Quantcast

Aquino asks SC to lift TRO on pork barrel funds, says reforms will work

President Benigno Aquino III. AP FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines — Saying “reforms are already underway,” President Benigno Aquino III and fellow respondents have asked the Supreme Court to junk petitions seeking to have the pork barrel system declared as unconstitutional.

In a 23-page comment filed Monday, the Office of the Solicitor General also urged the high tribunal to lift the temporary restraining order on the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) in 2013.

The respondents argued that the TRO would “work to the damage of innocent citizens who rely on the operations of the PDAF for educational and medical assistance purposes.”

They cited the cases of 62-year-old Flora Rivera, who “depends on PDAF for her regular dialysis” at the National Kidney and Transplant Institute, and Judy Grace Concordia, a college student from Valenzuela “whose scholarship is now at risk.”

“The reported abuses of the PDAF are problems of implementation, they do not go into the constitutionality of the law, as defined by this Honorable Court’s existing jurisprudence,” argued the OSG, which filed the comment for all respondents except Senate President Franklin Drilon.  The other main respondents are President Aquino, Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr.

The OSG comment called the Malampaya Fund and the President’s Social Fund – described by critics as Aquino’s pork barrel – as “special funds, the disposition of which have been constitutionally delegated to the President.”

“The Congress has the constitutional authority to create special funds and there is no constitutional basis to compel the Executive to include ‘off-budget’ items in the GAA [General Appropriations Act],” the respondents said.

The OSG insisted that Aquino “has officially declared his intent to abolish PDAF and has specified his plan to replace [it] with a defined program of line-item budgeting.”

Also cited was the new pork barrel mechanism under discussion at the House of Representatives, one that would adopt a “limited menu with more stringent qualifications for line-item projects in the 2014 budget.”

“A decision of the Honorable Court may preempt the efforts of the President and Congress, and a judicial solution may inadvertently limit a more progressive solution,” the OSG said.

“We therefore urge the Honorable Court to allow the reform-oriented political process to proceed. In any case, any solution by the political departments may be raised, and constitutionally scrutinized, at an appropriate time.”

Belmonte said on Tuesday, that each representative could propose up to five infrastructure projects to be implemented by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).

Under the new pork barrel system, the agency would get 35 percent (or P7.21 billion) of the entire PDAF allocation in the national budget.

Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone, vice chairman of the committee on appropriations, said DPWH projects would have to follow strict guidelines. For road projects, he said the priority would be those “leading to tourism destinations and production centers.”

“You can no longer have roads leading to your beach house,” he told the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

Belmonte said party leaders in the House had been told about the new scheme, and that representatives would have to “specify” projects “to be included in the budget.”

“If they don’t conform to certain standards of the DPWH, they cannot be implemented,” he told reporters.

While the DPWH stood to enjoy the lion’s share in the “proposed limited menu for line-item projects,” education, health care and employment would each get 15 percent of the total PDAF. Crisis intervention programs would receive 20 percent.

“Under the Constitution, the calibration of the specific contours of the budget falls within the competence of Congress and the Executive,” the OSG said.

“The political branches are in the best position not only to perform budget-related reforms but also to do them in response to the specific demands of their constituents.”

Several civil society groups went to the Supreme Court, asking the high tribunal to declare the pork barrel system unconstitutional after the INQUIRER published a series of reports uncovering the P10-billion diversion of PDAF money to bogus nongovernment organizations as allegedly orchestrated by businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles.

Recent Stories:

Complete stories on our Digital Edition newsstand for tablets, netbooks and mobile phones; 14-issue free trial. About to step out? Get breaking alerts on your mobile.phone. Text ON INQ BREAKING to 4467, for Globe, Smart and Sun subscribers in the Philippines.

Disclaimer: The comments uploaded on this site do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of management and owner of INQUIRER.net. We reserve the right to exclude comments that we deem to be inconsistent with our editorial standards.

Copyright © 2015,

To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here.

Factual errors? Contact the Philippine Daily Inquirer's day desk. Believe this article violates journalistic ethics? Contact the Inquirer's Reader's Advocate. Or write The Readers' Advocate: c/o Philippine Daily Inquirer Chino Roces Avenue corner Yague and Mascardo Streets, Makati City, Metro Manila, Philippines Or fax nos. +63 2 8974793 to 94



News

  • White Plains shooter thought armed men were ‘out to get him’
  • Ruby Rose Barrameda’s kin to sue lawyer for abandoning case
  • Tourism roadshow aims to fill millennials’ need for new experiences
  • No ban to cross Tarlac river after drowning incident
  • Jail official robbed of P682K worth of valuables inside BJMP
  • Sports

  • Los Angeles back from dead as US candidate for 2024 Olympics
  • UAAP Season 78 preview: All-Filipino UE to turn weakness into strength
  • Lebanon pulls out of MVP Cup
  • Jett Manuel vows UP is ‘really going to go up’ in UAAP season 78
  • Patriots, Mariners down rivals, share lead in 7th ISAA cagefest
  • Lifestyle

  • Don DeLillo receiving honorary National Book Award
  • Colton Haynes headed to Manila for AsiaPOP Comicon
  • When Ligaya Amilbangsa dances, the decades vanish
  • How 2015 Apec creates the ‘wow factor’
  • Filipino artists mix traditional and modern to wow Apec delegates
  • Entertainment

  • Fall movie preview: Spielberg plunges into the Cold War
  • Vic Sotto, Pauleen Luna now engaged
  • Why Rica Peralejo called hospital nurse, staff ‘unprofessional’
  • IN PHOTOS: Kim Chiu, Xian Lim star in ‘Must Date the Playboy’
  • Bethel Music live in Manila!
  • Business

  • Toy maker Lego sees strong growth, profit in all regions
  • World stocks unsteady on dim growth outlook, China volatile
  • DoTC eyes new MRT maintenance provider by January 2016
  • CEU to buy Las Piñas College
  • PAL retrenches 117 employees
  • Technology

  • Google refines logo as it prepares to join Alphabet
  • Climate to cause lesser of two weevils, says offbeat study
  • Singapore tops in mobile data speeds; PH 6th—report
  • CERN: Test results show more detail about ‘God particle’
  • Windows 10 privacy settings worth checking
  • Opinion

  • My dream(ing) man
  • Virulent and disruptive
  • A champion of the youth
  • Too sad for words
  • Ricky Lee’s chariots
  • Global Nation

  • Ph consul in Indonesia chided for ‘mishandling’ Veloso case
  • Settlement with Pemberton impossible–Laude family
  • Fil-Ams to mark golden jubilee of grape strike begun by Filipinos
  • San Francisco offers bilingual ballots, including Filipino
  • Filipino Comedy Tour shakes up Shaky Town Live in L.A.
  • PHOTOS AND VIDEOS