Rep. Edcel C. Lagman made good his commitment to challenge before the Supreme Court the constitutionality of the excess of P449,540,510,000 allocation in the unprogrammed appropriations clandestinely embedded in the 2024 General Appropriations Act (GAA) or RA No. 11975.
The President in his National Expenditure Program (NEP) proposed a ceiling of only P281,908.056,000 for unprogrammed appropriations which the Congress is prohibited from increasing pursuant to Sec. 25 (1) of Article VI of the 1987 Constitution which unequivocally provides: “The Congress may not increase the appropriations recommended by the President for the operation of the government as specified in the budget.”
The petition for certiorari and prohibition was filed on Monday and docketed as G.R. No. 271059.
Lagman, together with his co-petitioners Rep. Gabriel Bordado, Jr. and Rep. Mujiv Hataman, anchored the petition on the following grounds:
The constitutional prohibition on the Congress from exceeding the totality or ceiling of the appropriations proposed by the President in the National Expenditure Program (NEP) includes the ban on increasing the amount proposed by the Chief Executive for both the programmed and unprogrammed appropriations.
The unprogrammed appropriations are essential components of the total national expenditures.
The excess of P449.5-B over the P289.1-B proposed by the President for unprogrammed appropriations is an unconstitutional act of the Congress which is tainted with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of congressional jurisdiction, and perforce must be nullified.
Named as respondents are the following:
The Congress of the Philippines represented by Senate President Juan Miguel F. Zubiri, House Speaker Ferdinand Martin G. Romualdez;
Sen. Juan Edgardo M. Angara as Chairman of the Senate Committee on Finance and Co-Chairman of the Bicameral Conference Committee on the 2024 General Appropriations Bill;
Rep. Elizaldy Co, as Chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations and Co-Chairman of the Bicameral Conference Committee on the 2024 General Appropriations Bill;
Executive Secretary Lucas P. Bersamin who is impleaded in his official capacity as the “Little President” who acts on behalf of the President of the Republic of the Philippines;
Sec. Amenah F. Pangandaman who is impleaded in her official capacity as Secretary of the Department of Budget and Management; and
National Treasurer Rosalia V. De Leon who is impleaded in her official capacity as National Treasurer of the Republic of the Philippines
The petitioners prayed for the following reliefs from the Supreme Court:
The issuance of a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) or a Writ of Preliminary Injunction, upon the filing of the instant Petition or soonest thereafter, restraining the respondents from funding, releasing, and implementing the constitutionally infirm excess appropriation of P449.5-B over the proposal of the President of P289.1-B in unprogrammed appropriations.
Render a decision after due proceedings nullifying the challenged excess of P449.5-B in unprogrammed appropriations clandestinely embedded in the 2024 General Appropriations Act or RA No. 11975.
Issue a Writ of Prohibition directed to any and all respondents, and all other public functionaries acting on their behalf, permanently prohibiting them from funding, releasing, and implementing the excess items of expenditure consisting of P449.5-B.
The petitioners underscored that “[s]ettled is the rule that if the law or Constitution does not distinguish, neither should we distinguish. Ubi lex non distinguit nec nos distinguire debemos.”
They maintained that since the Constitution does not distinguish on which the ban shall be imposed, consequently the prohibition on increasing the totality of the appropriations refers separately to both the programmed appropriations and the unprogrammed appropriations.
They further contended that “[th]e unprogrammed appropriations are used as a sanctuary for pet and partisan projects, mixed with substantial allocations, and a graveyard for replaced or disfavored projects originally under the programmed appropriations.”
The petitioners likewise asserted further that “[i]t is indubitable that the excess of P449.5-B in unprogrammed appropriations is constitutionally infirm. It is an expenditure outlay outside of the Constitution. It is akin to an outlaw which must be slain on sight.”
They also stated that the “P449.5-B furtive appropriations and their probable release for implementation were premeditated by the leadership of the Committee on Appropriations chaired by respondent Co who recommended the Plenary approval of House Bill No. 9513 entitled, ‘An Act Providing Additional Criterion for the Availment of Unprogrammed Appropriations, amending for the Purpose Republic Act No. 11963 or the 2023 General Appropriations Act’.”
HB 9513, which was approved on third reading by the House of Representatives and is now pending in the Senate, authorizes the sequestration of purported excess income of Government-Owned and Controlled Corporations (GOCCs) to fund the unprogrammed appropriations.
EDCEL C. LAGMAN
Download: Petition-G.R. No. 271059.PDF