Lawmaker hits DBM for ‘impounding’ funds
A veteran lawmaker slammed the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) for “impounding” P160-billion funds that were already appropriated for infrastructure projects in Republic Act No. 11518, or the General Appropriations Act of 2021.
“The DBM has effectively hijacked these funds by withholding them,” said House deputy speaker and Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, now on his fourth term as member of the House of Representatives.
Rodriguez urged President Duterte, in a statement, to direct the DBM to immediately release the money lest he be accused of diverting the funds for partisan political purposes.
“The President, who has accepted the nomination of the administration party for him to run for vice president in next year’s elections, needs the support of everybody. There should be no favoritism in the release of FLR (for later release) funds,” he said in a statement.
Funds for later release
In a Senate hearing earlier this week, Tina Rose Marie Canda, officer in charge of the DBM, said the President ordered that appropriations introduced by lawmakers in the Senate and the House of Representatives should be “reviewed” and classified as FLR.
But Rodriguez pointed out that that amounted to “impoundment” of funds that have been constitutionally appropriated by Congress and signed into law by the President himself.
To impound such funds would be unconstitutional, he added.
“These are line items in the 2021 General Appropriations Act, which the House and the Senate approved and which the President signed. The President’s approval is not needed for their release because they are contained in a law,” he said.
He added that the executive branch might curtail or undermine Congress’ power of the purse “if it is allowed to withhold or impound appropriations in the national budget.”
“That would render the exclusive power of Congress to appropriate public funds useless. What is the use of enacting appropriations if Malacañang is given the power of life and death over them?” Rodriguez asked.
He said Mr. Duterte was vested with veto powers by the Constitution, but he “opted not to veto the P160-billion appropriations and instead categorized them as FLR.”
“These funds should now be released,” Rodriguez said, adding that the release of the funds would stimulate economic activity all over the country.
“It cannot be overemphasized that our people are suffering from the COVID-19 pandemic and are barely making both ends meet. We need to give them jobs and income, and the best way to do that is to spend funds for infrastructure, social services and other projects. The government should be the biggest creator of livelihood opportunities,” the lawmaker said.
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