CATHOLIC church officials on Wednesday lauded the Supreme Court (SC) for its “wise, timely decision” in declaring the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) as unconstitutional.
Malolos Bishop Jose Olivares said that the people “were right” in questioning the constitutionality of the pork barrel. He noted that the SC confirmed the common notion that PDAF is only “political patronage and influence peddling.”
“It stops the executive [from]corrupting the legislative. It’s a well-known secret that the executive used [the]PDAF to sway the congressional vote on Reproductive Health (RH) bill,” he said.
Msgr. Joselito Asis, Secretary General of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), said the SC ruling was a “positive development” and showed the tribunal’s independence.
However he asked the people to be vigilant about the “next plan of the legislators.”
Lipa Archbishop Ramon Arguelles noted that the “PDAF by whatever name will be unconstitutional and an obvious disservice to the Filipino people.”
Despite the High Court ruling, Senate President Franklin Drilon filed a bill converting the unused 2013 PDAF funds into a supplemental budget to be used for the repair and rehabilitation of public infrastructures damaged by typhoon Yolanda.
In filing Senate Bill 1938, Drilon said he wants to authorize the executive department to use the said allocation to fund the needed repairs of roads, bridges, schools and hospitals damaged by the series of disasters that hit the country.
“The damage caused by recent calamities requires intensified efforts for rehabilitation,
repair and construction of severely damaged infrastructure, buildings and facilities in order to accelerate recovery. Our people urgently need the augmented support of the government for rehabilitation,” he pointed out.
Under his proposal, P2.75 billion and P1.25 billion will go to the Department of Education (DepEd) and state universities and colleges, respectively, for the repair and rehabilitation of school and academic buildings.
Another P3 billion will go to the Department of Public Works and Highways and another P1.5 billion for the restoration of damaged historical sites.
The supplemental budget will also cover the repairs of hospitals as well as the purchase of hospital equipment.
Drilon insisted that it is necessary for Congress to expedite the passage of the bill since the appropriation will expire on December 31.
Because of the SC ruling, the House minority bloc urged Congress to review the House-approved 2014 national budget.
House Minority leader and San Juan Rep. Ronaldo Zamora pushed for the recall of the 2014 General Appropriations Bill or House Bill 2630 so that the House can if the budget is free from insertions and items personally determined by lawmakers.
Zamora said that while the review and proposal can be done in the bicameral committee meeting in December, lawmakers have little time to scrutinize the appropriations bill.
Recalling a major legislation such as the General Appropriations bill has never happened in the history of Congress. However, the minority lawmakers maintained that the rules of the chamber allow it.