MANILA, Philippines - Even without the Supreme Court declaring the controversial Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) unconstitutional, senators will still examine all options that will allow them to abolish it, Senate President Franklin Drilon said on Saturday, October 12.
“Under my watch as Senate President, reforms will start with the immediate abolition of PDAF allocation for senators in the proposed 2014 national budget,” Drilon said in a press statement. The PDAF has been associated with abuses by lawmakers who collected kickbacks in exchange for endorsing fake non-governmental organizations (NGOs) controlled by Janet Lim Napoles.
Napoles is the alleged mastermind of the pork barrel scam that funneled millions of pesos from development assistance funds to the pockets of legislators, government officials, and other individuals.
While no actual official vote has been made, Drilon said a majority of the senators have publicly declared they will do away with their PDAF allocations in 2014.
“There is no turning back as far as the pork barrel system is concerned. We have to institute these reforms in order to regain our people’s trust and confidence,” Drilon said in the press statement.
He was among those named by whistleblowers as having attended parties with Napoles. He however said that none of his PDAF went to NGOs associated with Napoles.
Act of Congress
Drilon issued the statement in response to Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio’s opinion that the PDAF can only be abolished if Congress passes a law to amend it, or if the Supreme Court itself declares it unconstitutional.
Drilon said, “We do not need a special law to abolish PDAF as an item in the General Appropriations Act. Aside from a court ruling that will declare the PDAF unconstitutional, the executive or the Congress may exercise other options to abolish congressional pork barrel to respond to the clamor of the people.”
These options include:
1) the President opting to exclude the PDAF item from the National Expenditures Program he submits to Congress on an annual basis.
2) Congress deleting the PDAF item in the General Appropriations Act (GAA) — an option which the Senate intends to consider when the 2014 proposed national budget reaches the Senate.
3) the President exercising the power of line item veto, should Congress still pass the national budget with PDAF.
4) the President fully or partially impounding release of any item in the GAA, including PDAF.
Freedom of Information bill
Meanwhile, Drilon said the Senate will prioritize the passage of the Freedom of Information Bill, when the Senate resumes its session on Monday. Because the FOI bill will increase transparency in government, it is believed to bring about more accountability from government officials.
“We will begin the period of interpellations on the proposed legislation this week, so that it will be approved by the end of the year,” Drilon said. - Rappler.com