Constitutional Issue Arises in 2024 National Budget Law

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In a recent development, Albay 1st District Rep. Edcel Lagman has raised concerns about a constitutional infirmity in the national budget law for 2024. According to Lagman, this year’s General Appropriations Act (GAA), which came into effect on January 1, 2024, contains a provision that exceeds the unprogrammed appropriations recommended by the President.

Lagman points out that the bicameral conference committee inserted an additional P449.5 billion, surpassing the P281.9 billion recommended by the President in the National Expenditure Program (NEP). He argues that this action violates Section 25(1) of Article VI of the 1987 Constitution, which prohibits Congress from increasing the appropriations specified in the budget or the NEP.

The crux of Lagman’s argument lies in the fact that the Constitution does not differentiate between programmed and unprogrammed appropriations when it comes to the congressional ban. Therefore, he asserts that Congress cannot exceed the ceiling set by both types of appropriations.

However, Albay 2nd District Rep. Joey Salceda has a different perspective on the matter. Salceda explains that the constitutional provision aims to prevent Congress from surpassing the fiscal deficit programmed by the President. He cites a Supreme Court case, Sarmiento vs. the Treasurer of the Philippines [G.R. No. 125680], which supports this interpretation.

It is important to note that this debate revolves around the interpretation of the constitutional provision and its implications for the national budget. While Lagman argues that the excess appropriations inserted by the bicameral conference committee are unconstitutional, Salceda believes that Congress should not go beyond the fiscal deficit limit set by the President.

The issue at hand highlights the delicate balance between the powers of the executive and legislative branches in budgetary matters. The President plays a crucial role in formulating the NEP, which serves as the basis for the budget. However, Congress also has the authority to scrutinize and make necessary adjustments to ensure that the budget aligns with the needs of the country.

In light of this constitutional debate, it is essential to consider the broader implications for the country’s governance and financial stability. The national budget is a vital tool for allocating resources and funding various government programs and initiatives. Any constitutional infirmity or discrepancy in its formulation can have far-reaching consequences.

To resolve this issue, it may be necessary for the concerned parties to seek legal clarification from the appropriate authorities, including the Supreme Court, to determine the constitutionality of the excess appropriations. This would provide a definitive answer and help maintain the integrity of the budgetary process.

In conclusion, the constitutional infirmity in the 2024 national budget law has sparked a debate between lawmakers regarding the limits of Congress in increasing appropriations recommended by the President. While Rep. Lagman argues that the excess appropriations are unconstitutional, Rep. Salceda maintains that Congress should not exceed the fiscal deficit programmed by the President. The resolution of this issue holds significant implications for the country’s governance and financial stability, emphasizing the need for legal clarification to maintain the integrity of the budgetary process.

Source: The Manila Times

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