MANILA, Philippines – Speaker Feliciano “Sonny” Belmonte Jr does not agree with his counterpart in the upper chamber, Senate President Franklin Drilon, that the remaining Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) of lawmakers can be realigned as calamity funds.
“How could you actually be reallocating or spending money which is the subject of a TRO [temporary restraining order]?” Belmonte said Tuesday night, October 22. “If you ask me, I could not say we could do it.”
In the aftermath of the devastating earthquake that struck Bohol and Cebu, Belmonte admitted he also explored the idea of realigning the PDAF to help the recovery of the provinces but his lawyers advised him that the PDAF can’t be realigned to items that are not in the 2013 budget.
The Supreme Court on September 10 issued a TRO against the remaining PDAF of lawmakers for 2013 as the controversial funds faced legal challenges in the wake of exposes regarding its alleged misuse.
On Monday, October 21, Drilon filed a resolution seeking to realign the PDAF to the executive’s calamity fund to help aid the recovery of Bohol and Cebu.
In the midst of the SC’s TRO and senators’ earlier pronouncements that they are willing to waive their pork barrel, Drilon said the remaining PDAF for this year has been considered “abandoned” and can thus be “effectively converted into savings.” (READ: Getting around TRO? Drilon files reso realigning PDAF)
Asked whether this would be a case of the Senate preempting SC’s ruling Drilon said the Senate was an independent body that can make its own decision.
But Belmonte believes otherwise. He said the PDAF can only be realigned as savings, in effect, once the SC rules that the PDAF is unconstitutional.
Should the SC decide in favor of the petitions against PDAF, Belmonte said the money will go back to the government’s general fund.
“At that point, it can be like a saving under the definition contained in the General Appropriations Act,” Belmonte said. “In this case, it can be used to augment the Bohol fund. That’s how I understand the legal provision,” Belmonte said. – Rappler.com
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