According to former Chief Justice Reynato Puno the electorate can can bypass Congress and directly scrap the Priority Development Assistance Funds (PDAF), commonly known as pork barrel, and the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) if five million signatures advocating their abolition can be gathered.
“Hindi lang Kongreso ang may karapatang magpanukala ng batas. Ang taumbayan mismo ay may karapatan na magpanukala ng batas kung sa palagay nila ang ating Kongreso ay hindi ginagawa ang kanilang katungkulan,” Puno said in a television report aired on GMA 7’s “24 Oras” on Tuesday.
“You cannot expect them [lawmakers] to pass legislation that will be contrary to their selfish interest,” he noted, adding, “Nawala na ‘yung moral authority nila to enact this kind of law.”
Republic Act No. 6735, says the citizenry has the power to directly propose, enact or approve a law provided:
– At least 10 percent of Filipino voters signed the petition. There are about 52 million voters in the country, so the petition needs to be signed by at least 5.2 million people.
– At least three percent in all the legislative districts signed up the petition
The Commission on Election, then, will verify the signatures in the petition and, eventually, set the election date for the Filipino voters to choose to abolish pork barrel or not.
During the Ramos and Arroyo administrations, there were attempts to use a peoples’ initiative to amend the Constitution. The efforts failed.
If the peoples’ initiative does manage to do away with lawmakers’ pork, this will mean that democracy is alive and well in the country, the former Chief Justice said.
Pork barrel has been under the spotlight recently after an alleged multi-billion fund scam surfaced. At the center of the controversy was businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles, dubbed the ‘pork scam queen.’ Napoles allegedly funneled the PDAF through her bogus NGOs in connivance with lawmakers and other ranking government officials.
Several rallies have been staged calling for the abolition of the pork barrel and other lump sum appropriations, which were believed to be a source of corruption and patronage politics. — Rouchelle R. Dinglasan/DVM, GMA News