G.R. No. 113105, G.R. No. 113174, G.R. No. 113766, G.R. No. 113888 – 235 SCRA 506 – Political Law – Constitutional Law – The Executive Branch – Powers of the President; Veto Power – Part of the Legislative Process
Constitutionality of the Pork Barrel “Countrywide Development Fund”
This is a consolidation of cases which sought to question the veto authority of the president involving the General Appropriations Bill of 1994 as well as the constitutionality of the pork barrel. The Philippine Constitution Association (PHILCONSA) questions the countrywide development fund. PHILCONSA said that Congress can only allocate funds but they cannot specify the items as to which those funds would be applied for since that is already the function of the executive.
In G.R. No. 113766, after the vetoing by the president of some provisions of the GAB of 1994, neither house of congress took steps to override the veto. Instead, Senators Wigberto Tañada and Alberto Romulo sought the issuance of the writs of prohibition and mandamus against Executive Secretary Teofisto Guingona et al. Tañada et al contest the constitutionality of: (1) the veto on four special provisions added to items in the GAB of 1994 for the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH); and (2) the conditions imposed by the President in the implementation of certain appropriations for the CAFGU’s, the DPWH, and the National Housing Authority (NHA).
ISSUE: Whether or not the President’s veto is valid.
HELD: In the PHILCONSA petition, the SC ruled that Congress acted within its power and that the CDF is constitutional. In the Tañada petitions the SC dismissed the other petitions and granted the others.
Veto on special provisions
The provisions vetoed were the following:
Use of the Fund. (1) The appropriation authorized herein shall be used for payment of principal and interest of foreign and domestic indebtedness; (2) PROVIDED, That any payment in excess of the amount herein appropriated shall be subject to the approval of the President of the Philippines with the concurrence of the Congress of the Philippines; (3) PROVIDED, FURTHER, That in no case shall this fund be used to pay for the liabilities of the Central Bank Board of Liquidators. (Numbers supplied for purposes of this digest)
The president did his veto with certain conditions and compliant to the ruling in Gonzales vs Macaraig. The president particularly vetoed the debt reduction scheme in the GAA of 1994 commenting that the scheme is already taken cared of by other legislation and may be more properly addressed by revising the debt policy. He, however did not delete the P86,323,438,000.00 appropriation therefor. Tañada et al averred that the president cannot validly veto that provision w/o vetoing the amount allotted therefor. The veto of the president herein is sustained for the vetoed provision is considered “inappropriate”; in fact the SC found that such provision if not vetoed would in effect repeal the Foreign Borrowing Act making the legislation as a log-rolling legislation. Hence, the veto on the first part of the provision is valid.
But the veto on the 2nd and 3rd part is void. These provisions are germane to and have a direct connection with the item on debt service. Inherent in the power of appropriation is the power to specify how the money shall be spent. The said provisos, being appropriate provisions, cannot be vetoed separately. Hence the item veto of said provisions is void.
Veto of provisions for revolving funds of SUCs
The appropriation for State Universities and Colleges (SUC’s), the President vetoed special provisions which authorize the use of income and the creation, operation and maintenance of revolving funds was likewise vetoed. The reason for the veto is that there were already funds allotted for the same in the National expenditure Program. Tañada et al claimed this as unconstitutional. The SC ruled that the veto is valid for it is in compliant to the “One Fund Policy” – it avoided double funding and redundancy.
Veto of provision on 70% (administrative)/30% (contract) ratio for road maintenance
The President vetoed this provision on the basis that it may result to a breach of contractual obligations. The funds if allotted may result to abandonment of some existing contracts. The SC ruled that this Special Provision in question is not an inappropriate provision which can be the subject of a veto. It is not alien to the appropriation for road maintenance, and on the other hand, it specifies how the said item shall be expended – 70% by administrative and 30% by contract. The 1987 Constitution allows the addition by Congress of special provisions, conditions to items in an expenditure bill, which cannot be vetoed separately from the items to which they relate so long as they are “appropriate” in the budgetary sense. The veto herein is then not valid.
Veto of provision on prior approval of Congress for purchase of military equipment
As reason for the veto, the President stated that the said condition and prohibition violate the Constitutional mandate of non-impairment of contractual obligations, and if allowed, “shall effectively alter the original intent of the AFP Modernization Fund to cover all military equipment deemed necessary to modernize the AFP”. The SC affirmed the veto. Any provision blocking an administrative action in implementing a law or requiring legislative approval of executive acts must be incorporated in a separate and substantive bill. Therefore, being “inappropriate” provisions.
Veto of provision on use of savings to augment AFP pension funds
According to the President, the grant of retirement and separation benefits should be covered by direct appropriations specifically approved for the purpose pursuant to Section 29(1) of Article VI of the Constitution. Moreover, he stated that the authority to use savings is lodged in the officials enumerated in Section 25(5) of Article VI of the Constitution. The SC retained the veto per reasons provided by the president.
Condition on the deactivation of the CAFGU’s
Congress appropriated compensation for the CAFGU’s including the payment of separation benefits. The President declared in his Veto Message that the implementation of this Special Provision to the item on the CAFGU’s shall be subject to prior Presidential approval pursuant to P.D. No. 1597 and R.A. No. 6758. The SC ruled to retain the veto per reasons provided by the president. Further, if this provision is allowed the it would only lead to the repeal of said existing laws.
Conditions on the appropriation for the Supreme Court, etc
In his veto message: “The said condition is consistent with the Constitutional injunction prescribed under Section 8, Article IX-B of the Constitutional which states that ‘no elective or appointive public officer or employee shall receive additional, double, or indirect compensation unless specifically authorized by law.’ I am, therefore, confident that the heads of the said offices shall maintain fidelity to the law and faithfully adhere to the well-established principle on compensation standardization. Tañada et al claim that the conditions imposed by the President violated the independence and fiscal autonomy of the Supreme court, the Ombudsman, the COA and the CHR. The SC sustained the veto: In the first place, the conditions questioned by petitioners were placed in the GAB by Congress itself, not by the President. The Veto Message merely highlighted the Constitutional mandate that additional or indirect compensation can only be given pursuant to law. In the second place, such statements are mere reminders that the disbursements of appropriations must be made in accordance with law. Such statements may, at worse, be treated as superfluities.
Pork Barrel Constitutional
The pork barrel makes the unequal equal. The Congressmen, being representatives of their local districts know more about the problems in their constituents areas than the national government or the president for that matter. Hence, with that knowledge, the Congressmen are in a better position to recommend as to where funds should be allocated.
This case was partly abandoned by Belgica vs Executive Secretary (November 2013)