DEATH TOLL, AS OF NOV. 20, 4,011

DAP should be next to go, says Puno

THE unanimous vote of Supreme Court (SC) justices declaring the Priority Development Assistance Funds (PDAF) as unconstitutional should also apply to the equally controversial Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), critics of the Aquino government said Tuesday. "It's a small step forward in our fight against corruption and political patronage. Yet what is notable about the decision is that it would set the precedent for succeeding constitutional challenges regarding discretionary public funds," Kabataan party-list Representative Terry Ridon said in a press statement.

ALSO: Church lauds ‘wise’ ruling by High Court

Malolos Bishop Jose Olivares said that the people “were right” in questioning the constitutionality of the pork barrel. He noted that the SC confirmed the common notion that PDAF is only “political patronage and influence peddling.”

ALSO: Pork barrel is dead; long live the Supreme Court

Were the pork projects effective? No. The Philippines today has the worst infrastructure in Asia. The country today has the worst educational system in Asia. Half of Filipinos consider themselves poor and hungry. Since 1990 when the pork barrel system became a full time racket, the number of poor in this country actually doubled. In the same period, the number of super rich congressmen and senators multiplied a thousand times.


DAP should be next to go, says Puno November 20, 2013 9:46 pm
by Joel M. Sy Egco Chief Reporter and Jomar Canlas Senior Reporter

MANILA, NOVEMBER 21, 2013 (MANILA TIMES) THE fight against pork barrel funds does not end with the Supreme Court decision ruling the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) unconstitutional, retired Chief Justice Reynato Puno said on Wednesday.

Puno, the main proponent of a People’s Initiative (PI) campaign to abolish all forms of pork funds, said the battle against the “evil” funds is far from over because there is still the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) to deal with.

“The decision is most welcome. The fight against pork, however, is not over. We have to wait if the SC will also strike down the DAP,” Puno told The Manila Times.

He said there is also a need to scrutinize the 2014 general appropriations bill still pending in Congress to avoid the possibility of resurrecting these funds.

“Until then the word is vigilance,” Puno stressed.

Voting 14-0, the Supreme Court on Tuesday declared the entire balance of the 2013 PDAF unconstitutional in a decision penned by Associate Justice Estela Perlas-Bernabe.

Malacanang withheld comment on the Supreme Court ruling.

“We have not seen the copy of the decision yet, so we have so far not made any comment.

We’ve asked the Office of the Solicitor General if they have received a copy. By today, they have not yet received a copy, so there’s no way that we can comment,” Palace spokesman Edwin Lacierda said during his regular press briefing.

“We don’t even know what action the Solicitor General will take. But if you remember, (Budget) Secretary Butch Abad already mentioned that, assuming it is rendered unconstitutional, it goes back to Treasury,” he said.

Lacierda said Abad will discuss the request for additional funds with President Benigno Aquino 3rd and the leaders of Congress.

“They’re looking at a supplemental budget for that P14 billion that has been rendered unconstitutional,” he said.

With regard to the Malampaya fund, Lacierda said Malacanang’s position is “in sync” with the Court’s ruling.

“The President has not utilized the Malampaya Fund other than [in] energy and energy-related projects,” he said.

Also yesterday, former congressman Augusto Syjuco of Iloilo province reiterated his appeal to the Supreme Court to stop Malacanang from further releasing funds under DAP.

“Last Oct 21, 2013, I filed an Urgent Motion for Issuance of Temporary Restraining Order and Preliminary Injunction on the implementation of the DAP.

Up to now, my motion remains pending and deferred by the Supreme Court and no TRO was issued in the implementation of the DAP,” he said.

Syjuco asked the Court to admit as evidence the 2011 Annual Report of the Commission on Audit (COA) on the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), one of the respondents in the consolidated petitions against DAP, since the report unearthed alleged irregularities.

He said that during the the oral arguments on the DAP petitions, “no one mentioned the Agency Audit Report on the [DBM] for 2011 conducted by the COA. I now [inform] the Supreme Court that there exists a COA Audit Report on DBM’s discombobulating misuse of DAP for year 2011, and the COA Report dealt extensively with the unexplained irregularities of DBM in the implementation of DAP.”

The Court will again hear oral argument on DAP on December 10.

