Government: PDAF is constitutional-A A +A
Thursday, October 10, 2013
MANILA -- Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza defended on Thursday the constitutionality of the priority development assistance fund (PDAF), saying the suspension of releases for scholarships and medical assistance has been detrimental to beneficiaries.
Jardeleza called for the partial lifting of the temporary restraining order (TRO) as the report of the Commission on Audit (COA) on the use of PDAF from 2007 to 2009 did not see any irregularity in relation to scholarships.
"Scholars and patients are not party to corruption. Please give them the benefit of the doubt," he said. "There will be a time to punish the errant and corrupt, time is not on the side of patients and scholars."
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 Office of the Solicitor General.
Jardeleza said there were four Commission on Audit (COA) findings over matters of execution that relate to members of Congress.
He suggested to SC that the flaws found in the COA report do not justify overturning PDAF but merely serve as basis for reforms. "Remedy to the flaws found by COA can be done through rules and policy actions," he said.
Citing the SC in Philconsa vs Enriquez, Jardeleza said the proposals and identifications made by the members of Congress are merely recommendatory and that the President implements the projects.
This debunked the petitioners' claim that the PDAF gives undue delegation of legislative power to the executive branch and violates the separation of powers.
Jardeleza stressed that the Congress has implemented a regime of constraints and limitations on the PDAF. He said the present state of the PDAF, over the years, has become stricter on Congress and the President.
President Benigno Aquino III has since moved for the abolition of PDAF by re-aligning next year's allocation to several government agencies. Jardeleza said the SC should give the government a chance to cleanse the system.
"If you do the correction, you prevent the political branches from correcting from within," said Jardeleza.
Associate Justice Estela Perlas-Bernabe, meanwhile, quizzed Jardeleza on the use of royalties from the Malampaya gas project off Palawan.
The Solicitor General insisted that releases under the Malampaya fund were used for energy-related projects such as electrification of small villages, Hamilton cutter to protect the plant and subsidy for jeepney and tricycle drivers.
Petitioners earlier asked the SC to strike down as unconstitutional the phrase "for such other purposes as may be hereafter directed by the President" under Section 8 of Presidential Decree 910.
Jardeleza told Bernabe that Congress can always amend the controversial provision. (Virgil Lopez/Third Anne Peralta/Sunnex)