Palace, Congress get 10-day ultimatum
SC orders them to answer Philconsa’s P424-b question
The Supreme Court has required Malacañang and the Congress to comment on the latest petition questioning the P424-billion lump sum and discretionary funds in this year’s budget.
In an en banc session presided by Associate Justice Arturo Brion, the SC resolved to oblige the Executive and Legislative branches to answer the petition filed last week by the Philippine Constitution Association led by Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez.
The high court gave the respondents 10 days from receipt of notice to comply with the order.
In their 30-page petition, the Philconsa sought issuance of a temporary restraining order enjoining the executive branch from further implementing Sections 65, 70 and 73 of the 2015 GeneralAppropriations Act and special provisions for special purpose funds.
Petitioners also urged the tribunal to order the Commission on Audit to issue notice of disallowance to all disbursements and releases from the assailed GAA provisions.
The petitioners also asked the tribunal to issue show cause order against the Congress and Budget Secretary Florencio Abad for “flagrant disobedience, resistance and disregard of the decisions of the Supreme Court in the [Priority Development Assistance Fund and Disbursement Acceleration Program cases].”
Section 65 of the GAA provides for lump sum appropriations while Sec. 70
defines savings as portions or balances of any unreleased appropriations in the GAA that were not obligated. Section 73, on the other hand, contains Rules in the realignment of allotment classes and reprioritization of items of appropriations.
Philconsa asked the high court to declare all three provisions as unconstitutional.
Petitioners said an examination of the 2015 budget 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.”
While there is only about three months left in the fiscal year, petitioners argued it is not yet too late for the SC to act.
Romualdez was joined by 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 in filing the petition.
Name respondents were Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr., Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, the Congress and the COA.
Earlier this month, a similar petition citing similar grounds was filed by the group led by former national treasurer Leonor Briones of anti-corruption watchdog Social Watch Philippines.
In that case, the SC had also ordered the government to answer the petition.