AN administration lawmaker may find himself in trouble with the Supreme Court (SC) for taking part recently in the distribution of Emergency Shelter Assistance (ESA) funds to victims of Typhoon Yolanda in Iloilo province.
Senator Francis Escudero on Wednesday said the reported interference of Rep. Niel Tupas Jr. of Iloilo’s Fifth District in the distribution of cash assistance to the typhoon victims could be a defiance of an SC ruling declaring the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) unconstitutional.
The High Tribunal, in its 2013 PDAF ruling, outlawed the post-enactment intervention of lawmakers in the national budget.
Escudero said, ESA is a program administrated by the national government providing cash assistance of P30,000 and P10,000 to Yolanda survivors whose houses were partly or totally damaged, respectively.
ESA funds are sourced from the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Fund under the 2015 General Appropriations Act.
“Obviously, ESA was funded by the national budget which was approved by Congress before it was signed into law by the President,” Escudero said in a statement.
He added that if the SC ruling will be followed, no member of Congress–the Senate and the House of Representatives–is allowed to intervene in the implementation of the national budget.
Since ESA is funded under the national budget, Escudero said, lawmakers are not allowed to intervene in its implementation.
“The implementation of the national budget is not the concern of legislators but of government line agencies like in the case of ESA, the DSWD [Department of Social Work and Development],” he pointed out.
It was learned that Tupas, chairman of House Committee on Justice and a member of the Liberal Party (LP), was seen during the distribution of assistance to affected residents in his district.
Reports about Tupas’ actions reached DSWD Secretary Corazon Soliman, who then brought the issue to the officials of the administration party.
According to the DSWD secretary, except incumbent local officials from mayor down to barangay (village) councilors, government officials should not participate in the distribution of ESA grants.
As of June 30, about P130.9 billion had been released by the Department of Budget and Management to the DSWD for the implementation of the ESA program.
The amount represented the assistance given to 3,874 families and 18,433 families with totally and partly damaged houses, respectively.