AS far as Malacañang is concerned, the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) of lawmakers that was recently declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court is the “only” pork barrel fund. All other fund sources, including the President’s Social Fund, does not fall under the “pork” category.
“Para po sa amin, ang definition lamang ng pork barrel ay iyong sa PDAF [For us, the only definition of pork barrel is the PDAF],” Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said. He was reacting to an article written by former Ambassador Rigoberto Tiglao that outlined how President Benigno Aquino 3rd’s was defined by the pork barrel system.
Coloma said since the PDAF has been declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, the issue should be put to rest.
“So sa amin po ay sapat na iyang mga bagay na yan. Puwede na po tayong mag-move sa iba pang mga usapin [So for us these things are over. WE can move on to other matters],” he pointed out.
In his column, Tiglao claimed that the Aquino administration “relied the most on the pork barrel system.”
“The figures show how much Aquino had relied on pork barrel funds. Averaging only P7 billion yearly during Arroyo’s term (and about P4 billion yearly during Fidel Ramos’s and Joseph Estrada’s administrations), pork barrel under Aquino had nearly quadrupled annually to P25 billion per year,” Tiglao wrote.
“Aquino even gave away to senators another P12 billion in pork barrel for 2011 and 2012— taken out of a fund hijacked for a purported “Disbursement Acceleration Program”—just to be sure that the Senate removed Chief Justice Corona,” he added.
On the other hand, Coloma offered a different view on the equally controversial Presidential Social Fund and the Malampaya funds, which critics consider as other forms of pork.
Asked to react on Associate Justice Arturo Brion’s opinion that the president’s pork is also illegal, Coloma simply shrugged off the issue by saying that they still have yet to see the full text of the main SC decision on PDAF and that any concurring or dissenting opinion would only relate to the main ruling.
“Iyon po kasing mga inilalahad na separate concurring opinion, nagkakaroon lang iyan ng saysay in relation to the main decision that was penned by the ponente, si Justice Estela Perlas Bernabe,” he explained.
“Hindi pa po natin nakikita mismong iyong main decision kaya hindi po siguro angkop na magkokomento tayo sa mga separate concurring opinion without having even seen the full text of the main decision,” Coloma added.
In his 20-page Separate Concurring and Dissenting Opinion, Brion said it is Congress that allowed the irregularity by giving the President his own pork barrel in lump sum without congressional scrutiny.
“Current practices in Congress has allowed him [Aquino] his own pork barrel—generally, lump sum funds that he can utilize at his discretion without passing through the congressional mill and without meaningful congressional scrutiny. As I have stated, this is a constitutionally anomalous practice that requires Court intervention as the budgetary partners will allow matters to remain as they are unless externally restrained by legally binding actions,” Brion said.
He added that Congress surrendered its budgeting prerogatives to the President because it was given its own pork barrel.
But Coloma dismissed this assertion.
“Wala po kaming mindset na this is a power game. Ang primary focus po ng Pangulo ay paglilingkod at hindi iyong kung ano ang kapangyarihan,” he said, adding Aquino’s power emanates from the “people’s trust.”
Meanwhile, Coloma gave assurances that the Malampaya funds would be spent legally, especially for the purposes of rehabilitating areas that were hit by Super Typhoon Yolanda.
“Napakalaki po, napakalawak at napakalalim nung extent of damage. Dahil dito, kinakailangang malaman kung ano ang mga authorized sources of funding. Kailangan pong makita iyong kabuuan nung lahat ng mga resource generation options available,” he said.
He said that the Malampaya fund was raised during discussions on where relief and rehabilitation funds should come. However, he noted that officials will have to do a legal assessment to ensure that the use of the fund would comply with the law.