Monday, December 2, 2013

The fact that the three great powers of government are intended to be
kept separate and distinct does not mean that they are absolutely
unrestrained and independent of each other. The Constitution has alsoprovided for an elaborate system of checks and balances to secure
coordination in the workings of the vanous departments of the
government. 203
A prime example of a constitutional check and balance would be the
President's power to veto an item written into an appropriation,
revenue or tariff bill submitted to him by Congress for approval through a
process known as "bill presentment." The President's item-veto power is
found in Section 27(2), Article VI of the 1987 Constitution which reads as
follows:
Sec. 27. x x x.
xxxx
(2) The President shall have the power to veto any particular item or items
in an appropriation, revenue, or tariff bill, but the veto shall not affect the
item or items to which he does not object. '
The presentment of appropriation, revenue or tariff bills to the
President, wherein he may exercise his power of item-veto, forms part of the
"single, finely wrought and exhaustively considered, procedures" for
law-passage as specified under the Constitution.204 As stated in Abakada, the
final step in the law-making process is the "submission [of the bill] to the
President for approval. Once approved, it takes effect as law after the
required publication."205 Elaborating on the President's item-veto power and
its relevance as a check on the legislature, the Court, in Bengzon, explained
that:206
The former Organic Act and the present Constitution of the
Philippines make the Chief Executive an integral part of the law-making
power. His disapproval of a bill, commonly known as a veto, is
essentially a legislative act. The questions presented to the mind of the
Chief Executive are precisely the same as those the legislature must
determine in passing a bill, except that his will be a broader point of view.
The Constitution is a limitation upon the power of the
legislative department of the government, but in this respect it is a
grant of power to the executive department. The Legislature has the
affirmative power to enact laws; the Chief Executive has the negative
power by the constitutional exercise of which he may defeat the will of
the Legislature. It follows that the Chief Executive must find his
authority in the Constitution. But in exercising that authority he may not
be confined to rules of strict construction or hampered by the unwise
interference of the judiciary. The courts will indulge every intendment in
favor of the constitutionality of a veto [in the san1e manner] as they will
presume the constitutionality of an act as originally passed by the
Legislature. (Emphases supplied)The justification for the President's item-veto power rests on a variety
of policy goals such as to prevent log-rolling legislation,207 impose fiscal
restrictions on the legislature, as well as to fortify the executive branch's role
in the budgetary process.208 In Immigration and Naturalization Service v.
Chadha, the US Supreme Court characterized the President's item-power as
"a salutary check upon the legislative body, calculated to guard the
community against the effects of factions, precipitancy, or of any impulse
unfriendly to the public good, which may happen to influence a majority of
that body"; phrased differently, it is meant to "increase the chances in favor
of the community against the passing of bad laws, through haste,
m. a dv ertence, or de s1. gn. ,209
For the President to exercise his item-veto power, it necessarily
follows that there exists a proper "item" which may be the object of the
veto. An item, as defined in the field of appropriations, pertains to "the
particulars, the details, the distinct and severable parts of the appropriation
or of the bill." In the case of Bengzon v. Secretary of Justice of the
Philippine Islands,210 the US Supreme Court characterized an item of
appropriation as follows:
An item of an appropriation bill obviously means an item which, in
itself, is a specific appropriation of money, not some general provision
of law which happens to be put into an appropriation bill. (Emphases
supplied)
On this premise, it may be concluded that an appropriation bill, to
ensure that the President may be able to exercise his power of item veto,
must contain "specific appropriations of money" and not only "general
provisions" which provide for parameters of appropriation.
Further, it is significant to point out that 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."211 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. Based on the foregoing formulation, the existing Calamity
Fund, Contingent Fund and the Intelligence Fund, being appropriations
which state a specified amount for a specific purpose, would then be
considered as "line-item" appropriations which are rightfully subject to item
veto. Likewise, it must be observed that an appropriation may be validly
apportioned into component percentages or values; however, it is crucial
that each percentage or value must be allocated for its own
corresponding purpose for such component to be considered as a proper
line-item. Moreover, as Justice Carpio correctly pointed out, a valid
appropriation may even have several related purposes that are by accounting
and budgeting practice considered as one purpose, e.g., MOOE
(maintenance and other operating expenses), in which case the related
purposes shall be deemed sufficiently specific for the exercise of the
President's item veto power. Finally, special purpose funds and discretionary
funds would equally square with the constitutional mechanism of item-veto
for as long as they follow the rule on singular correspondence as herein
discussed. Anent special purpose funds, it must be added that Section 25(4),
Article VI of the 1987 Constitution requires that the "special appropriations
bill shall specify the purpose for which it is intended, and shall be
supported by funds actually available as certified by the National
Treasurer, or to be raised by a corresponding revenue proposal
therein." Meanwhile, with respect to discretionary funds, Section 25(6),
Article VI of the 1987 Constitution requires that said funds "shall be
disbursed only for public purposes to be supported by appropriate
vouchers and subject to such guidelines as may be prescribed by law."
In contrast, what beckons constitutional infirmity are appropriations
which merely provide for a singular lump-sum amount to be tapped as a
source of funding for multiple purposes. Since such appropriation type
necessitates the further determination of both the actual amount to be
expended and the actual purpose of the appropriation which must still be
chosen from the multiple purposes stated in the law, it cannot be said that the
appropriation law already indicates a "specific appropriation of money" and
hence, without a proper line-item which the President may veto. As a
practical result, the President would then be faced with the predicament of
either vetoing the entire appropriation if he finds some of its purposes
wasteful or undesirable, or approving the entire appropriation so as not to
hinder some of its legitimate purposes. Finally, it may not be amiss to state
that such arrangement also raises non-delegability issues considering that the
implementing authority would still have to determine, again, both the actual
amount to be expended and the actual purpose of the appropriation. Since
the foregoing determinations constitute the integral aspects of the power to
appropriate, the implementing authority would, in effect, be exercising
legislative prerogatives in violation of the principle of non-delegability.

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