As the budget is set to be implemented by January, lawmakers should be wary of recommending and proposing projects to agencies as they can be held liable against the recent Supreme Court decision on the controversial Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), a party-list representative warned.
Bayan Muna Party-list Rep. Neri Colmenares said on Tuesday that a lawmaker can be held liable against the landmark SC ruling because it can be considered as participation in the post-enactment of the budget, which the High Court now clearly prohibits.
“What the SC ruled recently is it prohibits lump sum funds for the benefit of the lawmaker. If you can prove that this lump sum fund is for his district, it would be against the SC decision,” Colmenares said in an interview with The Manila Times.
Last November, the SC ruled that the PDAF is unconstitutional because it allows the lawmakers to participate in the post-enactment of the budget, which violates the separation of powers. It noted that the role of the Congress is to enact the budget and oversee whether it goes where it was intended to.
Colmenares also said that lawmakers should be more careful in proposing projects as it can be taken against them.
“That [being careful]is what was unsaid [in the decision]. All members [of the House]are now more careful because the SC decision is clear,” he said.
The P25.4-billion PDAF was already gone in the 2014 national budget and was lodged into different implementing agencies following the loud clamor and outrage against the pork barrel scam.
However, House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. said otherwise.
In an interview with reporters, Belmonte said that lawmakers can still recommend projects just like any other citizen but it cannot compel agencies to implement it as it has no binding effect.
“They cannot decide, they can recommend. It is not binding, it’s up to the authorities [of the concerned agencies],” Belmonte said.
He explained that the lawmakers cannot be held liable against the recent PDAF ruling for recommending projects.
“No. Why? We’re still citizens. We are still ordinary people. Like you, you can recommend, certainly we are also very knowledgeable about it. But, again, there is no binding effect of our recommendation.”
Under the old scheme of pork barrel allocation, the lawmakers have the power to allocate their PDAF to fund various projects, such as medical assistance, scholarships, and infrastructures. JHOANNA BALLARAN