Belmonte: SC order affects new congressmen
MANILA - The House of Representatives will comply with the restraining order issued by the Supreme Court against disbursements of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) and Malampaya Funds even as it affects new congressmen, Speaker Sonny Belmonte said Tuesday.
"The order appears not to be directed at us, but we will of course comply. By the way, the PNoy administration has not spent a single centavo of Malampaya. My only comment is the TRO affects the new congressmen. They are entitled to the second semester tranche and maybe all of them have not gotten anything released to the implementing agencies as yet," he said in a statement.
PDAF is released in 2 tranches, semi-annually. New congressmen who were elected in the May 2013 election have yet to receive the tranche meant for the second half of the year for their district.
CIBAC Rep. Sherwin Tugna said the SC order is a temporary setback. He said that he is confident that the validity of the PDAF will be upheld.
Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares said the SC order was a wise decision and said the High Court should abolish the PDAF.
Colmenares is also happy the stay order covers the Malampaya funds, saying the latter is considered presidential pork.
He said the TRO is a recognition that Malampaya is pork.
Colmenares said the issue is the discretion granted to certain public officials over lump sums.
How other congressmen reacted
The Independent Bloc led by Leyte Rep.Martin Romualdez welcomed the Court's order. Buhay party-list Rep. Lito Atienza said he is confident that in the long run, the PDAF will be declared unconstitutional.
Romualdez renewed his bloc's pitch for the revival of an oversight committee in Congress to monitor the implementation of projects that will be funded from the realignment of funds initially intended for pork.
Abakada Rep. Jonathan dela Cruz notes in the 14th Congress, the oversight committee raised red flags over the disbursements from the fertilizer funds, Malampaya funds and PDAF.
Romualdez pointed out his bloc was one of the earliest to call for the abolition of pork.
He said that while the House is following suit, the chamber still exempted presidential lump sums.
Atienza wants the frozen PDAF diverted to the line agencies already, especially hospitals who need it badly.
Prior to the SC ruling, President Aquino already suspended the releases for the second half of the year for PDAF.
90 solons want PDAF junked
Some 90 lawmakers have signed various documents abolishing PDAF. On Monday, 59 neophytes signed their manifesto against PDAF.
Before that the House leadership, about 16 congressmen, signed their own statement on behalf of their partners.
The Romualdez group with about 7 congressmen, and the Makabayan bloc with also 7 congressmen, and Muntinlupa also separately signed their own resolutions abolishing PDAF.
This is not even 1/3 of the 292-man chamber.
Earlier, congressmen admitted that they are saddened over the PDAF's abolition because of the impact on their projects' beneficiaries.
Atienza pointed out that in the past, the SC upheld the constitutionality of the PDAF because the question was the power of Congress to appropriate funds. Now, Atienza believes the SC will declare it unconstitutional because what is being assailed is the discretion of certain officials to spend lump sums.
The House appropriations committee is in a closed door meeting to hammer out their committee report on the budget, with special focus on how they will go about the realignment of the abolished P25.24 billion PDAF in the budget to the different line agencies.
Atienza also called for transparency in the budget meetings on the PDAF.
Meantime, Romualdez said their bloc will also file an anti-impoundment bill, which will limit presidential powers to impound funds already approved by Congress.
He accused the Aquino administration of withholding PDAF and using it as a carrot and stick to buy political support from lawmakers.
Romualdez hopes the President will support the bill since he filed a similar bill when he was senator.