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MANILA, Philippines – President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has signed into law the proposed 2024 national budget, the climax of the latest Philippine budget cycle that has been pounded by an unprecedented level of pushback on confidential funds.
There was no doubt that Marcos’ General Appropriations Bill (GAB) would pass both chambers of Congress, where his allies continue to keep a super majority coalition intact, although apparent infighting put into question the stability of the alliance.
Here are key moments in this year’s budget cycle.
June 23, 2023: Marcos admin sets 2024 budget proposal at P5.768 trillion
Economy and social services got more than half of the funds when the proposal was broken down into sectoral allocations. The executive also requested P10.1 billion in confidential funds, nearly half of which would go to the Office of the President (OP).
August 2, 2023: Executive branch submits budget proposal to the legislature
August 30, 2023: OVP breezes through House committee, raising eyebrows
The House committee on appropriations, citing parliamentary courtesy, quickly terminated the budget deliberations for Sara Duterte’s Office of the Vice President (OVP), denying the left-leaning Makabayan bloc the opportunity to ask about the OVP’s confidential fund spending for the previous year.
During this period, the debate on how Duterte’s office obtained P125 million in confidential funds in 2022 – and spent most of it in under three weeks – had been heating up, and the opposition’s inability to confront Duterte head-on about the topic just fanned the flame.
In the final days of the plenary deliberations in September, the Commission on Audit (COA) disclosed that the funds in question were exhausted by the OVP within 11 days, not 19, a revelation that further infuriated critics of the Vice President.
September 27, 2023: House passes 2024 spending bill, denies Duterte’s confidential fund request
The House passed the 2024 GAB despite intense criticisms from the Makabayan bloc, which, just like in previous years, accused the majority of railroading the budget proposal.
A week later, the chamber kept its word to deny Sara Duterte’s OVP and the Department of Education a confidential fund request amounting to P650 million for 2024, reallocating the money instead to agencies at the forefront of efforts to assert the Philippines’ territorial rights in the West Philippine Sea.
November 8, 2023: Senate begins budget deliberations in plenary
After the legislative branch went back to work after a month-long break, the Senate kicked off its plenary debates on the GAB.
November 9, 2023: VP Duterte withdraws bid for confidential fund
Acknowledging the “divisive” nature of her request for confidential funds, Vice President Duterte told the upper chamber, through budget sponsor Senator Sonny Angara, that she would no longer ask for the difficult-to-audit funds.
November 28, 2023: Senate OKs budget bill
Out of the 21 senators who voted, 20 approved the 2024 GAB, while only Senate Minority Leader Koko Pimentel cast a vote to abstain.
December 11, 2023: Congress ratifies GAB
The Senate and the House separately ratified the bicameral conference committee report reconciling the two chambers’ versions of the budget bill, effectively sending the GAB to the President’s desk for his signature.
December 20, 2023: Marcos approves 2024 budget
President Marcos signed the budget bill into law, also called the 2024 General Appropriations Act (GAA). A full copy of the budget, just like in previous years, will be uploaded on the website of the DBM. – Rappler.com