2015 Case Digest: Araullo v. Aquino (MR)

ARAULLO, et.al., Petitioners,


AQUINO, et.al., Respondents.

G.R. Nos. 209287,et.al.    January 3, 2015

(Motion for Reconsideration)



PONENTE: Bersamin

TOPIC: Constitutionality of DAP, cross-border transfer




1.) The Court’s power of judicial review

Argument: The respondents argue that the Executive has not violated the GAA because savings as a concept is an ordinary species of interpretation that calls for legislative, instead of judicial, determination.


Held: Untenable. The interpretation of the GAA and its definition of savings is a foremost judicial function. This is because the power of judicial review vested in the Court is exclusive.

Endencia and Jugo v. David: The interpretation and application of said laws belong exclusively to the Judicial department. And this authority to interpret and apply the laws extends to the Constitution. Before the courts can determine whether a law is constitutional or not, it will have to interpret and ascertain the meaning not only of said law, but also of the pertinent portion of the Constitution in order to decide whether there is a conflict between the two, because if there is, then the law will have to give way and has to be declared invalid and unconstitutional.

2.) Strict construction on the accumulation and utilization of savings

The exercise of the power to augment shall be strictly construed by virtue of its being an exception to the general rule that the funding of PAPs shall be limited to the amount fixed by Congress for the purpose. Necessarily, savings, their utilization and their management will also be strictly construed against expanding the scope of the power to augment.15 Such a strict interpretation is essential in order to keep the Executive and other budget implementors within the limits of their prerogatives during budget execution, and to prevent them from unduly transgressing Congress’ power of the purse.

Pertinent provisions

Section 25(5), Article VI of the Constitution states:

No law shall be passed authorizing any transfer of appropriations; however, the President, the President of the Senate, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, and the heads of Constitutional Commissions may, by law, be authorized to augment any item in the general appropriations law for their respective offices from savings in other items of their respective appropriations.

x x x x

Section 38 and Section 39, Chapter 5, Book VI of the Administrative Code provide:

Section 38. Suspension of Expenditure of Appropriations. – Except as otherwise provided in the General Appropriations Act and whenever in his judgment the public interest so requires, the President, upon notice to the head of office concerned, is authorized to suspend or otherwise stop further expenditure of funds allotted for any agency, or any other expenditure authorized in the General Appropriations Act, except for personal services appropriations used for permanent officials and


Section 39. Authority to Use Savings in Appropriations to Cover Deficits.—Except as otherwise provided in the General Appropriations Act, any savings in the regular appropriations authorized in the General Appropriations Act for programs and projects of any department, office or agency, may, with the approval of the President, be used to cover a deficit in any other item of the regular appropriations: Provided, that the creation of new positions or increase of salaries shall not be allowed to be funded from budgetary savings except when specifically authorized by law: Provided, further, that whenever authorized positions are transferred from one program or project to another within the same department, office or agency, the corresponding amounts appropriated for personal services are also deemed transferred, without, however increasing the total outlay for personal services of the department, office or agency concerned.

Section 38 refers to the authority of the President “to suspend or otherwise stop further expenditure of funds allotted for any agency, or any other expenditure authorized in the General Appropriations Act.” When the President suspends or stops expenditure of funds, savings are not automatically generated until it has been established that such funds or appropriations are free from any obligation or encumbrance, and that the work, activity or purpose for which the appropriation is authorized has been completed, discontinued or abandoned.

Although the withdrawal of unobligated allotments may have effectively resulted in the suspension or stoppage of expenditures through the issuance of negative Special Allotment Release Orders (SARO), the reissuance of withdrawn allotments to the original programs and projects is a clear indication that the program or project from which the allotments were withdrawn has not been discontinued or abandoned.

At this point, it is likewise important to underscore that the reversion to the General Fund of unexpended balances of appropriations – savings included – pursuant to Section 28 Chapter IV, Book VI of the Administrative Code does not apply to the Constitutional Fiscal Autonomy Group (CFAG), which include the Judiciary, Civil Service Commission, Commission on Audit, Commission on Elections, Commission on Human Rights, and the Office of the Ombudsman.

On the other hand, Section 39 is evidently in conflict with the plain text of Section 25(5), Article VI of the Constitution because it allows the President to approve the use of any savings in the regular appropriations authorized in the GAA for programs and projects of any department, office or agency to cover a deficit in any other item of the regular appropriations. As such, Section 39 violates the mandate of Section 25(5) because the latter expressly limits the authority of the President to augment an item in the GAA to only those in his own Department out of the savings in other items of his own Department’s appropriations. Accordingly, Section 39 cannot serve as a valid authority to justify cross-border transfers under the DAP.


Augmentations under the DAP which are made by the Executive within its department shall, however, remain valid so long as the requisites under Section 25(5) are complied with.



3.) The power to augment cannot be used to fund non-existent provisions in the GAA

Argument: The respondents assert, however, that there is no constitutional requirement for Congress to create allotment classes within an item. What is required is for Congress to create items to comply with the line-item veto of the President.

Held: Tenable. The Court reversed its ruling.

Indeed, Section 25(5) of the 1987 Constitution mentions of the term item that may be the object of augmentation by the President, the Senate President, the Speaker of the House, the Chief Justice, and the heads of the Constitutional Commissions. In Belgica v. Ochoa, we said that an item that is the distinct and several part of the appropriation bill, in line with the item veto power of the President, must contain “specific appropriations of money” and not be only general provisions.

Item, definition: the particulars, the details, the distinct and severable parts of the appropriation or of the bill. an item of appropriation must be an item characterized by singular correspondence – meaning an allocation of a specified singular amount for a specified singular purpose, otherwise known as a “line-item.” This treatment not only allows the item to be consistent with its definition as a “specific appropriation of money” but also ensures that the President may discernibly veto the same.

Accordingly, the item referred to by Section 25(5) of the Constitution is the last and indivisible purpose of a program in the appropriation law, which is distinct from the expense category or allotment class. There is no specificity, indeed, either in the Constitution or in the relevant GAAs that the object of augmentation should be the expense category or allotment class. In the same vein, the President cannot exercise his veto power over an expense category; he may only veto the item to which that expense category belongs to.

Further, in Nazareth v. Villar, we clarified that there must be an existing item, project or activity, purpose or object of expenditure with an appropriation to which savings may be transferred for the purpose of augmentation. Accordingly, so long as there is an item in the GAA for which Congress had set aside a specified amount of public fund, savings may be transferred thereto for augmentation purposes.

Nonetheless, this modified interpretation does not take away the caveat that only DAP projects found in the appropriate GAAs may be the subject of augmentation by legally accumulated savings. Whether or not the 116 DAP-funded projects had appropriation cover and were validly augmented require factual determination that is not within the scope of the present consolidated petitions under Rule 65.

  1. Cross-border transfers are constitutionally impermissible

Argument: Section 25(5), Article VI of the Constitution prohibits only the transfer of appropriation, not savings.

Held:  Section 25(5) is clear. The Court stood by its previous pronouncement.

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