Aquino allies dismayed by SC ruling on pork abolition
MANILA, Philippines—Administration allies were generally not surprised about the Supreme Court decision that declared the entire pork barrel system unconstitutional as they felt the magistrates merely bowed to the prevailing public opinion calling for the abolition of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).
“It is no surprise based on the Justice (Antonio) Carpio questioning,” said Speaker Feliciano Belmonte.
Cavite Rep. Elpidio Barzaga claimed that “public pressure” prompted the Supreme Court to make a sweeping decision on the PDAF.
“I have expected that because the public pressure in the form of protest and also the pork barrel scam has actually affected the mindset of the justices of the Supreme Court. They saw only the bad side of the PDAF but not the good effects. The beneficiaries of our PDAF like our scholars and our sick constituents are now feeling the effects of the abolition,” said Barzaga.
ACT Teachers Rep. Antonio Tinio said the public and High Court were the biggest winners in the decision. He said President Aquino and Congress were the biggest losers as public opinion against them would become more negative with the SC siding with the public which has called for its abolition since the exposé on the P10-billion pork barrel scam. But Tinio said the public should remain vigilant because Congress and the executive could still work out a scheme to provide discretionary funds for themselves in the budget.
Minority Leader Ronaldo Zamora said the Supreme Court has forced the House of Representatives to revisit the 2014 budget it approved a month ago.
While the PDAF has been extricated in next year’s budget, lawmakers have set aside handpicked projects in several agencies mostly in the Department of Public Works and Highways equivalent to the P24 billion in annual pork they earlier lost.
Tinio said that these insertions were still pork and should be removed from the 2014 budget to comply with the Supreme Court ruling.
Zamora agreed that the high court decision was not surprising because the Minority Bloc had been warning against the lump sum appropriations for both lawmakers and the President.
Zamora said the executive was a “little too cavalier” in the way it treated its funds and the Supreme Court decision should force it to “specify or itemize every amount it spent.”
Palawan Rep. Franz Alvarez said that scholarships and medical subsidies could still be sustained as long Congress would create a special mechanism to address these needs.
“What the SC declared unconstitutional is PDAF but not the basic congressional prerogative to appropriate funds for social services,” said Alvarez.
Eastern Samar Ben Evardone, an administration ally, was disheartened by the Supreme Court decision especially since he was counting on the remaining P13-billion pork of lawmakers that the high court froze a few months ago to boost funding for the relief and rehabilitation of his typhoon-battered province.
“It felt like Yolanda came back to hurt us again. It is a big blow to our efforts to raise funds for the rehabilitation and reconstruction. While all sectors of society in the national and international community are in a frenzied mood to look for resources to support the typhoon victims, the SC appears to be insensitive to our situation. Congress should appeal the SC decision,” said Evardone.
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