SENATE President Franklin Drilon on Monday filed two resolutions pushing for the realignment of senators’ priority development assistance fund (PDAF) for this year and the abolition of pork barrel in 2014.
If the resolution batting for PDAF realignment gets passed, the unreleased pork barrel of all senators in 2013 will be added to the national risk reduction and management fund.
But Senator Miriam Santiago in a separate proposal insisted that the President’s pork be subjected to congressional scrutiny just like the other items in the General Appropriations Act (GAA).
Senate Resolution 303 expresses the sense of the Senate to abolish the PDAF in 2014 in a bid to assure the public of the chamber’s serious commitment and sincere efforts to institute reforms that would establish a tradition of fiscal transparency and accountability.
If passed by the chamber, the P4.8 billion PDAF of the senators next year will be taken off the proposed P2.26 trillion 2014 national budget.
Drilon made it clear that his resolution only covers the Senate.
“We’ll have to face the reality that these projects will now have to be considered by the different departments in their regular budget,” he said when asked what will happen to the projects that used to be funded by the Senate’s PDAF. The Supreme Court has stopped the release of lawmakers’ PDAF this year.
The Senate chief said that he sees no legal impediment to the realignment of their PDAF because the constitution allows the President to augment any item in the GAA for their respective offices from savings in other items of their respective appropriations.
Drilon explained that the unreleased PDAF is considered as savings which according to the administrative code can be used for disaster relief, rehabilitation, repair and improvement of government buildings and infrastructures damaged by natural calamities.
But for Santiago, there is also a need to scrutinize the multi-billion peso pork of the Presiden to put an end to the practice of using off-budget funds.
Santiago filed a resolution expressing the sense of the Senate that all off-budget funds, particularly funds from Malampaya, Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO), and the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor) should be included in the Budget of Expenditures and Sources of Financing (BESF) submitted annually by the President to Congress be checked by Congress.
Santiago, a constitutional law expert, noted that the so-called “off-budget funds” are unconstitutional because it violates the constitutional provision which states that “No money shall be paid out of the treasury except in pursuance of an appropriation made by law.”
“At present, these off-budget funds are under the complete control of the President, without an appropriation made by Congress. The practice of off-budget funds is an evil that should be struck down on its face for violating the Constitution,” she said.
The senator pointed out that although the BESF Report is supposed to contain all the sources of government revenues, it does not include the off-budget sources of revenues, such as the Malampaya Fund, the PCSO Charity Fund, and the Pagcor Social Fund.
“This allows the President to use the Malampaya Fund to finance projects not related to energy, by merely issuing an executive order without consulting Congress,” she said.