Supreme Court asked to stop disbursement of 2014 realigned ‘pork’
January 14, 2014 (updated)
Manila, Philippines – The Supreme Court (SC) was asked yesterday to stop the government from disbursing the P143.78-billion lump sum discretionary funds or the so-called pork barrel funds in the P2.265-trillion national budget under the 2014 General Appropriations Act (GAA).
In a petition, Greco Belgica identified the lump-sum discretionary funds in the 2014 GAA as those for the Unprogrammed FUND, E-Government Fund, Contingent Fund, and Local Government Support Fund.
He also asked the SC to declare the four lump-sum discretionary funds as unconstitutional like the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).
In his 21-page petition, Belgica – also the petitioner in the PDAF cases – said the Executive and the Legislative Departments of government ignored the SC’s November 19, 2013 decision on the PDAF.
He pointed out that the decision on PDAF is clear that the lump sum discretionary funds are unconstitutional as they violate the non-delegation clause and the separation of power principle of branches of the government and power of line item veto by the President.
Named respondents in the his petition were Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr., Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr., and Senate President Franklin Drilon.
The 2014 GAA under Republic Act No. 10633 was signed into law on December 20, 2013.
“The 2014 GAA is proof that the two political branches have decided to ignore the Supreme Court. It is a budget that is full of lump sums that let discretion run riot. This situation calls for the Honorable Court to exercise its duty as the guardian of the Constitution,” Belgica said.
“While in concept, Congress has the power of the purse, the reality now under the 2014 GAA is that the Chief Executive through the Offices of the Executive Secretary and the Department of Budget is now in control of the pursue particularly with regard to the lump sum items…,” he said.
He stressed that instead of identifying the specific purpose for each appropriation, the 2014 GAA continued the illegal practice of lump sum appropriations and simply passed on the responsibility of identifying the specific projects for appropriation to the agency concerned.
In a unanimous vote of 14 justices on November 19, 2013, the SC declared unconstitutional the pork barrel of the members of Congress under the PDAF not only for 2013 but also for the previous years.
The SC also declared unconstitutional the provisions in two Presidential Decrees that allowed the disbursement of the Malampaya Fund and the Presidential Social Fund, respectively, “for such other purposes as may be hereafter directed by the President” and “to finance the priority infrastructure development projects.”
At the same time, the SC directed the prosecutorial arms of government to investigate and file charges against public officials and private individuals for criminal offenses related to the irregular, improper and/or unlawful disbursement or utilization of all funds under the pork barrel system.
Already, the government has filed plunder and malversation charges against three senators – Juan Ponce Enrile, Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada and Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. – and the 34 other respondents led by alleged scam brains Janet Lim Napoles in connection with the reported misuse of some P10 billion in pork barrel.
The unanimous SC decision was written by Justice Estela M. Perlas Bernabe. Only Justice Presbitero J. Velasco Jr. inhibited himself.
With the decision, which “is immediately executory but prospective in effect,” the SC made permanent its September 10 temporary restraining order (TRO) that stopped further release of the balance in pork barrel for 2013 and the disbursement of the Malampaya Fund for non-energy related projects.
Meanwhile, veteran lawyer Romulo Macalintal alleged that nine senators are violating the Constitution for realigning a total of P1.8 billion pork barrel funds to projects and the calamity fund in the 2014 national budget.
Macalintal believes that the senators’ actions to realign their lump sum discretionary funds are clear indication of what he described as “a blatant and open defiance” of the November 19, 2013 SC decision declaring pork barrel funds unconstitutional.
Senators Alan Peter and Pia Cayetano, Ralph Recto, Miriam Defensor Santiago and Joseph Victor Ejercito reportedly manifested to have their PDAF lump sum discretionary funds realigned to the calamity fund, while Senators Ramon Revilla Jr., Lito Lapid, and Antonio Trillanes IV decided to allot their funds to schools, hospitals, and public works projects. Sen. Jinggoy Estrada opted to have his funds allocated to the LGUs. (With a report from Leonard D. Postrado)