Oct 102013
The Supreme Court will decide by November whether the controversial Priority Development Assistance Fund, commonly known as pork barrel, is legal or not.

During the second session of the oral arguments regarding PDAF’s constitutionality on Thursday, Associate Justice Antonio Carpio disclosed that the High Court will decide on the case by November “to give Congress time to adjust” on the Court’s decision.

The House of Representatives is currently on a session break. It is scheduled to reconvene next week to pass the budget (General Appropriations Act of 2014) on third reading.

The oral arguments lasted for about five hours.

Likewise, Carpio ordered Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza to submit a Memorandum within seven days or before October 17 without extension.

On Thursday, Jardeleza asked the court to lift the temporary restraining order it imposed earlier on the release of funds. He reasoned that the scholars and indigent patients that were subsidized through PDAF funds were the ones suffering from the High Tribunal’s earlier decision.

Meanwhile, Carpio suggested that the President’s Social Fund, dubbed the President’s pork, can be tapped for indigent patients and augment scholarship programs.

However, the Solicitor General seemed lukewarm to the idea. In an ambush interview after the oral arguments, Jardeleza explained: “Well, ‘yung PSF hindi kasi pang scholarship na panglahatan. Ang scholarship doon ay limitado sa mga anak ng namatay na sundalo. Titignan naming kung pwede ‘yun.”

Last Tuesday, it was the turn of the petitioners—losing senatorial candidates Samson Alcantara and Greco Belgica—to explain that the use of discretionary funds violates the principle of the separation of powers between the legislative and executive branches of government.

Aside from PDAF, the Supreme Court was asked to resolve the constitutionality of the Disbursement Acceleration Program, a discretionary fund amounting to P50 million to P100 million which were released to several senators last year after the conviction of former Chief Justice Renato Corona.

The pork barrel has been in the spotlight recently after an alleged scam funneling billions from lawmakers’ funds into bogus NGOs surfaced. The supposed mastermind of the scam, businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles, is currently detained on the charge of serious illegal detention.

Several rallies have been staged to abolish the pork barrel and other lump sum appropriations. — BM, GMA News

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