SUPREME Court Associate Justice Arturo Brion believes that President Benigno Aquino 3rd’s discretionary funds or pork barrel is also “constitutionally anomalous” and should be abolished by the Court.
In his 20-page Separate Concurring and Dissenting Opinion, Brion, the only bar first placer in the High Court, said it is Congress that allowed the irregularity by giving the President his own pork barrel in lump sum without congressional scrutiny.
The Court on Tuesday ruled that the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF)—the congressional pork barrel—as unconstitutional.
Brion said “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.”
He said Congress surrendered its budgeting prerogatives to the President because it was given its own pork barrel.
“Congress, for its part, is given significant authority to decide on the projects and activities that will take place, and to allocate funds for these national undertakings. It has not at all complained about the loss of its budgeting prerogatives to the President,” the magistrate said.
“Thus, what confronts the Court is a situation where two partners happily scratch each other’s back although the Constitution prohibits this practice,” he said.
Brion said he voted to “strike down” the use of the Malampaya funds because it is a discretionary lump sum fund.
“It is a pure and simple pork barrel granted to the President under a martial law regime that could have escaped invalidity then under the 1973 Constitutional and the prevailing unusual times, but should be struck down now for being out of step with the requirements of the 1987 Constitution,” he said.
“It is a fund raised intended for special purposes but the characterization ‘special purpose’ is not reason enough and is not a magical abracadabra phrase that could whisk a fund out of the constitutional budget process, defying even common reason in the process,” he added.
Brion noted that the powers over the Malampaya fund was “left to the will of one man (Aquino) in terms of its growth, economic trajectory and future development. That the discretion is given to the President of the Philippines is not at all a valid argument simply because the legal situation should no longer be allowed under the 1987 Philippine Constitution that requires a valid appropriation for every use of the public fund.”
He also wanted Budget Secretary Florencio Abad to be cited for contempt for violating the Temporary Restraining Order issued by the tribunal on Sept. 10 halting the release of the remaining PDAF funds.
The Court noted that Abad issued a DBM Circular Letter dated Sept. 27, 2013, authorizing implementing agencies to continue implementing PDAF projects.
“The issuance of the DBM Circular Letter is prima facie an indirect contempt for which the DBM Secretary himself should be liable unless he can show why he should not be punished,” Brion said.