Chiz: SC already upheld constitutionality of 'pork'
MANILA – Senator Francis "Chiz" Escudero on Friday said the Supreme Court already ruled twice on the constitutionality of the pork barrel and the Congress is ready to defend it before the high court.
Escudero said both chambers of the Congress stand firm on their position regarding the disbursement of pork barrel funds, as the SC already upheld its constitutionality in 1994 (Philconsa vs Enriquez) and 2012 (LAMP vs Department of Budget and Management).
Escudero issued this statement after a third petition to declare the lump sum funds as unconstitutional was filed before the SC by the group Social Justice System, led by lawyer Samson Alcantara.
The group's petition also sought the issuance of a writ of prohibition to stop Congress from passing any law that will allocate funds for the pork barrel system in any form or name.
"Ipagtatanggol ng kamara at senado palagi na legal iyan… dahil pag 'di namin ipinagtanggol at sinabi ng korteng ilegal yan, e di illegal ang ginawa namin noon," Escudero told dzMM.
Nonetheless, Escudero maintained that the issue on the abolition of the pork barrel funds, officially known as Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), is a different matter.
Escudero said the Congress can still heed the people's call to abolish PDAF by simply removing it in next year's budget. Next year's PDAF is set at about P25 billion.
Escudero said consultations on the PDAF abolition are ongoing at the Senate. Similar talks are also ongoing at the Lower House.
Escudero said the details on the removal of the PDAF have yet to be discussed by the upper chamber. He said among the options being considered is the allocation of the funds for health and education services or to various agencies under the Executive department.
Senator Teofisto "TG" Guingona III, meanwhile, filed a bill seeking the abolition of PDAF.
In Senate Bill No. 1524, Guingona wants a bottom-up budgeting which, he said, would ensure greater transparency and accountability in the budget preparation.
But for Escudero, legislating the abolition of PDAF may not be sound, as people might later on clamor for its revival.
"Ngayon, kung hanapin man ng taumbayan ang serbisyong binibigay ng kongresista, eh 'di hayaan niyong ibalik kapag hiniling ng taumbayan, pero sa ngayon ayaw ng taumbayan," he said.
"Kung gusto nila na ipakulong na lang ang gumagamit ng masama, hayaan niyong manggaling na lang sa tao."
The issue on pork barrel made the news after several whistle-blowers accused businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles of conniving with several lawmakers to pocket pork barrel funds.
Napoles allegedly set up fake non-government organizations to siphon pork barrel funds of lawmakers, who in turn allegedly got huge cuts from the anomalous deal.