SolGen to SC: PDAF flaws don't justify its abolition
Jardeleza says 'pork' is constitutional
MANILA (UPDATED) - The Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), representing Malacanang and Congress, on Thursday urged the Supreme Court (SC) to uphold the constitutionality of the pork barrel of legislators and the social funds and Malampaya Fund of the executive.
While admitting that there were infirmities in the implementation of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) of lawmakers, Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza said that reforms and efforts are underway to address this, and the state should be allowed to solve the problem through policy measures.
"In sum, we argue on its face... the provisions in the 2013 PDAF are not unconstitutional. We will try to persuade you (SC) that the flaws in the implementation of the PDAF are better resolved by policy changes, many of which are underway," Jardeleza said.
He also stressed that "government institutions have filed cases against those who allegedly received kickbacks" on projects funded by the PDAF which had "ghost deliveries," referring to the plunder charges filed by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) recently with the Office of the Ombudsman.
Jardeleza stressed that in spite of the PDAF special audit findings of the Commission on Audit (COA), which state that huge sums of funds were funneled ito non-government organizations (NGO) linked to alleged 'pork barrel' architect Janet Lim Napoles, this was not enough for the high court to declare the PDAF system unconstitutional.
"The COA was saying there was corrupt misuse of public funds through ghost deliveries. We will walk you through the COA report to show to you that there are 4 and only 4 audit items over matters of execution that relate to members of the Congress.
"Despite these 4 references...the findings do not justify the abandonment of the [SC] Philconsa ruling," Jardeleza said.
In Philconsa, the high court upheld the constitutionality of pork barrel funds, though some justices, including Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, are of the opinion that the Philconsa case is different from the present petitions against the pork funds.
Jardeleza also pointed out that the COA report "never said money was released to the legislators," but to the implementing agencies and "it is up to the implementing agencies to monitor the NGOs."
PDAF not yet abolished
He also told the Supreme court that President Aquino has not totally abolished the PDAF of lawmakers.
Jardeleza made the statement during the interpellation of Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, who asked Jardeleza why government was asking for a partial lifting of the TRO on the usage of the remaining over P13 B PDAF under the General Appropriations Act (GAA) of 2013, and why government was asking its constitutionality to be upheld in spite of the President's pronouncement last August that he has abolished the controversial fund.
"The Executive Department has announced, even yesterday, that they have abolished the fund. Why are you asking us to lift the TRO?" Carpio asked.
To which Jardeleza replied: "The statement of the President was to suspend the PDAF in so far as the soft projects is concerned... it was stopped because the [SC] TRO stopped it."
Jardeleza's statement ran counter to the Palace's repeated pronouncements that "pork barrel" no longer exists and has already been abolished.