the “Bayanihan Act” resurrected when it authorized President Duterte under Section 4 (v) of the Act to “direct the discontinuance of appropriated programs, projects or activities (P/A/P) of any agency of the Executive Department, including government-owned or controlled corporations (GOCCs), in the FY 2019 and 2020 General Appropriations Act . . . and utilize the savings generated therefrom to . . . address the COVID-19 emergency” and transfer the “savings” to prioritized agencies.

Moreover, the President was likewise granted under Section 4 (x) the sweeping authority to “reprogram, reallocate and realign from savings on other items of appropriations in the FY 2020 GAA in the Executive Department”.

The Supreme Court also held that: “In a society governed by laws, even the best intentions must come within the parameters defined and set by the Constitution and the law. Laudable purposes must be carried out through legal methods.”

It must be underscored that those who voted against the “Bayanihan Act” are not against sourcing adequate funds to fight the public health emergency, but any assistance to those adversely affected by the pandemic must be lawful.

The Congress, instead of delegating to the President dubious additional budgetary powers, should have passed a supplemental budget, or pending the passage of the same, amended by itself the 2020 GAA to specifically discontinue and reallocate the subject budgetary items to directly address the contagion.