FROM SUNSTAR.COM

Anti-pork lawmakers see same SC vote on DAP 3 -AA+A By Kathrina Alvarez Tuesday, November 19, 2013

THE unanimous vote of Supreme Court (SC) justices declaring the Priority Development Assistance Funds (PDAF) as unconstitutional should also apply to the equally controversial Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), critics of the Aquino government said Tuesday.

"It's a small step forward in our fight against corruption and political patronage. Yet what is notable about the decision is that it would set the precedent for succeeding constitutional challenges regarding discretionary public funds," Kabataan party-list Representative Terry Ridon said in a press statement.

In a vote of 14-0, the SC justices voted against the PDAF's legality while Associate Justice Presbitero Velasco took no part in the decision.

Ridon said that the PDAF is "only the tip of the iceberg".

Budget Secretary Florencio Abad Jr. said a total of P137.3 billion has been released from the disbursement acceleration mechanism as of October. The amount includes P82.5 billion in releases in 2011 and another P54.8 billion in 2012.

President Benigno Aquino III earlier stressed that out of the total DAP releases, only nine percent was released for projects identified by lawmakers.

Bayan Muna party-list Representative Neri Colmenares said the SC should likewise plug another source of corruption that is the DAP.

"I also hope that the same decision would be issued for the DAP because any president must not be allowed to realign funds at whim as this will lead to corruption and misuse of funds," he said.

ACT Teachers party-list Representative Antonio Tinio, for his part, urged Congress to amend the proposed 2014 General Appropriations Act by itemizing all lump sum funds.

"All lump sum discretionary funds that remain in the proposed budget should be removed in accordance with the public’s call for the abolition of pork," Tinio said.

Cibac party-list Representative Sherwin Tugna said the SC decision on PDAF will allow members of Congress to focus on the main purpose why they were put in office: to craft legislation.

"Our nation will now be a true Republican system of government characterized by check and balance. Legislators checking the executive department because they will now have more time to focus on their oversight functions, as the holder of the power of the purse," Tugna added.

Church lauds ‘wise’ ruling by High Court November 20, 2013 9:50 pm by Robertzon F. Ramirez, Jhoanna Ballaran And Llanesca Panti Reporters

CATHOLIC church officials on Wednesday lauded the Supreme Court (SC) for its “wise, timely decision” in declaring the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) as unconstitutional.

Malolos Bishop Jose Olivares said that the people “were right” in questioning the constitutionality of the pork barrel. He noted that the SC confirmed the common notion that PDAF is only “political patronage and influence peddling.”

“It stops the executive [from] corrupting the legislative. It’s a well-known secret that the executive used [the] PDAF to sway the congressional vote on Reproductive Health (RH) bill,” he said.

Msgr. Joselito Asis, Secretary General of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), said the SC ruling was a “positive development” and showed the tribunal’s independence.

However he asked the people to be vigilant about the “next plan of the legislators.”

Lipa Archbishop Ramon Arguelles noted that the “PDAF by whatever name will be unconstitutional and an obvious disservice to the Filipino people.”

Despite the High Court ruling, Senate President Franklin Drilon filed a bill converting the unused 2013 PDAF funds into a supplemental budget to be used for the repair and rehabilitation of public infrastructures damaged by typhoon Yolanda.

In filing Senate Bill 1938, Drilon said he wants to authorize the executive department to use the said allocation to fund the needed repairs of roads, bridges, schools and hospitals damaged by the series of disasters that hit the country.

“The damage caused by recent calamities requires intensified efforts for rehabilitation,
repair and construction of severely damaged infrastructure, buildings and facilities in order to accelerate recovery. Our people urgently need the augmented support of the government for rehabilitation,” he pointed out.

Under his proposal, P2.75 billion and P1.25 billion will go to the Department of Education (DepEd) and state universities and colleges, respectively, for the repair and rehabilitation of school and academic buildings.

Another P3 billion will go to the Department of Public Works and Highways and another P1.5 billion for the restoration of damaged historical sites.

The supplemental budget will also cover the repairs of hospitals as well as the purchase of hospital equipment.

Drilon insisted that it is necessary for Congress to expedite the passage of the bill since the appropriation will expire on December 31.

Because of the SC ruling, the House minority bloc urged Congress to review the House-approved 2014 national budget.

