A former lawmaker on Tuesday urged the Supreme Court (SC) to declare as unconstitutional the National Expenditure Program (NEP) for 2015 as well as the General Appropriations Bill (GAB) of 2015 that are pending in Congress, arguing that the measures are tainted with “pork barrel” funds.
Augusto Syjuco, who represented Iloilo province in the House of Representatives and who held the highest position at the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (Tesda), filed a petition for certiorari and prohibition to prevent Congress from further hearing the proposed 2015 budget.
He claimed that Congress abused its discretion, thus the budget hearings should be stopped.
Syjuco sought the High Court’s intervention after Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago’s allegations that the budget bill was pork-laden.
He particularly criticized the “lump sum” funds contained in the 2015 NEP, such as the proposed P501.670 billion presidential special purpose fund (SPF), which is more commonly known as the “President’s pork barrel.”
Also, the former congressman disclosed that the incoming budget contains “clones” of the controversial Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), which was partly declared unconstitutional by the High Court. Syjuco further alleged that the Liberal Party campaign fund was inserted in the 2015 budget.
He noted that the proposed P20.9 billion Grassroots Participatory Budgeting (GPB) program is actually a resurrected DAP. He called this “DAP clone, DAP junior, or LP campaign kitty.”
The 2015 NEP will be the basis of the legislature in passing the 2015 General Appropriations Act (GAA) that proposes a P2.606 trillion national budget next year, which is bigger than the 2014 P2.265 trillion budget by P341 billion.
Syjuco also scored President Benigno Aquino 3rd and the executive branch for redefining “savings.”
The former lawmaker specifically asked the court to halt the executive, through the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), from further implementing the 2015 NEP and GAB.
But Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. maintained that the budget bill complies with the Constitution and existing jurisprudence so that it is free from any form of pork barrel.
Coloma also dismissed Santiago’s claim that next year’s budget is aimed at funding the administration’s political machinery for the 2016 elections.
Santiago particularly questioned funds for a water supply project placed under the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), which is under Secretary Manuel Roxas 2nd, the administration’s prospective standard-bearer in 2016.
Coloma said the 2015 budget, as with previous expenditure plans, is based on the Philippine Development Plan.
Meanwhile, at the Senate, Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. questioned the P12-billion allotment for the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) that was included in the errata submitted by the DBM.
Marcos noted that the funds are intended for projects “that are not within the mandate of the agency.”
During plenary discussion on the DILG budget for 2015 the other night, he asked why there are funds in the DILG budget for water supply and low-cost housing when the agency is not mandated to undertake such projects.
The chairman of the Senate committee on local governments insisted that the DILG is not empowered by law to build housing units since this function was given to the National Housing Authority (NHA), or to create water supply, the concern of the Local Water Utilities Administration or the Department of Public Works and Highways.
Meanwhile, anti-pork advocates based in Quezon City led by the People’s Initiative to Abolish the Pork Barrel System or PIAP-QC also on Tuesday submitted the first 10,000 signatures to Commission on Elections (Comelec) in Quezon City.
“In just two months of massive campaign, we were able to gather the signatures from communities, schools and factories here in Quezon City,” said Malou Turalde, the group’s spokesperson. The group has vowed to collect at least 177,000 signatures from the city’s six congressional districts to contribute to the target of 6 million signatures nationwide.
The signature campaign, Turalde explained, is part of the People’s Initiative (PI) that allows direct exercise by the people of the sovereign power reserved by the Philippine Constitution to enact legislation.
With Jing Villamente