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Signing of 2024 budget slated Wednesday

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President Marcos will sign on Wednesday the 2024 national budget, which has been stripped of confidential and intelligence funds originally allocated for civilian and non-security agencies, including the Office of the Vice President and the Department of Education.

“It’s ready for [signing], I think the signing ceremony will be on Wednesday,” Speaker Martin Romualdez told reporters on Monday in Japan where he accompanied Mr. Marcos for the 50th ASEAN-Japan Friendship and Cooperation Commemorative Summit.

A separate Palace source confirmed the signing of the P5.76-trillion budget at the Palace has been set for Wednesday.

Romualdez said the President wanted to sign the national budget into law before he departed for Japan last week, but there were certain printing requirements that needed to be fulfilled first.

The final Congress-approved version of the General Appropriations Bill no longer had CIFs for non-security agencies.

“It’s also a reading of the public opinion, (and) the public opinion wanted greater transparency on the budget,” said Senator Juan Edgardo Angara, chairman of the Senate finance committee.

Romualdez said the House of Representatives and the Senate were one in removing the CIF appropriations.

“Both houses (of Congress) agreed upon it. In fact, the heads of the departments have agreed to it. They have voluntarily withdrawn it (request for confidential funds),” he said.

“And the President is of that mind that as much as possible, to minimize the CIFs of the civilian department or agencies and rather focus where, you know, where it’s best suited: for security issues, for defense, for Coast Guard, for the West Philippine Sea,” the Speaker added.

Romualdez assured the public next year’s national budget contains funds for robust defense of the West Philippine Sea.

Earlier, former Senate President Franklin Drilon defended Congress’s decision to increase the unprogrammed appropriations in the 2024 national budget, saying the move was legal and does not violate the Constitution.

“Unprogrammed funds are standby appropriations that are distinct fromthe approved fiscal program of the National Government. Transactions related to these funds are recorded when they become actual, contingent upon compliance with conditions specified in the Special Provisions of the unprogrammed appropriations in the General Appropriations Act,” Drilon said.

The primary purpose of unprogrammed appropriations, he said, was to authorize additional agency expenditures for priority programs and projects beyond the original budget.

“These expenditures are allowed only when revenue collections surpass the resource targets assumed in the budget or when additional foreign project loan proceeds are realized,” Drilon said.

“I find no constitutional violation in the increase of funding for unprogrammed funds. It becomes a non-issue as long as they adhere to the conditions outlined for releasing the funds,” he added.

Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel III earlier said the additional unprogrammed funds and increases in other appropriations made the final version of the budget “unconstitutional.”

“Is that compliant with the Constitution? Our Constitution states that Congress may approve the appropriations proposed by the President for the operations of the government, but it cannot increase the appropriations. Congress can maintain the appropriations or reduce the appropriations, but it cannot increase the appropriations,” the senator said.

Data from Pimentel’s office showed the final version of the 2024 General Appropriations Bill at P6.498 trillion is composed of P4.019 trillion in programmed funds, P731 billion in unprogrammed funds, and P1.748 trillion in automatic appropriations.

“What happened now is that Congress gave the executive branch the authority to spend an amount even greater than what is asked by the executive branch. It’s as simple as that – unconstitutional,” he said.


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