House Speaker wary over Senate reso realigning PDAF-A A +A
Wednesday, October 23, 2013
(UPDATED) The remaining priority development assistance funds (PDAF) of senators could unlikely be realigned for victims of the deadly Visayas quake as the funds are still subject of a temporary restraining order (TRO), House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. said Wednesday.
The Supreme Court had issued a TRO on the second tranche of PDAF allocated to members of Congress. Each congressman receives P70 million in PDAF yearly while senators get P200 million each.
Following the devastation caused by the magnitude-7.2 earthquake in the provinces of Bohol and Cebu, Senate President Franklin Drilon filed Resolution 302 realigning the remaining P3.18-billion PDAF for calamity use.
"How could you actually be reallocating or spending money which is the subject of the TRO... If you ask me, I could not say we could do it," the House Speaker said.
Belmonte, a lawyer, said Drilon's resolution approved Tuesday night will only be valid if the High Court decides in favor of the petitions declaring the PDAF as unconstitutional.
"If it's not valid, what happens to the money? The money goes back to the general fund and becomes part of it. At that point, it can be like a saving under the definition contained in the General Appropriations Act. In this case, it can be used to augment the Bohol fund. That's how I understand the legal provision," the House leader said.
Supreme Court issued the TRO following the controversial multi-billion pork barrel scam allegedly masterminded by detained businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles. Senators Jinggoy Estrada, Juan Ponce Enrile, and Bong Revilla have also been dragged into the controversy. The three have been charged with plunder before the Office of the Ombudsman.
Asked whether House members are willing to give up their PDAF, Speaker Belmonte said he was advised by his lawyers and some lawyer congressmen that money reallocated for other items should be specified in the budget.
"It's not (that) I couldn't do it. It occurred to me; I wanted to do it but they told me we could not do it because it would not be an item in the budget of the House," Belmonte said.
Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr., for his part, allayed fears that the Semate resolution would violate the TRO. He said the Senate decided not to use the remaining PDAF and constitute it into savings to be returned to the general fund.
Section 53 of 2013 General Appropriations Act defines savings as portions or balances of any programmed appropriation in this Act free from any obligation and encumbrance which are still available after the completion or final discontinuance and abandonment of the work, activity or purpose for which the appropriation is authorized.
"To be saying now that we are realigning it into a calamity fund, it's like saying we are still controlling the funds. To avoid that criticism, let us not use the word realign and we merely say that we urge the President that this savings be used for the calamity," Marcos said.
The Office of the President earlier said that only P1.37 billion of the P7.5-billion calamity fund remains. (With Virgil Lopez/Sunnex)