MANILA, Philippines—The Senate and the House of Representatives announced Wednesday they would respect the Supreme Court’s action on the petition by the Social Justice Society seeking a permanent end to the appropriation of billions of pesos for the congressional pork barrel.
The Constitution provides that “it is the Senate and the House acting as collegial bodies that actually decide on the matter of appropriating funds,” Senate President Franklin Drilon said in a statement.
But he added: “We will submit to the discretion of the court based on the allegations of the petition and prevailing jurisprudence.”
“We will ask the Supreme Court to make its ruling on the matter immediately before the budget is submitted to the floor for deliberation and approval,” Drilon said. “The Senate only hopes for what is best and that good sense will prevail,” he said.
The petitioners have asked that Drilon and House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte be restrained from enacting legislation appropriating funds for the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).
The court on Tuesday asked Drilon and Belmonte who were named respondents in the petition to comment in 10 days.
House Majority Floor Leader Neptali Gonzales said that technically, the petition presented no actual controversy that required judicial intervention.
Gonzales said the petition did not refer to any particular budgetary item. If it is supposed to question the pork barrel allocation for 2014, this would be premature because the budget has not yet been enacted, he said. He added that there was a move to abolish the PDAF in next year’s budget.
“There’s no more issue that can be resolved in the petition,” he added.
For his part, Deputy Speaker Giorgidi Aggabao said in a text message that the petition against the PDAF merited outright dismissal because its legality had long been upheld.
A turnaround from this stand could be construed as the court’s retaliation for the impeachment of Chief Justice Renato Corona, Aggabao said.
According to him, the issue against the pork barrel had long been settled in an earlier case, Philconsa vs Enriquez, where the high court upheld the legality of the countrywide development fund, which was what the pork barrel was called before.
“Now, the Supreme Court has directed Congress to comment on the petition. Is the Supreme Court looking at overturning Enriquez?” he asked.
“I hope not because Congress will certainly view that as payback time for the conviction of [former Chief Justice Renato Corona,” he added.