MANILA, Philippines – Following heated discussions at the Supreme Court oral arguments, Malacañang Palace clarified the pork barrel allocations for 2013 has not been abolished, but only suspended.
On Friday, October 11, Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte explained that since "only Congress can repeal, amend or modify a law," then the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) is only technically suspended since it is a lump sum under the 2013 General Appropriation Act.
Due to petitions filed, questioning the constitutionality of lawmakers' PDAF and other discretionary funds of the President, the High Court on September 10 issued a temporary restraining order on the release of these funds for the rest of 2013.
Before that, in late August, President Benigno Aquino III announced it was "time to abolish the pork barrel" in its present form, and replace it with a reformed system in the 2014 budget. He made the announcement in what critics believed was a way to preempt the Million People March against the pork barrel that was happening 3 days later.
"It was a policy announcement on the part of the President because, legally, PDAF is part of the GAA (General Appropriation Act), which is a law, and it is also Congress [that holds the power] which is why, if you recall, when the President made that announcement, he was saying that we are going to work with Congress on how to go about this particularly because the abolition relies on the repeal or the non-inclusion in the next year," Valte said.
Valte also emphasized that the government's request from the Supreme Court to lift the Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) on the remaining pork releases is only a "partial" one, targeted on the "portion [of funds] that affects scholars and those who need medical assistance."
The President said on Thursday he has instructed the budget department to look for alternative sources of funding for the projects and beneficiaries of the PDAF for the remaining quarter of the year while the TRO is in effect.
Oral arguments in the High Court are ongoing. Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio has called the PDAF unconstitutional "on its face," and questioned statements made by the Executive that pork barrel no longer exists.
“Why are you asking us to lift the TRO when you already announced you abolished PDAF? It’s irreconcilable,” he asked Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza.
At least one lawmaker, Bayan Muna Rep Neri Colmenares, also hit Aquino for "lying and twisting facts on the PDAF abolition."
"President Aquino’s statement that the PDAF has been abolished aims to mislead the Supreme Court to dismiss petitions questioning the constitutionality of the PDAF for being moot and academic. It is a good thing that the Supreme Court managed to force the Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza, to admit that at least 35% of the P25 billion PDAF will be spent on projects selected by the legislators which means it is still pork,” he said in a statement released also on Friday. – Rappler.com