Anti-pork barrel petitioners told to answer government plea-A A +A
Wednesday, September 25, 2013
THREE individuals questioning the constitutionality of the priority development assistance fund (PDAF) were ordered by the Supreme Court on Tuesday to reply to the government’s request to dismiss their petitions.
Former Manila Councilor Greco Antonius Belgica, losing senatorial candidate Samson Alcantara and former Boac, Marinduque Mayor Pedrito Nepomuceno have seven days from receipt of notice to comply with the order.
The petitions came in the wake of reports that businesswoman Janet Napoles had connived with several lawmakers and government officials to pocket pork barrel funds in the past decade.
In its comment, the Office of the Solicitor General said the PDAF shouldn’t be stricken down as unconstitutional just because of irregularities attending its implementation.
"Under the constitutional structure of our government, the remedy lies elsewhere: prosecution by the Executive or the Ombudsman, or through the political process, by means of a statutory amendment. The Court cannot invalidate a law that is 'capable of lawful enforcement' on the ground that the law has been abused by corrupt legislators and their cohorts," the OSG said.
Aside from filing plunder and malversation cases against Napoles and some government officials, Malacañang also wanted congressmen and senators to itemize the projects that will be charged to the P25.2-billion budget for PDAF next year.
These projects would have to be approved within the budget deliberations and included as line-items in the appropriations of implementing agencies.
The OSG then cited the Court's past decisions upholding the PDAF, where members of Congress are allowed to propose and identify projects to be implemented by line agencies so long as the President retains the final discretion to reject such proposals.
The SC earlier stopped the release of the remaining PDAF for this year, an action seen by lawmakers as a blow to poor scholars and indigent patients who are dependent on pork barrel.
The government urged the SC "for humanitarian considerations" to partially lift the temporary restraining order (TRO) to cover the funding of existing scholarships and providing medical assistance to poor patients.
A total of 809,372 indigent patients benefited from the PDAF of 74 members of House of Representatives in the 15th Congress (2010 to 2013), according to the data gathered by the OSG.
An oral argument on the petitions was scheduled on October 8. (Virgil Lopez/Sunnex)