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MANILA, Philippines – While the Supreme Court has put on hold lawmakers’ pork barrel releases for the rest of 2013, Senate President Franklin Drilon wants to consider them as “savings” so they can move the funds in aid of calamity victims.
Drilon filed on Monday, October 21, a resolution to realign to te Executive’s calamity fund the senators’ remaining Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) for the year.
The High Court issued on September 10 a temporary restraining order on the remaining PDAF and the Malampaya fund for 2013 while it is deciding the constitutionality of the allocations.
Six petitions have also been filed with the Supreme Court, also questioning the constitutionality of the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), through which the President has been releasing not just savings from department budgets but realigned funds from unfinshed projects.
Drilon’s Senate Resolution 302 cites Section 53 of the 2013 General Appropriations Act, which defines “savings as the portions or balances of any programmed appropriation that is free from any obligation or encumbrance which is still available because of final discontinuance or abandonment of work, activity, or purpose for which the appropriation is authorized.”
Given the Supreme Court’s “impoundment of the remaining 2013 Senate PDAF,” as well as the expressed willingness of some senators to waive their pork barrel, their PDAF for this year is technically “abandoned,” Drilon said.
The amount “is now effectively converted into savings, hence the President may realign the same for the repair, improvement and renovation of government buildings and infrastructure and other capital assets damaged by natural calamities,” the Senate President said.
Each of the 24 senators is alloted P200 million in PDAF each year. If strictly divided into quarterly releases, the fund would still have at least P1.2 billion in the last 4 months of the year.
Drilon was asked in a press conference if this was not a case of the Senate preempting the Supreme Court’s resolution of the question on the PDAF’s constitutionality.
He replied: “They can still resolve it. That’s their prerogative. We are an independent body. We can make our own decision.”
Drilon said he expects to get at least the majority, if not all, of senators approving the resolution. The Senate goes on a two-week break beginning Thursday.
The Senate’s contribution to Malacañang’s calamity fund would be used not only for Bohol and Cebu, which were hit by a 7.2-magnitude earthquake. It can also go to typhoon-affected areas in Nueva Ecija, Bulacan, and Tarlac.
Earlier, the Senate authorized the release of P6 million, partly from its savings, to the Department of Social Welfare and Development. The amount will be used in relief operations in Bohol and Cebu.
Senate Majority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano also filed Senate Resolution 305, urging the Executive to realign the unreleased PDAF in the 2013 GAA to a “special supplemental calamity fund.” – Rappler.com