Co reiterates unprogrammed funds are legal

Co reiterates unprogrammed funds are legal, meant for emergencies

/ 12:29 AM January 19, 2024

Co reiterates unprogrammed funds are legal, meant for emergencies

Elizaldy Co —Photo from House of Representatives FB page

MANILA, Philippines — Ako Bicol party-list Rep. Elizaldy Co has maintained that the presence of unprogrammed funds in an annual budget is legal and intended for emergencies, amid fears by minority lawmakers that the 2024 General Appropriations Act (GAA) might be unconstitutional.

Co in a statement on Thursday explained that unprogrammed funds cannot also be counted as part of the National Expenditure Program (NEP) because these are just standby funds or projects that will be funded if the government has savings, surplus revenues, or if the target income is exceeded.


“Hindi yan obligasyon o kontrata. Hindi siya part ng NEP, hindi siya part ng programmed funds,” Co, who chairs the House committee on appropriations, said.


(That’s not an obligation or a contract. It’s not part of the NEP, it’s not part of the programmed funds.)

“It is only a wish list na pag nagkaroon ng extra funds binibigyan natin ang ating pamahalaan para mas makatulong sa ating mga kababayan at tumaas ang economic growth natin,” he added.

(It is only a wish list that if the government has extra funds, we would give the government the chance to help more people and usher in economic growth.)

One good example where unprogrammed funds were used was during the COVID-19 pandemic, as the health emergency prompted the government to realign funds allocated to projects towards unprogrammed appropriations, or items that were not specified in the NEP or that year’s GAA.

“Hindi siya bago sa system. Hindi po yan illegal. Ang gamit po niyan kapag may emergency like COVID, kinulang pa nga tayo. Gumastos po tayo ng P400 billion. Nag slash ng pondo sa NEP at may mga proyektong hindi natuloy, para lang matugunan ang bagong pangangailangan,” he said.

(It is not new to the system. It is also not illegal. That is used for emergencies like the COVID-19 pandemic, where we came short of funding. We spent P400 billion. Funds were slashed from the NEP and some projects were not continued just so we can address new needs.)


“Kelangan nating mag planning para pag may extra funds o extra revenue ay may paglalagyan. Kasi hindi trabaho ng ating government mag save ng pera ngunit kelangan nitong gamitin ang extra funds para ang ating ekonomiya ay magkaroon ng growth. Ang gusto natin ay double digit growth (rate),” he added.

(We need good planning for us to put items in case of extra funds or extra revenue. Because it is not the job of the government to save, they need to spend whatever savings so that our economy would grow. We want a double digit growth rate.)

Co admitted that his answers were in response to the petition filed before the Supreme Court by Albay 1st District Rep. Edcel Lagman, Camarines Sur 3rd District Rep. Gabriel Bordado Jr., and Basilan Rep. Mujiv Hataman, questioning the constitutionality of the 2024 GAA.

In the petition, the three maintained that increasing the unprogrammed funds by P449.4 billion meant that the annual budget passed by Congress and signed by President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. went beyond the P5.768 trillion ceiling — an act that allegedly goes against the 1987 Constitution.

Lagman has cited several times Article VI, Section 25 of the 1987 Constitution which states that Congress “may not increase the appropriations recommended by the President for the operation of the government as specified in the budget”.

Co and Lagman have traded barbs recently over the issue, with the incumbent appropriations chairperson saying that Lagman should include himself as respondent in his petition, because the previous year’s budget also contained unprogrammed funds.

Lagman, as a Minority lawmaker, was a member of the bicameral conference committee that finalized the 2023 national budget.

In reply, Lagman said that Co should instead address allegations they raised, instead of resorting to personal attacks.

READ: Lagman says Co fails to justify excess in unprogrammed funds 

Co insisted anew that unprogrammed funds were present in the budget even when Lagman himself headed the appropriations panel years ago.

“Matagal nang meron nito nandito na yan kahit naging Chairman pa si Lagman sa Appropriations nung 2007 meron na yan even before him. Matagal na yang meron. Last 15 years sa bicameral conference committee… even last year — meron akong documents na pumirma siya kaya legal po yan ‘di illegal,” he said.

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(It’s been in the budget even when Lagman was chair of the appropriations committee in 2007, even before him.  It has been there, for the last 15 years at the bicameral conference committee, even last year — I have documents showing that he signed it — indicating that it is not illegal.)

TAGS: Elizaldy Co, unprogrammed funds

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