SC freezes all ‘pork’ in 2013-A A +A
Wednesday, September 11, 2013
THE Supreme Court (SC) prohibited Congress from using all “pork barrel” funds for the rest of the year, while the court hears three petitions against the Priority Development Assistance Funds (PDAF).
The court’s temporary restraining order (TRO) includes a provision of Presidential Decree 910 that gives President Benigno Aquino III wide discretion on how to use billions from the Malampaya gas project in Palawan.
Some of Cebu’s members of the House of Representatives expressed hope for a quick resolution, so that basic services or projects funded by the PDAF will not be stalled long.
Another protest rally against the PDAF is scheduled to start at 6 tonight in Cebu City’s Fuente Osmeña.
The SC issued the TRO yesterday in light of the petitions filed by Samson Alcantara and Greco Belgica and former Boac, Marinduque Mayor Pedrito Nepomuceno.
Exempted from the TRO, however, are those funds intended for energy resource development and exploitation.
An oral argument was set on Oct. 8, while respondents Senate President Franklin Drilon and House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte were ordered to comment on the petitions within 10 days.
In a statement, Senator Francis Escudero said the TRO was useless because President Benigno Aquino III had already suspended the release of the PDAF for the second half of the year.
“In fact, even the balance left for the first semester won’t be released anymore,” he said.
Escudero said he expects the rules committee to start tackling all the proposed measures related to the abolition of PDAF in the next few weeks.
In Cebu, commuters were advised to prepare for heavier traffic than usual starting at 6 p.m. today.
Cebu City Traffic Operations Management (Citom) Executive Director Rafael Yap has suggested that the Scrap the Pork Barrel Movement’s rally be held at Plaza Independencia.
But the endorsement to have the rally at Fuente Osmeña was signed only yesterday morning.
With 3,000 to 5,000 participants expected to attend the rally, Citom is not expecting the crowd to spill out of the Fuente Osmeña circle.
“There will be no parking along the rotunda,” said Yap.
Stella Palomo-Monteño, one of the organizers, said they will circulate a petition for the abolition of all forms of pork.
There will also be prayer offerings that will be led by the Discernment Group of the Archdiocese headed by Msgr. Romulo Kintanar.
“We are further urged by the CBCP (Catholic Bishops Conference’ call), especially the fifth point in their Moral Stand, ‘We call on all Filipinos of goodwill, especially among our Catholic faithful, not to stand idly by in this moment of truth. Let us be concerned and let this concern be manifested in our assiduous search for the truth in the spirit of prayer and solidarity. Prayer will make us humble and open; solidarity will make us strong,’” she added.
Rep. Benhur Salimbangon (Cebu Province, Fourth District) choose to withhold his reaction as the House of Representatives will answer as one.
“The executive branch must use other available sources, such as savings of the concerned Departments or National agencies, to continue the educational assistance and medical assistance received by thousands of our deserving kababakayans through the PDAF,” said Rep. Ace Durano, a former Cabinet member who now serves as the fifth
“Otherwise, it will be the needs of the innocent and deserving that will be sacrificed,” he added.
As for Quisumbing, the legislator respects the decision of the High Court, as part of the administration’s continuing effort to ensure that all public funds are properly accounted for.
“We are hopeful that these issues can be investigated thoroughly and speedily to ensure the quick and responsive delivery of basic services,” said Quisumbing.
As for Salimbagon, the legislator wishes to reserve his comments as the House of Representatives will answer this as a whole, “considering that we are supposed to be a separate branch of the government.”
Before the Supreme Court issued a temporary restraining order on the use of the PDAF, the release of the pork barrel funds was already suspended following allegations that millions went to fake non-government organizations.
Rep. Raul del Mar (Cebu City, north district) merely said the SC’s temporary restraining order (TRO) should be respected.
Rep. Rodrigo Abellanosa (Cebu City, south district) said he sought other ways to fund projects.
“While waiting for what will come out of the President’s abolition of the PDAF and now the TRO on the 2013 PDAF, I have taken initiatives to make up for what could be lost,” was Abellanosa’s statement.
He secured P58 million from the Department of Agriculture for the concreting of roads in the mountain barangays of the south district.
From the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), Abellanosa earmarked P15 million for potable water systems, also for the south district of Cebu City.
Abellanosa also said he secured funding for a 50-bed tertiary hospital in Barangay Bonbon from the Department of Health, P130 million from the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) for flood control and road improvement projects.
Another P260 million from DPWH will be used for what Abellanosa described as his pet project called the SMART (Stormwater Management and Rapid Traffic) Underpass, which is aimed at addressing the flooding and traffic congestion of Cebu City.
“(This) is going to be the first of its kind in the Philippines… This pilot project will go through the busy intersections of F. Llamas St. along Natalio Bacalso Ave.,” said Abellanosa. (Virgil Lopez/Sunnex)
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on September 11, 2013.