DILG maintains legality of LGU fund use issuances

By Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 03 2011 03:21 PM | Updated as of Jun 03 2011 11:40 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo, through the Office of the Solicitor General(OSG), submitted his comment on a petition for certiorari and prohibition filed before the Supreme Court by Camarines Sur Governor Luis Raymond Villafuerte, Jr. that sought the nullification of 3 memorandum circulars issued by Robredo on the proper utilization of the 20% Development Fund component of the internal revenue allotment(IRA) and full disclosures on the usage of local funds and bids and public offerings.

In his 44-page comment,  Robredo asked the high court to dismiss the petition for lack of merit arguing that his Memorandum Circular(MC) No. 2010-138 dated December 2, 2010 pertaining to the use of the 20% component of the annual IRA shares; MC No. 2011-08 dated January 13, 2011 for strict adherence to the General Appropriations Act for fiscal year 2011; and MC 2010-83 dated August 31, 2010 pertaining to the full disclosure of local budget and finances, bids and public offerings are "constitutional and valid."

Villafuerte questioned these MC's assailing its constitutionality and arguing that these were "tainted with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction."

Robredo's MC No. 2010-138 states how the 20% Development Fund will be utilized for development projects, not for other purposes. The issuance also disallowed the use of the fund for the following administrative expenses:
-cash gifts
-food allowance
-medical assistance
-petroleum products
-salaries, wages and overtime pay
-domestic or foreign travel expenses
-registration or participation fees in training, seminars, conferences or conventions
-construction, repair or refinishing of administrative offices
-purchase of administrative office furniture, fixtures, equipment or appliances
-purchase, maintenance or repair of motor vehicles or motorcycles, except ambulances

MC 2010-83 directed local government units(LGU's) to put in one list documents required to be posted or published for full disclosure of local budget, finances, bids and public offerings for the preceding fiscal year.

MC 2011-08 directed LGU's to strictly adhere to the General Appropriations Act of 2011 where failure to comply shall subject officials and officers to disciplinary actions.

The imposition of sanctions mentioned in these MC's led Villafuerte to file the petition.

In its comment on behalf of Robredo, the OSG argued that "acts and issuances of the political departments of government carry the presumption of legality and constitutionality."

"...for the questioned MC's to be declared unconstitutional, it must be shown that there is a clear and unequivocal breach of the Constitution, not merely a doubtful and equivocal one," the OSG argued.

The OSG assailed Villafuerte's allegation that provisions on the required posting and publication of an LGU's finances and public offerings are "inappropriate," insisting that these requirements are in keeping with the principles of transparency and accountability that come with public office.

The OSG also raised the issue of prematurity of the petition since "it fails to allege any actual case or controversy" that should be elevated to the courts, and maintained the issuances did not encroach on legislative authority and are well within the scope of the secretary's authority.