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High tribunal OKs lump sum in ‘14 budget

The Supreme Court has declared as constitutional the four lump-sum appropriations in the 2014 General Appropriations Act for having been allocated for a “discernible” singular purpose.

In an en banc decision, the high court dismissed for lack of merit the petition filed by former Manila councilor and now-Presidential Anti-Corruption Commissioner Greco Belgica assailing the constitutionality of the so-called “lump-sum discretionary funds” in the 2014 budget.

In particular, Belgica challenged the validity of the P139.9-billion unprogrammed fund, the P1-billion contingency fund, the P2.48-billion e-government fund, and the P405-million local government support fund, arguing they were contrary to the high court’s 2013 decision that declared the Priority Development Assistance Fund or pork barrel funds as unconstitutional.

But the high court said the four appropriations were “valid items with discernible singular appropriation purpose in compliance with the rule on singular correspondence.”

The Court ruled in its PDAF decision, where Belgica was also the petitioner, that items of appropriation must be characterized by singular correspondence, or the “allocation of a specified singular amount for a specified singular purpose, otherwise known as a ‘line-item.”

In the new decision, the high court affirmed the unprogrammed fund as constitutional because it “specifically identified the public purposes for which the fund may be used and contained singularly corresponding purposes.”

It said the contingent fund, for its part, was constitutional because its purpose was to “cover the funding requirement of new or urgent projects that need to be implemented during the year, and the foreign travel expenses of the Office of the President which were not and could not have been anticipated during the budget preparation and authorization.”

The e-government fund, being a “cross-agency fund,” was required to be “subject to the determination by the administrative agencies of the ongoing strategic information and communication technology projects in the priority sectors identified by the legislature in the budget.” 

Finally, the local government support fund “provided sufficient standards which set the limits of the executive’s authority to disburse the LGSF, the legislative policy behind the fund, and identified the conditions under which the fund may be utilized,” the high court ruled.

According to the high court, the singular correspondence requirement does not mean that all lump-sum appropriations are unconstitutional per se.

“The petitioner’s heavy reliance on the 2013 Belgica case, as precedent to argue that lump-sum appropriations are unconstitutional, was misplaced,” the high court said.

“The 2013 Belgica case discussed what is a singular correspondence and distinguished what is a prohibited lump-sum.”

A copy of the decision was not immediately available.

Topics: Supreme Court , 014 General Appropriations Act , Priority Development Assistance Fund , Greco Belgica
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