Charter change may be way for lawmakers to regain pork barrel
MANILA, Philippines—Charter change might be seen as an attempt to bring back the pork barrel system that the Supreme Court already struck down as unconstitutional, Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano warned before the holidays.
Cayetano said that should the constitutional amendments result in the adoption of a parliamentary system, people might see the move as paving the way for lawmakers again having control and discretion over lump sum funds even after the passage of the national budget.
The Supreme Court decision finding the priority development assistance fund unconstitutional has been interpreted to define pork barrel as funds over which lawmakers could have “post-enactment intervention.”
“I think Charter Change will be very divisive and people will suspect that parliamentary will be equated with the return of the pork barrel because, remember, under a parliamentary system, the secretaries are also members of the legislature,” Cayetano said.
“I think it would be better if we don’t make this a priority. Let us first prioritize affordable prices; how the majority could feel the gains made in our economy,” Cayetano added.
Lawmakers that didn’t delete their pork barrel allocations under the P2.26-trillion 2014 national budget asked that their entitlements be placed instead in items under the control of executive branch.
An enraged public this year called for the scrapping of the pork barrel system after whistle-blowers alleged in affidavits how billions of pesos worth of PDAF were converted into fat kickbacks with the collusion of corrupt lawmakers, line agency officials and fake non-government organizations.
Janet Lim Napoles, who allegedly controlled the dubious foundations; senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and Ramon Revilla, Jr.; and dozens of others were charged with plunder in connection with the multi-billion peso scam.
Cayetano, the Senate majority leader, said much more could be done through normal legislation rather than trying to tinker with the country’s 16-year-old fundamental law.
“The people are looking for a cleaner, more transparent and accountable government. They’re not asking for a shift in the system of government,” Cayetano told reporters.
“The people are looking for a government free from Napoles, a government free from corruption and a government that can respond right away,” Cayetano added.
Senate President Franklin Drilon has said that he would consider amending economic provisions of the 1987 Constitution.
Drilon, however, added that any attempt to change the Charter must have the support of President Aquino to be successful.
Speaker Feliciano Belmonte earlier revived talk of Charter change despite the Chief Executive’s apparent lack of interest in constitutional amendments.