By Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN News
Nov. 19, 2013
MANILA – The Supreme Court (SC) has declared as unconstitutional the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) of lawmakers, also known as the “pork barrel” system.
Voting unanimously, 14-0, with Associate Justice Presbitero Velasco, Jr. inhibiting because his wife is a party-list representative, the high court ruled that the PDAF Article or allocations in the 2013 General Appropriations Act (GAA) and all other past and present similar provisions of law constituting the “pork barrel” system are unconstitutional for allowing legislators “to wield, in varying gradations, non-oversight, post-enactment authority in vital areas of budget executions” thus violative of the principle of separation of powers.
The high court, through the ponencia of Associate Justice Estela Perlas-Bernabe, ruled that the system gave legislators the power to “fund specific projects which they themselves determine,” thus giving them “personal discretionary funds.”
This, the high court said, created a system of budgeting where items are not listed in the appropriations bill or budget, consequently denying the President the power to veto items in the budget.
The system also subverts “genuine local autonomy” since legislators are allowed to “intervene in affairs of purely local nature, despite the existence of capable local institutions.”
The high court also struck down as unconstitutional the President’s discretionary authority over the use of the Malampaya Funds, specifically, the phrase, “and for such other purposes as may hereafter be directed by the President” of Sec. 8 of Presidential Decree 910 (An Act Creating an Energy Development Board).
The disbursement of funds to finance “infrastructure development projects” through the President’s Social Fund (PSF) has also been stricken down as unconstitutional.
The high court made permanent the restraining order it issued last Sept. 10 on the release of the remaining “pork barrel” of lawmakers under the GAA 2013.
“Said funds covered by this permanent injunction shall not be disbursed/released but instead returned to the general coffers of the government, except for the funds covered by the Malampaya Funds and the Presidential Social Fund which shall remain therein to be utilized for their respective special purposes not otherwise declared unconstitutional,” the decision read.
All prosecutorial agencies of the government were directed by the high court to investigate and prosecute all government officials and private individuals “for possible criminal offenses related to the irregular, improper and/or unlawful disbursement/utilization of all funds under the pork barrel system.”
The petitions against the “pork barrel” system were filed by former Manila councilor Greco Antonious Belgica, the Social Justice Society, and former Boac, Marinduque Mayor Pedrito Nepomuceno.
Meantime, Malacañang declined to comment for now on the Supreme Court decision declaring the PDAF as unconstitutional.
Communications Secretary Sonny Coloma said the Palace would first have to wait for a copy of the decision.
“Hihintayin po ng ating tanggapan ng Pangulo and desisyon na ‘yan para pag-aralan kung ano ang implikasyon,” Coloma said.
— with a report from Willard Cheng, ABS-CBN News
Wait for a few months and this inefficient SC Justices will reverse their decision .