THE Supreme Court en banc on Tuesday declared the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or pork barrel fund “unconstitutional”, confirming a Manila Times story last Nov.18. It also made permanent the temporary restraining order it imposed on the 2013 PDAF.
Voting 14-0, the High Court declared the entire balance of the 2013 PDAF unconstitutional in a decision penned by Associate Justice Estela Perlas-Bernabe. The ruling is “immediately executory.”
With big fangs against erring government officials involved in the PDAF scam, the SC has directed the prosecutorial arms of government, particularly the Office of the Ombudsman, to investigate and file criminal charges before the courts of law.
“The Court hereby directs all prosecutorial organs of government to, within the bounds of reasonable dispatch, investigate and accordingly prosecute all government officials and/or private individuals for possible criminal offenses related to the irregular, improper and/or unlawful disbursement/utilization of all funds under thee pork barrel system,” it avers.
Associate Justice Presbitero Velasco inhibited since his wife, Lorna Velasco, was a partylist member of the House of Representatives and his son, Lord Allan Velasco, was a former representative of Marinduque.
The SC also declared unconstitutional the following:
• All legal provisions of past and present congressional pork barrel laws such as the previous PDAF and CDF Articles and various congressional insertions which authorized legislators— whether individually or collectively organized into committees—to intervene, assume or participate in any of the various post-enactment stages of the budget execution, such as but not limited to the areas of project identification, modification and revision of project identification, fund release and/or fund realignment, unrelated to the power of congressional oversight.
• All legal provision of past and present Congressional Pork Barrel Laws, such as the previous PDAF and CDF Articles and the various Congressional Insertions, which conferred personal, lump-sum allocations to legislators from which they are able to fund specific projects which they themselves determine;”
• All informal practices of similar import and effect, which the Court similarly deems to be acts of grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of discretions; and
The High Tribunal also found the phrases ‘and for such other purposes as may be hereafter directed by the president under Sec 8 of PD 910 to finance the priority infrastructure development projects under Sec 12 of PD No. 1869 as amended by PD No. 1993’ failing in both the sufficient standard test in violation of the principle of non-delegability of legislative powers.
“Accordingly, the court’s temporary injunction dated Sept. 10, 2013 is hereby declared to be permanent.”
With this, all the remaining PDAF funds shall be halted and shall not be released.
“Thus, the disbursements/release of remaining PDAF funds allocated for year 2013 and previous years; the Malampaya Funds under the phrase ‘And for such other purposes as may hereby directed by the president’ pursuant to Section 8 of PD 910 which are, at the time of this decision is promulgated, not covered by Notice of Cash Allocation but only by Special Allotment Release Orders, whether obligated or not, are hereby ENJOINED.”
Only Justice Arturo Brion did not concur in the result enjoining the Malampaya funds.
The SC en banc “also enjoins the release of funds sourced from the Presidential Social Fund under the phrase ‘to finance the priority infrastructure development projects pursuant to Section 12 PD 1869 as amended by PD 1993. Said funds covered by this permanent injunction shall not be disbursed/released but instead returned to the general coffers of government except for the funds covered by the Malampaya funds and the Presidential Social Fund which shall remain therein to be utilized for their respective special purposes not otherwise declared unconstitutional.”
Meanwhile, the SC junked the plea of the petitioners to summon the Commission on Audit, Malacañang, and Congress of their books of accounts on PDAF since it can be done via separate petition for mandamus or it can be obtained directly from the respective government agencies.
“The Court hereby denies petitioners’ prayer seeking the Executive Secretary and/or the Department of Budget and Management be ordered to provide the public and the Commission Audit the complete lists/schedules or detailed reports related to the availments and utilizations of the funds subject of these cases.
Petitioners’ access to official documents already available and of public record but are not related to these funds must, however, be merely subjected to the custodian’s reasonable regulations or any valid statutory prohibition on the same, the court said.
This denial is without prejudice to a proper mandamus case which they or the Commission on Audit may choose to pursue through a separate petition,” it pointed out.
The SC en banc also junked the petitioner’s prayer to include the funds subject of these cases in the budgetary deliberations of Congress saying it is a matter best left to the prerogative of the political branches of government.”
The respondents Malacañang headed by President Benigno Aquino 3rd, Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa and Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, Senate President Franklin Drilon and House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte.
The petitioners were Atty. Samson Alcantara of the Social Justice Society, former Manila councilor Greco Belgica, former congressman Augusto Syjuco and former Boac, Marinduque mayor Pedrito Nepomuceno.