THE Supreme Court (SC) should exercise restraint when ruling on the legality of decisions made by their co-equal branches of government: the executive and the legislative.
Rep. Elpidio Barzaga of Dasmariñas (Cavite), a lawyer, made the statement on Monday in light of Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno seeing a need to stabilize the High Court’s decisions by considering its earlier rulings and ensuring that these are consistent with a looming promulgation.
Barzaga, however, said the SC went the other way when it declared illegal the discretionary Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) of lawmakers provided under the national budget that allows each legislator to bankroll scholarships, medical assistance and infrastructure projects for the benefit of his constituents.
The PDAF of each member of the House of Representatives is pegged at P70 million a year and at P200 million for each senator annually.
The Supreme Court ruled in favor of PDAF in 1994 and 2004 by citing that the assistance fund is an epitome of Congress’ sole power of the purse.
This ruling, however, was reversed in 2013 over the P10-billion PDAF scam wherein lawmakers siphoned off PDAF from state coffers for their personal gain.
“There is nothing noble in Sereno’s pronouncement. Every law student knows the basic rule of decisions: adherence to precedents. And basic is the rule that when the Supreme Court is confronted with the issue of constitutionality of an act made by the legislature or the executive, the High Court, as much as possible, should exercise judicial restraint out of respect to a separate but a co-equal branch of the government. Such is the rule rooted in our tripartite form of government,” Barzaga pointed out.