AS debates on the pork barrel heat up, a law professor on Wednesday petitioned the Supreme Court to declare the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) as unconstitutional.
In a taxpayer’s suit he filed, Samson Alcantara questioned the legality of the controversial funds and asked the Court for a temporary restraining order (TRO) to stop PDAF releases.
Through his Social Justice Society, Alcantara filed a petition for certiorari where he named Senate President Franklin Drilon and Speaker Feliciano Belmonte as respondents.
He said the integrity of government funds must be preserved and
the Department of Budget and Management should withhold the funds’ release to Congress.
This way, he said, what’s left of the pork barrel can be spared from being ravished.
Senators linked to PDAF scandal beg off from blue-ribbon hearing
Three senators implicated in the pork barrel controversy will not attend the Senate blue ribbon committee inquiry Thursday to avoid suspicion they might influence the proceedings.
The three—Senate minority leader Juan Ponce Enrile and Senators Gregorio Honasan and. Ramon Revilla Jr.—made it clear that they fully support the inquiry and its purpose to come up with new measures on how to avoid the misuse of pork barrel or to continue the plan of abolishing it in our government system.
Honasan said that like any other Filipino, he wanted to find out how the supposed mastermind of scam, Janet Lim-Napoles, did it.
Honasan is calling not only for the “calibrated abolition” of the legislators’ Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) but the funds received by other branches of the government as well.
He said the investigation should also include “intelligence funds,” which are not subject to state auditing.
In a press statement, Revilla said he will not attend the hearing because he is not a member of the blue ribbon panel to begin with.
“But I fully support the inquiry and all the other investigations into the matter,” he said, adding he is confident the inquiry will be fair and objective.
Enrile had already said he has no intention to intend the Senate inquiry, but is willing to be questioned by his colleagues if the committee asks him to appear.
The blue ribbon panel, headed by Sen. Teofisto Guingona 3rd, begins its inquiry Thursday with Commission on Audit Chairman Ma. Grace Pulido-Tan and COA commissioners Heidi Mendoza and Rowena Guanzon, as the first resource persons.
Sen. Francis Escudero, who filed a resolution that launched the investigation, said that apart from the COA officials, the committee should also invite other individuals particularly the whistleblowers and the heads of the organization and state-owned corporation implicated in the controversy.
Escudero wants the committee to invite Benhur Luy, the principal witness in the scam and a distant relative of Napoles, Merlina Sunas, an employee of JLN group and other witnesses Arthur Luy, Gertrudes Luy, and Annabelle Luy.
As for the decision of other senators to inhibit from the hearing, Escudero said they cannot be forced to attend.
Meanwhile, Sen. Joseph Victor Ejercito called on President Benigno Aquino 3rd to create an independent commission to take the lead in investigating the misuse of the PDAF.
In a resolution filed Wednesday, Ejercito insisted on an independent body dedicated solely in finding out the truth concerning the PDAF misuse during the time of President Gloria Arroyo (2001-2010) and also the PDAF spending from 2010-2013.
The panel, Ejercito said, will operate independently of the Department of Justice (DOJ), National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), the Office of the Ombudsman and the blue ribbon committee.
In a related development in Albay province, a lawmaker contested a P25 million “pork-funded” dredging project in Polangui town.
Rep. Fernando Gonzalez of the province’s 3rd District said the project would be a total waste of money as he questioned the timing of the bidding for it.
The controversial PDAF funded flood control project, according to Gonzalez, does not conform with legal procedures and is an open defiance of President Benigno Aquino 3rd’s declaration against fund misuse.
The project was awarded to the local government of Polangui under the auspices of Mayor Cherilie Mella-Sampal. Gonzalez told The Manila Times that P10 million of the original P25 million came from the pork barrel of AKB Rep. Christopher Co.
Gonzalez claimed that the bidding was done in haste and without transparency. He even described it as “garapalan” (brazen).
“LGU-Polangui has been a recipient of PDAF assistance for rehabilitation of flood control system for Nacascasan River [Lanigay-Balangibang-Matacon Section] in the amount of P10 Million. It has posted in PhilGEPS the following procurement notice: rehabilitation of flood control river system of Salug River [Basud-Ubaliw Section]; rehabilitation of flood control system of Nacascasan River [Lanigay-Balangibang-Matacon]. They’re just using the improvement of river but the truth is this is dredging and desilting which is a total waste of money. This is temporary in nature which is not allowed by the President,” Gonzalez explained.
Sampal said the P25 million was released by the Department of Budget and Management months ago but the bidding was put on hold because of the election ban.
“Our town is the catchment of floods from Lake Bato so we need to dredge and scour the rivers before the rainy seasons hit us,” Sampal said, adding that Ramar Construction, which is owned by former Mayor Rafael Lo, won the project.