Palace: No ‘hidden pork’ in 2014 budget

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Malacañang on Tuesday denied allegations that there is “hidden pork” in the 2014 national budget.

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Rep. Antonio Tinio of Alliance of Concerned Teachers party-list claimed that some lawmakers can still access their “hidden pork” with the line agencies where the budget once meant for Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) were realigned in the 2014 budget.

Aside from the form that has been circulating in the House of Representatives, Tinio said that Cabinet officials are also working with lawmakers “in order to continue the practice of congressional pork.”

But, Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. insisted that the Palace has no hand in the release of funds.

”Wala pong basbas ‘yan ng Palasyo. Wala po kaming kinalaman diyan. Wala pong batayan ‘yung mga paratang laban sa Executive branch hinggil diyan, sapagkat sinusunod po natin ‘yung kautusan ng Korte Suprema hinggil sa pagiging unconstitutional [ng PDAF],” Coloma told reporters in a press briefing.

He said that the funds that were supposedly meant for lawmakers are now under the line agencies’ budgets.

“Malinaw doon sa desisyon ng ating Korte Suprema na ang gawain ng mga mambabatas ay buuin at isapinal ‘yung pambansang budget; at pagkatapos ‘yon naging batas, ang magpapatupad nito ay ang Executive branch at wala nang dapat na involvement ang sinumang mambabatas sa paggastos o sa pagpapatupad ng mga programang nakasaad sa General Appropriations Act,” he added.

Malacañang was forced to declare that PDAF no longer exists in the 2014 budget after the public clamor for its abolition reached its height in the third quarter of last year.

Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, however, clarified that the P25.2-billion allocation for the PDAF would stay in the 2014 national budget.

But, he said that the use of the pork barrel in the 2014 budget would be subject to the guidelines and limitations laid down by the President.

In its decision last November, the High Court ruled that the pork barrel system was unconstitutional because it “allowed legislators to wield . . . post-enactment authority in vital areas of budget executions.”

At least nine senators were able to realign their PDAF because the Supreme Court only banned “post-enactment authority,” or lawmakers’ handling of government funds after the budget has been passed.

The realignments were proposed by senators in congressional deliberations before the budget was passed.

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