Supreme Court of the Philippines

SC: LTO’s use of unspent funds to buy driver’s license cards constitutional

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SC: LTO’s use of unspent funds to buy driver’s license cards constitutional

HIGH COURT. The Supreme Court building in Padre Faura, Manila.

Angie de Silva/Rappler

The Supreme Court denies the petition seeking to scrap the Land Transportation Office's 2017 project for procurement of driver's license cards

MANILA, Philippines – The Supreme Court (SC) ruled that the Land Transportation Office’s (LTO) use of P341.7 million in unspent funds to purchase driver’s license cards is constitutional.

In a 12-0 vote, the High Court’s En Banc denied the petition filed by former ACTS-OFW lawmaker Aniceto Bertiz III, who sought to scrap the LTO project with company Dermalog in 2017 in relation to the procurement of cards.

The SC, in its ruling, said Section 65 of the 2016 General Appropriations Act (GAA) authorized the use of 2016 funds even for 2017.

Section 65 states that: “Appropriations authorized in this Act for MOOE (Maintenance and Other Operating Expenses) and Capital Outlays shall be available for release and obligation for the purpose specified, and under the same special provisions applicable thereto, for a period extending to one fiscal year after the end of the year in which such items were appropriated.”    

The High Court explained that the provision is an example of “existing or continuing appropriations” or “appropriations which have been previously enacted by Congress and which continue to remain valid as an appropriation authority for the expenditure of public funds.”     

The SC also rejected Bertiz’s position that the use of P829.7 million for the project is unconstitutional because it is much higher compared to the P528.79 million appropriated under the GAA. The High Court ruled that the amount is within the approved P836-million budget for the project’s contract.

The 14-page decision was penned by Associate Justice Rodil Zalameda. Chief Justice Alexander Gesmundo, along with associate justices Marvic Leonen, Ramon Paul Hernando, Jean Paul Inting, Amy Lazaro-Javier, Mario Lopez, Samuel Gaerlan, Jhosep Lopez, Japar Dimaampao, Antonio Kho Jr., and Maria Filomena Singh concurred with the decision.  

Meanwhile, associate justices Midas Marquez, Alfredo Benjamin Caguioa, and Ricardo Rosario were on leave when the ruling was promulgated.    

What happened before

In Bertiz’s petition before the High Court, the former lawmaker challenged the project’s constitutionality because he claimed the 2016 GAA did not allocate any funding for it.

In addition, Bertiz said there was no appropriation in the 2017 GAA because the invitation for bidding did not indicate the specific year of the General Fund 101 as the source of funds.

Bertiz added that Congress did not enact any law authorizing the expenditure in the form of continuing appropriations. The former lawmaker also argued that Article 6, Section 29 (1) of the Constitution provides that “no money shall be paid out of the Treasury except in pursuance of an appropriation made by law.” –

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