Press Releases

On Unprogrammed Appropriations in the 2024 GAA

January 25th, 2024

Rep. Joey Sarte Salceda
2 January 2024

The normal working of our Constitution is that anyone can file any question against any law, and that applies even to the General Appropriations Act. So, any party can file any suit against the 2024 GAA to their satisfaction.

This question was discussed in Congress, and we took the effort, during budget deliberations, to seek guidance from both the Executive through the DBM and the records of the Constitutional Commission.

In response to my query, on December 14, 2023, the Department of Budget and Management wrote to my office clarifying, essentially, that the Unprogrammed Appropriations are not part of the fiscal program. As such, only the programmed appropriations are subject to the Article VI, Section 25 (1) of the Constitution, or the prohibition against increasing appropriations recommended by the President. In short, the DBM said Congress can increase the unprogrammed appropriations as proposed.

At its core, the logic of the Constitutional provision is simple: Congress should not overstep the fiscal deficit programmed by the President. Indeed, this view is affirmed by the Supreme Court, in Sarmiento vs. the Treasurer of the Philippines [G.R. No. 125680 & 126313.September 4, 2001], which also cites the records of the Constitutional Commission. In the words of the Constitutional Commissioner Christian Monsod, it is to ensure that the budget does not “put the government in debt or in deficit.” (Vol 2, p. 188 of the Records of the Constitutional Commission)

The very conditions placed on the Unprogrammed Appropriations are designed in such a manner that no additional deficit will be incurred.

In fact, Article VII, Section 22 also specifies that the President shall submit a Budget of Expenditures and Sources of Financing as the basis for the budget. Taken in this light, the Constitutional limit to increases in programmed appropriations make sense as it applies to the BESF. When in excess of the BESF, there is no limitation imposed on Congress, and its power of the purse, long respected by the Supreme Court, is supreme.

No less than Rep. Lagman’s partymate, Former Senate President Franklin Drilon, defended the increase in unprogrammed appropriations as constitutional.

Ultimately, once a case is filed in the Supreme Court, the court will decide on the matter. I expect it to decide as it has always done so: with the maximum liberality and presumption of regularity granted to Congress in the exercise of its exclusive powers.

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