House Minority leader and San Juan Rep. Ronaldo Zamora pushed for the recall of the 2014 General Appropriations Bill or House Bill 2630 so that the House can if the budget is free from insertions and items personally determined by lawmakers.

Zamora said that while the review and proposal can be done in the bicameral committee meeting in December, lawmakers have little time to scrutinize the appropriations bill.

Recalling a major legislation such as the General Appropriations bill has never happened in the history of Congress. However, the minority lawmakers maintained that the rules of the chamber allow it.

Pork barrel is dead; long live the Supreme Court November 20, 2013 9:47 pm by TONY LOPEZ MANILA TIMES

PHOTO: Tony Lopez

On Nov. 19, 2014, the Supreme Court of the Philippines showed remarkable independence and integrity and I should say, political wisdom. The high court declared unconstitutional the country’s pork barrel system.

Since 2000, pork barrel was known as the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF). From 1990 to 2000, pork barrel was called the Community Development Fund (CDF).

From 1994, Congress took over pork barrel and made it into a full time business – for themselves.

CDF or the PDAF is a scheme whereby senators and congressmen secure funds from the Executive for them to pursue personal or pet projects.

The projects are either “hard”, meaning roads or other infrastructure, or “soft” which means any project under some fancy category like education (think lousy textbooks), health (think overpriced medicines), livelihood, financial assistance to the poor (think vote buying), even fancier advocacies like peace and order (think of financing for communist and separatist rebels for them to buy firearms and fight the government), historical, arts and culture (a senator once donated his entire pork barrel, P200 million, to a major television network; think of bribing media).

Pork projects ineffective

Were the pork projects effective? No. The Philippines today has the worst infrastructure in Asia. The country today has the worst educational system in Asia. Half of Filipinos consider themselves poor and hungry.

Since 1990 when the pork barrel system became a full time racket, the number of poor in this country actually doubled. In the same period, the number of super rich congressmen and senators multiplied a thousand times.

Pork barrel was actually invented during the presidency of Corazon Aquino, in 1989, initially with the creation of the Mindanao Development Fund and the Visayas Development Fund with lump sum appropriation of P480 million and P240 million, respectively.

President Noynoy Aquino expanded the scope and reach of the pork barrel. It can now be used to bribe senators trying to impeach a sitting chief justice. It can now be used to bribe congressmen to railroad passage of a much disliked population control program

P25-B thievery

Today, pork barrel eats up P25 billion of taxpayers’ money every year. Like in the past, most of that money is stolen. No one had hollered “Thief! Thief!” to stop the senators and the congressmen.

Until this year. There was an outrage, just a decibel below Yolanda’s. The Supreme Court was awakened. It declared pork barrel illegal and unconstitutional—yesterday, today and tomorrow.

In many instances, as borne out by findings by the Commission on Audit and revelations by whistle blowers in the Janet Lim Napoles pork barrel scandal, the money went straight to the pockets of the senators and congressmen, with pitiful sums left as commissions for cooperative cabinet members, agency and government corporation heads, and brokers like Napoles. In many instances, zero funding went to the projects of the senators and congressmen.

This scheme has made our congressmen and senators the biggest thieves of the land. This has made Congress the country’s biggest criminal syndicate.

Congress members, who incidentally are addressed as “honorable”, steal taxpayers’ money to the tune of P200 million a year in the case of the senators and P70 million a year in the case of congressmen.

Senators have a term of six years – so six years times P200 million is P1.2 billion. Congressmen have a term of three years; so three years times P70 million is P210 million.

Stolen and tax-free

Such huge sums of stolen money are tax-free. The Bureau of Internal Revenue never bothers to send these people inquiry letters. If the BIR does, surely its budget would be reduced to P1 a year.

Some of these people didn’t even go to college, or high school for that matter. Some—no, many—of them—haven’t run or operated any business or enterprise all their lives. Yet, with pork barrel, in a single term as a senator or a congressman, they amass more wealth than all the tycoons, outside of the 20 richest Filipinos (most of whom are Chinese-looking) do during three-year or six-year period.

The total pork barrel per year in each of the past two years – P25 billion. Most of the P25 billion goes to only about 300 Filipinos – in a country of 100 million Filipinos or 20 million families. In 2011, Jaime August Zobel de Ayala declared an income of P80 million. Of that, he paid P25.56 million in personal income tax, a tax rate of 32 percent.

