Photo credit from Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines—  Former Manila councilor Greco Antonious Belgica asked the Supreme Court yesterday to declare as unconstitutional the lump sum funds or the so-called pork barrel funds in the P2.265-trillion budget for 2014.

In his 21-page petition, Belgica identified the lump-sum discretionary funds in the 2014 General Appropriations Act (GAA) as those for the Unprogrammed FUND, E-Government Fund, Contingent Fund, and Local Government Support Fund.

He also said the lump sum discretionary funds contradict the high court’s decision last year against the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).

“Unfortunately, despite the unanimous ruling in the Belgica Case, Congress and the President chose to ignore the Honorable Court’s warnings by passing a 2014 GAA that is filled with unconstitutional lump sum discretionary fund items such as: (a) Unprogrammed Fund (P139,903,759,000); (b) the E-Government Fund (P2,478,900,000); (c) Contingent Fund (1,000,000,000); and (d) Local Government Support Fund (P405,000,000), with more equally invalid items dispersed within the individual departments’ budgets,” the petition said.

The petition also said the questioned funds violated the constitutional provision against undue delegation of power since it failed the sufficient standard test, which limits authority to stop the delegation from running riot.

“The 2014 GAA is proof that the two political branches have decided to ignore the Supreme Court. It is a budget that is full of lump sums that let discretion run riot,” Belgica stated in the petition.

Greco Antonious Belgica /Philippine Daily Inquirer photo file
Greco Antonious Belgica /Philippine Daily Inquirer photo file

Belgica expressed apprehension that the lump sum items in the 2014 GAA may be used by the administration allies to fund projects, in terms of assistance and budget allocations.

“The 2014 GAA on lump sum items all the more strengthens the power of the Chief Executive over the local government because priorities on assistance and budget allocations for the said lump sum items may not necessarily be based on the urgency and priority needs of a particular local government but on how close the local government leader is to the powers that be…In the final analysis, the lump sum items tend to give undue advantage to the members of the ruling party as allies of the Chief Executive and is therefore anathema to the democratic process,” Belgica further stated.

He said that a GAA must be composed of detailed and specific appropriations, not general, broadly-phased purposes.

Named respondents in the his petition were Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr., Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr., and Senate President Franklin Drilon.

 ‘PDAF realigned as unconstitutional’

In a statement yeaterday, election lawyer Romulo Macalintal said that PDAF was realigned by nine senators as unconstitutional.

“Sen. Jinggoy Estrada’s skillful strategy of realigning his P200-million PDAF in the 2014 budget to the cities of Manila and Caloocan and a town in Cagayan province is unconstitutional and a clear and open defiance of the Nov. 19, 2013 Supreme Court decision declaring the legislators’ PDAF as unconstitutional,” Macalintal said.

Senators Miriam Defensor-Santiago, Alan Peter and Pia Cayetano Ralph Recto, Joseph Victor Ejercito, Ramon Revilla Jr., Lito Lapid and Antonio Trillanes IV have also realigned their pork barrel funds.

He said Estrada’s eight other colleagues committed the same violation by realigning their allocations, which were ‘re-inserted during the bicameral conference’ is an admission that it was not originally included in the budget.

“Likewise, insertions or re-insertions of budgetary items during a bicameral conference are of doubtful constitutionality as they violate the exclusive original jurisdiction of the House of Representatives on appropriation measures,” he added.

However, Macalintal said allowing lawmakers to realign or re-assign their PDAF funds to whatever or whomsoever they desire is to circumvent the SC ruling that lawmakers should not be accorded post-enactment authority in the areas of project identification, fund release, or fund realignment.

In the particular case of Estrada, Macalintal said his realignment of his P200 million to local governments also contravenes the SC pronouncement that national officers like senators and members of the House of Representatives cannot be allowed to substitute their judgments in utilizing public funds for local development.