At the hearing on the 2021 budgets of the Commission on Audit and Office of the Ombudsman, Sen. Lacson stressed the DBM has no authority under the Constitution to issue a discontinuance against a constitutional body such as the COA – after noting that the DBM issued a budget circular providing for the discontinuance of Programs, Activities and Projects (PAPs) of COA amounting to a total of P173M under the 2020 budget as they were categorized as congressional initiative and as “For Later Release.”
“My point is, Mr. Chairman, under the Constitution – particularly Sec. 5, Art 9-A, it provides for the automatic and regular release of the annual appropriations of constitutional commissions. And COA very clearly is one of three constitutional commissions, Comelec and CSC being the others. Of course even the judiciary,” Sen. Lacson said as he also cited jurisprudence (Bengzon vs Drilon, GR 103524), where fiscal autonomy allows the constitutional bodies and the judiciary full flexibility to allocate and utilize their resources with the wisdom and dispatch that their needs require. “So pag sinabi nating fiscal autonomy, walang pakialam ang DBM.”
COA Chairman Michael Aguinaldo said that while they are okay with the DBM’s decision “considering the difficulties the govt was having with funding in view of the pandemic,” he would agree that “it’s a violation of fiscal autonomy under the Constitution.”
“I’d like to manifest this very clearly, let this not serve as a precedent for future issuances by DBM; huwag lang gawing precedent setting ito. If I may add, emergency or no emergency, hindi pwedeng precedent ito,” Sen. Lacson said.