In the Senate of up to 24 senators, only two did not dirty their hands with pork barrel money – Joker Arroyo, now retired, and Panfilo Lacson, now also an ex-senator.

In the House of Representatives, nearly all its 289 members got pork barrel money. On November 19, with the Supreme Court decision, they and the 22 of the 24 senators were found to have engaged in an illegal activity, in an unconstitutional activity.

At the very least, the Bureau of Internal Revenue should run after the senators and congressmen for back income taxes. A senator makes P200 million. So each senator owes the BIR P64 million per year or P384 million in six years.

Getting taxpayers’ money back?
Collecting taxes on the senators and congressmen is one way of getting back the stolen money. In theory, the Treasury should try to get a refund of 100 percent because the money is stolen, but that will be like squeezing blood out of turnips.

In its decision, the high court declared as unconstitutional:

(a) the entire 2013 PDAF Article;

(b) all legal provisions of past and present Congressional Pork Barrel Laws, such as the previous PDAF and CDF Articles and the various Congressional Insertions, which authorize/d legislators—whether individually or collectively organized into committees—to intervene, assume or participate in any of the various post enactment stages of the budget execution, such as but not limited to the areas of project identification, modification and revision of project identification, fund release and/or fund realignment, unrelated to the power of congressional oversight;

(c) all legal provisions of past and present Congressional Pork Barrel laws, such as the previous PDAF and CDF Articles and the various Congressional Insertions, which confer/red personal, lump sum allocations to legislators from which they are able to fund specific projects which they themselves determine;

(d) all informal practices of similar import and effect, which the Court similarly deems to be acts of grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of discretion; and

(e) the phrases (1) “and for such other purposes as may be hereafter directed by the President” under Section 8 of Presidential Decree No. 910 and (2) “to finance the priority infrastructure development projects” under Section 12 of PD 1869, as amended by PD 1993, for both failing the sufficient standard test in violation of the principle of non-delegability of legislative power.

Accordingly, the Court’s temporary injunction dated Sept. 10, 2013 against pork barrel releases was declared permanent.

Thus, the SC said: “The disbursement/release of the remaining PDAF Funds allocated for the year 2013, as well as for all previous years, and the Malampaya Funds under the phrase, “and for such other purposes as may hereafter be directed by the President” pursuant to Section 8 of Presidential Decree No. 910, which are, at the time this Decision is promulgated, not covered by Notice of Cash Allocations (NCA) but only by Special Allotment Release Orders, whether obligated or not, are hereby enjoined. In similar regard, the Court also enjoins the release of funds sourced from the Presidential Social Fund under the phrase, “to finance the priority infrastructure development projects” pursuant to Section 12 of Presidential Decree No. 1869, as amended by Presidential Decree No. 1993. Said funds covered by this permanent injunction shall not be disbursed/released but instead returned to the general coffers of the government, except for the funds covered by the Malampaya funds and the Presidential Social Fund which shall remain therein to be utilized for their respective special purposes not otherwise declared unconstitutional.”

The Court concluded that the PDAF Article in the 2013 General Appropriations Act and all other similar provisions of law constituting the Pork Barrel System is unconstitutional because the system:
“allowed legislators to wield, in varying gradations, non-oversight, post-enactment authority in vital areas of budget executions (thus violating) the principle of separation of powers; …conferred unto legislators the power of appropriation by giving them personal, discretionary funds from which they are able to fund specific projects which they themselves determine (thus violating) the principle of non-delegability of legislative power; …created a system of budgeting wherein items are not textualized into the appropriations bill (thus) flout(ing) the prescribed power of presentment and, in the process, (denying) the President the power to veto items; …dilutes the effectiveness of congressional oversight by giving legislators a stake in the affairs of budget execution, an aspect of governance which they may be called to monitor and scrutinize, (thus) impair(ing) public accountability; …authorizes legislators, who are national officers, to intervene in affairs of purely local nature, despite the existence of capable local institutions, (thus) subvert(ing) genuine local autonomy; and …confers (on) the President the power to appropriate funds intended by law for energy related purposes only to other purposes he may deem fit,…once more transgress(ing) the principle of non-delegability.”


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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