Senate approves reworded reso on PDAF realignment
MANILA, Philippines – Senators unanimously approved on Tuesday, October 22, the resolution initiated by Senate President Franklin Drilon to realigned their pork barrel to aid calamity victims.
The lawmakers approved Senate Resolution 302 after Drilon assured them of its legality. (READ: Getting around TRO? Drilon files reso realigning PDAF)
They, however, asked the Senate President to change some phrases so the document would not be misconstrued as a violation of the temporary restraining order issued by the Supreme Court on the fund releases.
A press release from Drilon’s office said there remains P3.18 billion in senators’ Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), citing figures from the budget department.
The High Court issued on September 10 a TRO 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.
Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile expressed concern that the Senate "might be doing an unconstitutional act."
Drilon had said that the SC’s “impoundment of the remaining 2013 Senate PDAF” and senators’ willingness to waive their pork barrel make their PDAF for this year is technically “abandoned.”
Being abandoned, they can be considered “savings,” which Section 53 of the 2013 General Appropriations Act allows the President to realign.
"The only issue here is whether that can be done or if it needs a supplemental budget, but if the Senate President guarantees that he has studied this and he believes this is so, I will go along with it," Enrile said.
"We emphasize that the PDAF is an item and a budget in the Executive branch and, therefore, the President is authorized under the Constitution to realign funds within the Executive branch," Drilon said.
To be sure, however, that the Senate would "not be viewed as directing again the use of PDAF to a certain activity,” Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr suggested that some parts of the resolution be reworded.
Saying the senators are "urging" the President to "hopefully" use their impounded PDAF for relief operations will not sound like a challenge to the TRO.
Senator Aquilino Pimentel III also asked that the phrase"intent to abandon" their PDAF be included in resolution because this paves the way for the funds’ conversion into savings.
The President’s calamity fund, which senators seek to augment with their abandoned PDAF, will be used for rehabilitation efforts in areas destroyed by typhoons in Luzon, the earthquake in the Visayas, and the conflict in Zamboanga City.
Aside from the remaining PDAF of senators for 2013, the Senate offered the President to tap into savings from the Miscellaneous Personnel Benefits Fund (MPBF) of the Senate.
"Whether or not the President will actually utilize this manifestation of availability of funds on the part of the Senate is a matter that is left to his discretion. For all we know he will not utilize this authority," Drilon said. – Rappler.com