NINE senators realigned their pork barrel totaling P1.8 billion to specified projects in the 2014 national budget.
It’s in lump sums but chopped into smaller amounts from the P200 million previously allotted to each senator. The nine lawmakers introduced the amendments to the General Appropriation Act (GAA) of 2014.
Is it no longer pork barrel within the meaning of the Supreme Court (SC) decision declaring pork barrel illegal and unconstitutional?
The senators’ theory is that they have the authority as legislators to propose amendments, just as the president has the power to veto them.
What many people feared would happen despite the SC ruling abolishing the pork barrel seems to be happening.
The new smaller lump sums are not as bulky as in past appropriations but each senator that proposed the amounts still has discretion how to spend them.
Doing the spending is what the SC abhors as it amounts to executive work, entrusting to legislators the right not just to pick the project of their choice but, as it turned out, departments or NGOs that implement it. Discretion enables the rotten practice of lawmakers conniving with bureaucrats and NGOs and dividing the spoils among themselves.
Even if no provision of the GAA expressly gives that discretion to legislators, it could be an implicit order to departments implementing the projects. Sen. Chiz Escudero was specific and categorical, “The instruction given to me in caucus was (that) each senator will decide what they will do with their original PDAF of P200 million.”
Though nameless, it still reeks of pork and is most probably still pork.