THE majority or maybe even all the Supreme Court justices will declare the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) unconstitutional at its en banc session scheduled on Tuesday, when the magistrates vote on a draft ruling that abolishes the pork barrel funds of lawmakers, a highly reliable source told The Manila Times.
The source told The Times that the justices were inclined to concur with the decision drafted by Associate Justice Estela Perlas-Bernabe, the designated ponente or writer of the decision.
Most of the magistrates, the source added, are convinced that all PDAF allocations for 2013 are illegal.
Last September, the Court issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) stopping Malacañang from releasing the PDAF for 2013.
The TRO covers the Department of Budget and Management, the National Treasurer, the Executive Secretary, or any person acting under their authority.
The source said the justices are poised to make this restraining order permanent.
They will vote on Bernabe’s ponencia tomorrow morning, and in the afternoon hear the oral arguments on the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).
CDF, insertions too
The source said the ruling will not only cover the PDAF but its predecessor, the Countrywide Development Fund (CDF), since the decision declares all the provisions of past and present laws that allow the disbursement of pork barrel funds unconstitutional.
Besides PDAF and CDF, the tribunal is also inclined to declare congressional insertions as illegal and shoot down the provision that says “And for such other purposes as may be hereafter directed by the President” covered by Section 8 of Presidential Decree 910 which was intended to finance the infrastructure projects under PD 1869, particularly Section 12 under the non delegation of legislative powers clause.
Another Supreme Court insider told The Times that a number of justices were of a mind to stop fund releases through the Presidential Social Fund under the phrase “to finance the priority infrastructure development projects.” The magistrates share the belief that these funds should be returned to the national coffers.
The source said the justices are also poised to rule as illegal the use of the Malampaya Funds under the phrase “for such other purposes as may be hereafter directed by the President” under Section 8 of Presidential Decree No. 910 covered by the Special Allotment Release Order.
The source said the imminent ruling renders permanent the TRO issued on September 10. It clips the powers of the Budget department, the National Treasurer, the Executive Secretary, or any persons acting under their authority from releasing the remaining PDAF allocated to members of Congress under the General Appropriations Act of 2013.
The expected Supreme Court ruling tomorrow against PDAF, DAP, Malampaya fund use as pork and congressional insertions would mean the defeat of Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, Senate President Franklin Drilon and Speaker Feliciano Belmonte in the case filed against them by concerned citizens.
Samson Alcantara of the Social Justice Society, former Manila Councilor Greco Belgica, former Congressman Augusto Syjuco and former Boac, Marinduque Mayor Pedrito Nepomuceno had petition the Supreme Court to do away with the PDAF.
Supreme Court spokesman Theodore Te had earlier said the TRO against PDAF “does not affect the General Appropriations Act because it does not annul any provision of the GAA.”
The TRO order, he explained, did not violate Congress’ “power of the purse” but merely “maintains the status quo” until a verdict is reached.
In August, President Benigno Aquino 3rd announced the scrapping of the PDAF following the exposure of the P10-billion scam that saw pork funds funneled to fake non-government organizations, particularly those said to have been created and controlled by Janet Lim Napoles.
Senators last week said they were willing to give up whatever is left of their pork barrel for this year as long as the money is used for the relief and rehabilitation of areas devastated by Super typhoon Yolanda.
If the High Court stops the release of Malampaya funds, it will frustrate the President’s plan to tap the gas fund to solve the power crisis in disaster-torn Visayas.
Energy Secretary Carlos Jericho Petilla has suggested the use of the Malampaya funds to improve the power supply in typhoon-hit areas.
He that said that almost 100 towers “were crumpled, not just toppled, across Visayas.”
Aquino said he will look into the proposal especially with Visayas facing a dark Christmas due to the extensive damage suffered by distribution facilities and transmission lines.
However, he noted that the government has to make sure that all laws are followed.
Since Aquino assumed office in 2010, the government has used the Malampaya fund for 10 projects worth P15 billion, according to Palace deputy spokesman Abigail Valte.
WITH A REPORT FROM CATHERINE VALENTE