MANILA - Several lawmakers are grumbling because their projects under the 2021 budget have been held up by the government.
This as lawmakers began tackling the 2022 National Expenditure Program of the Duterte Administration at the House Appropriations Committee.
The budget deliberations happen as politicians gear up and form their alliances for the upcoming national election.
Lawmakers have traditionally used the annual budget deliberations to follow up on the implementation of their projects for their constituencies.
During the hearing on Thursday, Marikina 2nd District Rep. Stella Quimbo, Deputy Speaker Bagong Henerasyon Party List Rep. Bernadette Herrera Dy, Senior Deputy Speaker Oriental Mindoro 1st District Rep. Doy Leachon, and Leyte 3rd District Rep. Vicente Veloso took turns in trying to get the Department of Budget and Management to release projects in the 2021 budget that have been tagged as for later release by the President’s veto message for 2021.
Part 5 of the President’s veto message states that items introduced by Congress in the budget have corresponding effects in the respective outputs and outcomes of the agencies concerned.
"Therefore these new budgetary items shall be subject to the National Government’s Cash Programming, the observance of prudent and responsible fiscal management, applicable rules and procedures during budget execution, and approval by the President based on the programmed priorities of the government," it said.
Under the constitution, the executive proposes the budget to Congress for authorization. They can make changes but they can’t increase the spending limit set by the executive, which means they can only reduce or realign funds within the budget.
Leachon said delaying these projects for later release (FLR) is unconstitutional.
"Hanging it on the non-implementation of the FLR is definitely for me is unconstitutional because this is the first time in history I heard of that FLR that is not provided for the Constitution. Nowhere in a law book or any law for that matter or even the Constitution does not provide for FLR," he said.
Leachon said many of his colleagues have raised their concerns over their unimplemented projects that were tagged as FLR’s.
Leachon indicated it has affected lawmakers' attitudes over the 2022 budget.
Department of Budget and Management officer-in-charge Undersecretary Tina Canda explained they are merely implementing the President’s veto message.
Canda added that these projects are still awaiting presidential approval.
"Ang gagawin na lang po namin pagbalik namin ifafollow up po namin sa Office of the President so that kung puwede marelease na yun," she said.
Responding to Veloso, Canda explained that FLR items have not been vetoed but are merely facing conditionalities before these can be implemented.
"The projects have not been vetoed and in fact, they are included under the category for later release because they have to comply with other documentary requirements before they can be submitted or before the documents, the release documents can be prepared and issued for the purpose," Canda added.
She also said the Office of the President has already started approving some projects.
Quimbo said lawmakers have received reports that the projects that have been held up are ready for implementation.
Canda said that there is some P28 billion in unreleased funds under the 2021 budget as of July.
When Herrera asked when the FLR projects can be released, Canda said: "I cannot speak for the office of the president, I can only speak for my department at the moment."