Senate bows to SC on PDAF case

Marvin Sy - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - The Senate will respect whatever decision the Supreme Court (SC) issues on the petition to declare the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) unconstitutional.

“We will submit to the discretion of the court based on the allegations of the petition and prevailing jurisprudence,” Senate President Franklin Drilon said.

A group called Social Justice Society (SJS) filed the petition.

“That is good so that we will know if it is constitutional or not,” Drilon said, referring to the petition.

The SC has asked Drilon and Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. to comment on the petition, which also asked the court to stop the two leaders from appropriating funds for the PDAF, official name of the congressional pork barrel.

“It is the Senate and the House acting as collegial bodies that actually decide on the matter of appropriating funds,” Drilon clarified.

“We will ask the Supreme Court to make its ruling on the matter immediately before the budget is submitted to the floor for deliberation and approval,” he said.

“The Senate only hopes for what is best and that good sense will prevail,” he added.

Senate committee on finance chairman Francis Escudero noted that the SC had previously ruled that the congressional pork barrel, when it was still called the countrywide development fund (CDF), was constitutional.

He said that the petition of the SJS was the same as the one tackled by the SC on the CDF issue.

“It’s up to the Supreme Court to decide if they want to review that ruling and reverse it,” Escudero said.

Escudero echoed the sentiment of Drilon that Congress must still decide on what to do with the PDAF for 2014.

Escudero said that a decision by Congress to abolish the PDAF would be good for at least one year and may be withdrawn, except when the SC rules against the constitutionality of the fund.

For Sen. Vicente Sotto, a decision by the SC or by his colleagues doesn’t matter anymore as he manifested his intention not to avail of his share in the fund in the remaining years of his term as senator.

In a letter he prepared for Drilon, which he read during his privilege speech yesterday, Sotto said that his decision is “intended to forestall any further controversy that may arise in the use of the PDAF, particularly that it is a vehicle for corruption and that it is used to fund ghost projects.”

As far as the remaining allocation for his office is concerned, Sotto said that P50 million would be distributed among specialty and regional hospitals of the government.

The remaining P50 million would go to the University of the Philippines and the other state colleges and universities to subsidize students who cannot afford quality education.

Support for P-Noy

While criticized for his alleged special treatment of suspected pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles, President Aquino has received assurances of support from the Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches (PCEC) for his administration’s efforts to prosecute those involved in the anomaly.

“We strongly support the President as he reminded the justice secretary that it was not about filing cases, but ‘it is securing the conviction that is the measure of success’,” PCEC said.

The Department of Justice led by Secretary Leila de Lima is building a case against those suspected of involvement in the scam, including some lawmakers and magistrates.

“We will not let go until we see all the guilty ones be properly brought to the bar of justice,” PCEC said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) president Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma expressed his solidarity with the planned anti-corruption rally at the EDSA Shrine on Sept.11.

He said the prelates would stay on the sidelines and let the people take the lead in protesting against corruption and in batting for the abolition of pork barrel.

“It’s about time that the people manifest their own conviction,” he said. With Evelyn Macairan











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