MANILA, Philippines - MANILA, Philippines - The Supreme Court en banc on Tuesday declared the Priority Development Assistance Funds (PDAF) or congressional pork barrel unconstitutional.
Voting 14-0, the magistrates ruled in favor of a slate of petitions, among which was filed by losing senatorial candidates Greco Belgica and Samson Alcantara challenging the discretionary funds' legality.
"The court hereby declares as unconstitutional the entire 2013 PDAF article (and) all legal provisions of past and present congressional pork barrel law such as previous PDAF articles, various insertions unrelated to the power of congressional oversight," Supreme Court spokesman Theodore Te said in a press conference on Tuesday.
Associate Justice Presbytero Velasco Jr. abstained from the case, citing a possible conflict of interest with the congressional post of his eldest son, Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Jay Velasco.
With the ruling, the standing restraining order on the Department of Budget and Management's PDAF releases is made permanent.
The law's provisions allowing legislators to determine the funded projects and related practices deemed to be an abuse of legislative and executive powers have also been declared unlawful.
The high court, voting 13-0, similarly ruled that the Malampaya fund to be used solely for energy-related government projects, barring the president from using the fund's discretionary provision to divert the fund to other purposes.
The court also found releases of the Presidential Social Fund for infrastructure projects without constitutional basis.
President Benigno Aquino III, meanwhile, would prefer to receive a copy of the Supreme Court decision first before issuing a comment, Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Sonny Coloma Jr. said.
Senate President Franklin Drilon welcomed the high court's ruling, issuing a statement right after the announcement.
"The highest court's decision is moot and academic insofar the Senate is concerned," Drilon said.
House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. said that Congress is still studying the latest decision and is looking to issue a resolution to transfer the remaining 2013 PDAF to calamity funds for the victims of super-typhoon Yolanda.
Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio had said during the oral deliberations on the petitions in October that the PDAF is "facially unconstitutional" as it allows the executive disbursing the funds to breach its separation from the legislative.
The pork barrel has been met with public outrage following the Commission on Audit (COA) special report citing gross misuse of lawmakers' funds.
The Department of Justice, tracing the COA report, has filed plunder charges against several lawmakers alleged to be involved in the PDAF scam believed to be masterminded by detained businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles. - with reports from Christina Mendez