How the process of People's Initiative will work vs pork
Ex-CJ Puno: Concerted effort needed to abolish pork system
MANILA – Former Chief Justice Reynato Puno said concerted efforts are needed in order to push for a law that will prohibit all forms of pork barrel.
In an interview with ABS-CBN's Umagang Kay Ganda, Former Chief Justice Reynato Puno explained that Republic Act 6735 (The Initiative and Referendum Act) requires that at least 10% of the country's registered voters must sign the petition and every legislative district must be represented by at least 3%.
Puno floated the idea of using People's Initiative in creating a law that will abolish all forms of pork barrel, saying it is obvious that Congress will no longer make a move.
The former chief magistrate said the power to enact laws is not exclusive to Congress but can be exercised directly by people anchored on the doctrine that "the people are the sovereign people."
The creation of RA 6735 is also provided in the 1987 Constitution under Article VI, Section 32.
Commision on Elections (Comelec) chairman Sixto Brillantes, meanwhile, said the country has about 54 million registered voters. This means that at least 5.4 million signatures are needed to push for a referendum.
Puno believes many people are against all forms of pork barrel, but he said cooperation is needed since the People's Initiative is a national effort.
"Kung magkakaisa ang mamamayan - at wala naman akong nakakausap na payag dyan sa nangyayaring sistema [ng pork barrel] - palagay ko makukuha ang threshold na iyon," Puno said.
Once the required number of signatures have been achieved, Puno said the petition will then be forwarded to the Comelec for verification.
Under the law, the petition must contain the text of the proposed measure, the proposition, the reasons for the creation of the proposed measure, the signatures of the petitioners or registered voters, and an abstract or summary written or printed at the top of every page of the petition.
After the verification of signatures and determination of the sufficiency of the petition, the Comelec is required to publish the petition in newspapers with major circulation within 30 days after its receipt.
The Comelec will also set the date of the referendum "which shall not be earlier than forty-five (45) days but not later than ninety (90) days from the determination by the Commission of the sufficiency of the petition."
A special registration must also be set at least three weeks before the referendum.
If the voters approved the proposition, the proposed measure will be enacted into law 15 days after its publication. The same process goes for rejection of or amendments to a law.
Pork vs pork barrel
In a separate dzMM interview, San Beda Graduate School of Law dean Fr. Ranhilio Aquino said that in crafting the proposition, the term "pork barrel" must not be used.
"'Pork barrel' is a popular term. You have to give it a technical definition," he said.
Brillantes, meanwhile, said the poll body may be able to accommodate the referendum.
"Sa verification, well, 5.4 million yan. Medyo matagal ng konti pero mabibilisan naman namin, meron naman kaming election officers in every municipality at kung magawa iyan after the barangay election - medyo maluwag na ang trabaho namin - siguro magagawa rin namin iyon," Brillantes also told Umagang Kay Ganda.
Brillantes said the budget for the referendum may be sourced from the Comelec's savings.
Palace promises not to block initiative
Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma, meanwhile, said the Palace will not block efforts to create a law against pork barrel.
Coloma, however, advised the petitioners to wait for the Supreme Court ruling on the petitions filed against the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) and the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) before proceeding with the People's Initiative.
The constitutionality of PDAF, lump sum funds allocated by the executive department to lawmakers, has been assailed before the SC. The petitioners include former senatorial candidates Greco Belgica and Samson Alcantara, and former Boac, Marinduque Mayor Pedrito Nepomuceno.
The petitioners argue that PDAF violates the constitutional limits given to the legislative and executive departments. They said the power of the purse is granted only to the legislative department, while the power to spend is given only to the executive.
The Palace reiterated that PDAF has been abolished and will be replaced with a more transparent system, but critics said the move was not enough.
The DAP, on the other hand, has also been questioned before the High Court by former Iloilo Rep. Augusto Syjuco, former Budget chief Benjamin Diokno, former National Treasurer Leonor Briones, and lawyers Jose Malvar Villegas and Manuelito Abad.
The DAP has come under fire after funds released through the program were allegedly used as incentives for senators to convict Chief Justice Renato Corona.
Budget Secretary Butch Abad earlier said the DAP was established to ramp up government spending after sluggish disbursements caused the country's GDP growth to slow down to just 3.6% in 2011.
He explained that aside from savings of agencies, the DAP is also comprised of unprogrammed funds due to revenues generated beyond the target such as GOCC (government-owned and controlled corporation) dividends, and budgets for slow-moving items or projects that have been realigned to support faster-disbursing projects.
Critics, however, said the executive department cannot simply realign and reallocate funds because this violates the constitution and the General Appropriations Act.
Belgica said the DAP funds released to lawmakers violated Article, VI, Section 25 of the Constitution, which prohibits any transfer of appropriations from the executive branch to the legislative branch.
Syjuco, meanwhile, said the DAP is unconstitutional because there was no law passed creating it, funds for the DAP were taken from uncompleted projects, and the DAP is being used to augment new budget allocations not approved by Congress.
As of Oct. 1, 2013, P137.3 billion had already been released by the Palace under the DAP, which was created in 2011.
Oral arguments for the PDAF petitions started yesterday. The SC set the schedule for the continuation of the oral arguments on October 10 and October 17 at 2 p.m.
The oral arguments for the DAP petitions will begin on October 22.