House official airs constitutional issues vs P405.6-B Bayanihan 3 bill

Published May 24, 2021, 9:56 PM

by Ben Rosario

A ranking official of the House of Representatives on Monday, May 24, warned that efforts to provide Filipinos cash assistance under the Bayanihan 3 bill will go down the drain unless constitutional issues in sourcing its P405.6 billion funding is sufficiently addressed.

Deputy Speaker and Davao City Rep. Isidro Ungab said that if proponents classify the Bayanihan to Arise as One bill as a ‘special appropriations” measure, then it should meet the conditions set under Section 25, Article VI of the 1987 Constitution.

Aside from specifying the purpose of the proposed appropriations, there should be a certification from the National Treasurer that funds are “actually available” to finance the program, explained Ungab.

Ungab clarified that he is in full support of the bill that is being authored by all but seven members of the Lower House, adding that he is willing to “sponsor it, vote for it and defend it on the floor.” “But, and this is a big But, I want to make sure that there are funds available for this purpose,” the former chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations said.

“Otherwise, this measure that we are going to pass today, as I have noted, will just be one of the many unfunded bills that congress has passed, and may only be an unfulfilled promise, if we cannot get the much-needed certification of funds for this purpose,’ the senior administration lawmaker warned.

In his sponsorship message for the bill, Albay Rep. Joey Sarte Salceda, chairman of the House Committee on Ways and Means, said financing the Bayanihan program may require borrowing money.

He stressed that the Bayanihan 3 is perfectly constitutional.

“The question of presentation of certification of availability of funds is superfluous because the proposal meets the condition that a special appropriations bill be supported “by funds … to be raised by a corresponding revenue proposed therein.” Salceda explained.

However, Ungab insisted that compliance to the constitutional provision is a must and that the National Treasurer has to certify that funds are indeed available.

“But what if there are no funds? May excess revenue be used to fund a special appropriations bill?” he asked.

Responding to his own question, Ungab answered in the affirmative, pointing out that the charter allows the use of funds actually available and corresponding revenue proposal to finance Bayanihan 3.

Under the Bayanihan proposal, funding sources may come primarily from the Unprogrammed Fund of the 2021 General Appropriations Act. Still, this move will require a :major amendment of the 2021 GAA which has “suffered a major revision during the bicam to accommodate the legislators’ (favored) amendments.” Ungab noted that the Department of Budget and Management, the Department of Finance and the Bureau of Treasury “did not provide concrete commitment on the funding and the issuance of a certificate of funds availability.” The DBM, he said, is not in favor of “touching what is left of the current budget for purposes of partly funding the Bayanihan 3.” “How about the DOF and BTR. They say the can always issue a certification if funds are available especially if it pertains to excess revenue. But there is nothing to certify at this moment,’ the Davao City solon stressed.

He added: “They will try tomorrow or maybe the next day or at a later date, because they say we are still in the middle of financing the budgetary requiremetns for this year, which amount to P4 trillion pesos.”