Palace waives right to appeal SC ruling vs PDAF

Posted at 12/23/2013 11:05 AM | Updated as of 12/23/2013 11:05 AM

MANILA - Malacañang has effectively waived its right to contest the unanimous Supreme Court (SC) decision last month declaring unconstitutional the congressional pork barrel or Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), by refusing to file a motion for reconsideration.

Chief presidential legal counsel Benjamin Caguioa told The STAR that as far as he knew, there would be no more appeal, but clarified it would still be “best to confirm directly” from Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza.

Reliable sources from the judiciary disclosed that the 15-day period by which the Office of the Solicitor General – whose clients are the House of Representatives and the Palace – can file an appeal has already “lapsed.”

“They have not filed any MR (motion for reconsideration) yet,” a SC insider said. “I think the period had lapsed.”

Nevertheless, no less than Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. told Congress reporters last month that while they had anticipated the SC ruling nullifying the PDAF, an appeal is no longer necessary.

“We will not appeal,” he told a news conference, apparently aware of the chances of having the decision reversed, considering that it was a unanimous ruling where only one of the 15 justices abstained, while the rest voted to strike down the PDAF.

Only Justice Presbitero Velasco abstained since his son is a congressman.

Belmonte said they would instead implement the separation of powers between the legislative and the judiciary – which is most probably the reason why congressmen now want to scrutinize the multibillion-peso lump sum Judicial Development Fund of justices.

House Deputy Majority Leader Sherwin Tugna of the party-list Citizens Battle Against Corruption concurred with the Speaker’s assessment, since filing an appeal and reversing the verdict will be a near-impossible dream.

“Since the ruling is unanimous, a motion for reconsideration is an exercise in futility,” the lawyer-congressman said.

He said Congress could now focus on its job of crafting laws and oversight functions.

“Our nation will now be a true republican system of government characterized by checks and balances. Legislators checking the executive because they will now have more time to focus their oversight functions, as holder of the power of the purse,” Tugna said.

Malacañang can hardly make up its mind if the SC decision is a defeat or victory of Aquino’s decision to abolish the lump sum for lawmakers, several days and weeks after the pork barrel was declared unconstitutional.

Press Secretary Herminio Coloma said Aquino wants a comprehensive study of the 14-0 unanimous decision, particularly because the landmark ruling came from the judiciary, a co-equal branch of the government.

“Maybe we still need more time to study and assess. As I mentioned earlier, we have not received an official copy and the entire text of the SC decision. The only thing available now are the online sources where the dispositive portion was found,” Coloma said.

“That’s why in our assessment, it would be better if we can read the whole decision of the SC, for us to be able to study it well,” he said, refusing to either describe the verdict as victory or defeat.