SC urged: Stop ‘resurrected’ pork

The Supreme Court has been asked to stop the Aquino administration from spending P424 billion in lump sum funds embedded in the 2015 General Appropriations Act for being unconstitutional and a circumvention of its ruling against the so-called “pork barrel” funds and lump sum appropriations.

In a petition, the Philippine Constitution Association headed by Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez, along with former Senator Francisco Tatad, former Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno, sought  the issuance of a temporary restraining order  enjoining the executive branch from further implementing Sections 65, 70 and 73 of the 2015 General Appropriations Act  and special provisions for special purpose funds.

Philconsa  officers  along with former Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno (second from right) hold copies of  the group’s petition asking the Supreme Court to stop the administration from implementing the 2015 national appropriations  that allegedly circumvented the SC decision declaring the ‘pork barrel’ as unconstitutional. From left:  Philconsa  executive vice president  Manolo Gorospe, Philconsa chairman Manuel Lazaro and  former Senator  Francisco Tatad.  LINO SANTOS

Philconsa chairman Manuel Lazaro and former Commission on Elections commissioner Manolo Gorospe joined in the filing of the petition, which also pleaded the SC to order the Commission on Audit to issue notices of disallowance to all disbursements and releases from the assailed GAA provisions.

The other petitioners include former National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales and Catholic Archbishops Ramon Arguelles, Fernando Capalla and Romulo De La Cruz.

The petitioners also prodded the high court to issue a show cause order against Congress and Budget Secretary Florencio Abad for “flagrant disobedience, resistance and disregard of the decisions of the Supreme Court in the [Priority Development Assistance Fund and Disbursement Acceleration Program cases].”

Section 65 of the GAA provides for lump sum appropriations while Section 70 defines savings as portions or balances of any unreleased appropriations in the GAA that were not obligated. Sec. 73, on the other hand, contains Rules in the realignment of allotment classes and reprioritization of items of appropriations.

The petitioner said the tribunal should declare all three provisions as unconstitutional.

“Realignment of allotment classes and reprioritization of items of appropriations are species and varieties of transfer and augmentation prohibited under Section 25 (5), Article IV of the Constitution,” they said, reiterating the same grounds cited in the SC rulings on the PDAF and DAP cases.

Petitioners said an examination of the 2015 budget showed “scandalous and unconscionable freight” of lump sum appropriations amounting to P424,144,763,000 “cleverly embedded” in nine strategic departments and two agencies of the executive department, which the group said were “highly vulnerable to the whirligig of transactional, rent-seeking and patronage politics.”

While there is only about three months left in the fiscal year, petitioners argued it is not yet too late for the SC to act.

“This case is the golden and historic occasion for the Supreme Court to establish an impregnable wall to block the genre of conscienceless politicians and politics to politicize, pollute and desecrate the Constitution in the preparation and implementation of the General Appropriations Act,” the petitioner argued.

In an interview, Diokno warned that if these lump sum funds are not stopped, it could be used by the administration for next year’s elections.

Name respondents were Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr., Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, the Congress and the CoA.

Earlier this month, a similar petition citing similar grounds was filed by the group led by former national treasurer Leonor Briones of anti-corruption watchdog Social Watch Philippines.

In that case, the SC already ordered the government to answer the petition. 

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