SC urged to scrap pork barrel system-A A +A
Wednesday, August 28, 2013
A FORMER senatorial candidate on Wednesday asked the Supreme Court to rule against the constitutionality of the priority development assistance fund (PDAF), which has been allegedly the source of dirty money for erring lawmakers.
In a petition, lawyer Samson Alcantara said the Senate and the House of Representatives should be prohibited from enacting legislation allotting funds for PDAF or pork barrel to ensure its abolition.
"Through the power of appropriation, members of Congress have under the pork barrel system been able to misappropriate funds collected pursuant to tax laws that they themselves have enacted. This is a brazen betrayal of public trust. The Filipino taxpayer is being fried in his own lard," the petition read.
Alcantara said the PDAF has been used by the President to control Congress especially in pushing for pet bills, undermining the separation of powers under the Constitution.
He also scored the system, which provides P70 million for every congressman and P200 million for senators yearly, for helping corrupt political dynasties.
Malacañang had already denied a reincarnation of the PDAF as projects asked by senators and congressmen will undergo review by agencies expected to implement them. The projects will be itemized in the national budget.
On Monday, thousands of Filipinos called for an end to the PDAF and prosecution of those who pocketed public funds.
"But all these marches, demonstrations and rhetoric, no matter how righteous, can settle with finality the constitutionality of this pernicious legislative practice called pork barrel except through the exercise by this Honorable Court of judicial power," said Alcantara, who lost in last May's polls.
At a press briefing, Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno declined to give her opinion on the alleged misuse of pork barrel funds so as not to preempt judgment on any petition related to the issue.
"We are not discussing politics and ongoing cases, so this is still compatible with dignified silence which allows us to respond to questions on PDAF when a case is already brought to us," she said.
Since 1994, the SC upheld the constitutionality of pork barrel system thrice.
In April last year, the Court dismissed the petition of Lawyers Against Monopoly and Poverty (Lamp) seeking to stop the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) from releasing the PDAF to lawmakers as they are not in the business of implementing projects.
The Court said it cannot give merit to a petition which failed to back up claims of corruption with documentary evidence.
"Devoid of any pertinent evidentiary support that illegal misuse of PDAF in the form of kickbacks has become a common exercise of unscrupulous members of Congress, the Court cannot indulge the petitioner’s request for rejection of a law which is outwardly legal and capable of lawful enforcement," the Court said through Associate Justice Jose Mendoza.
"So long as there is no showing of a direct participation of legislators in the actual spending of the budget, the constitutional boundaries between the Executive and the Legislative in the budgetary process remain intact," the decision stated.
Sereno concurred with the ruling. (Virgil Lopez/Sunnex)