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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.

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