MANILA, Sept 10 (Mabuhay) –Deputy Speaker and Cagayan de Oro City Representative Rufus Rodriguez on Friday called on President Rodrigo Duterte to instruct the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to release around P160 billion of “For Later Release” funds, noting that “hijacking” the amount is deemed unconstitutional.

“The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) has effectively hijacked these funds by withholding them. The President should direct the DBM to immediately release the money,” Rodriguez said, noting that it is against the 1987 Constitution to “impound” the funds.

“These are line items in the 2021 budget law or General Appropriations Act, which the House and the Senate approved and which President Duterte signed. The President’s approval is not needed for their release because they are contained in a law,” he added.

He said the executive branch would be “curtailing or undermining the congressional 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 said.

The lawmaker warned that if the Palace would continue to withhold funds, it might be accused of using the release of the money for political purposes by favoring its allies with disbursements.

“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 funds,” Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez said the FLR disbursements would even create jobs and income for people in both urban and rural areas in this time of pandemic.

In July, some senators already questioned the non-release of the P160 billion FLR, supposedly for infrastructure and social amelioration programs.

Rodriguez said DBM officer-in-charge Tina Rose Marie Canda has told lawmakers that the disbursement of FLR funds needs the approval of the Office of the President. (MNS)

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