THE People’s Initiative campaign for a new law that abolishes the pork barrel will go into full swing by the end of November, when the draft of the measure shall have been presented by its proponents.
“Before the end of November the draft will be finished. [As I told the other proponents], throw me the idea and I will write the law.” This was announced by former Supreme Court chief justice Reynato Puno to the editors and reporters of The Manila Times on Monday.
Puno is the main proponent of the People’s Initiative move to correct the distortions in the use of public funds which he said “diminished Congress’ power to appropriate.”
He said he and the organizers of the Million People March and the other supporters of the move will meet November 8 to 9 in Cebu City for a People’s Congress, adding that the campaign will be sustained through similar summits.
Puno clarified that the intention of the Peoples’ Initiative that he and his colleagues are endorsing is to pass a new law that would correct the “distortions” in the present system of government budgeting which is prone to abuse.
Unlike the previous initiatives during the time of former Presidents Fidel Ramos and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, the one they are pushing is not meant to amend the Constitution.
“There are three instances where People’s Initiative can be used. First is for Charter Change. Second, to enact a national law and third, to enact local laws or ordinances. The previous People’s Initiatives failed because those were done toward the end of their [Arroyo and Ramos’] terms,” Puno said.
The new measure, he said, would put “reasonable restrictions” on government funds following the “one fund concept” wherein all government incomes become part of the national treasury prior to appropriation and disbursement.
“There should be no off-budget items . . . dapat objective ang [paggamit ng]pera to avoid political patronage,” Puno said.
Pork barrel funds such as the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) and the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) were both abused because their uses were not specifically defined in the General Appropriations Act, he said.
The “distortions” caused an “imbalance of power” that has “tremendous adverse consequences,” he said.
“I am not saying that this will completely solve the problem,” Puno said, but if the People’s Initiative succeeds it would be beneficial to both government and the people.
If the new law is passed through the People’s Initiative, Puno said it would be easier to pass other laws such as one that would prohibit political dynasties.
“Sky is the limit,” Puno replied when asked what other laws may be passed through People’s Initiative. However, he admitted that the process will not be easy since it could be sabotaged by groups with vested interests or political clans that maybe affected.
The law requires that the People’s Initiative petition be signed by 10 percent of the total registered voters nationwide with a minimum of 3 percent of voters in each congressional district.
Besides being prone to sabotage, Puno said the new law must be crafted in a manner that it will not contravene any existing law or the Constitution. Otherwise, it could be questioned before the Supreme Court and declared unconstitutional.
If that happens, he said, their efforts would be wasted.
“That’s why we must be sure,” he said.