SC ruling vs lawmakers' PDAF final

By Edu Punay, The Philippine Star

Posted at Jan 10 2015 08:37 AM | Updated as of Jan 10 2015 04:37 PM

MANILA, Philippines - The pork barrel of Congress is now officially dead.

The Supreme Court (SC) has declared as final and executory its decision of Nov. 19, 2013 striking down the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) as unconstitutional.

The Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) did not appeal the decision last year.

The STAR obtained a copy of the decision from the SC deputy clerk of court and judicial records office chief Corazon delos Reyes.

The decision was recorded in the SC Book of Entries of Judgment and now becomes part of Supreme Court Reports Annotated (SCRA) under the citation Pedrito Nepomuceno vs. Aquino and Abad.

In a unanimous decision written by Associate Justice Estela Perlas- Bernabe, the SC held that PDAF and previous pork barrel funds violated the constitutional principle of separation of powers in allowing lawmakers to wield, in varying gradations, non-oversight, post-enactment authority in vital areas of budget execution.

The SC also ruled that the pork barrel system violated the constitutional principle on “non-delegability of legislative power” in allowing lawmakers to fund specific projects that they themselves determine.

It also directed prosecutorial agencies like the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Office of the Ombudsman to investigate and prosecute all government officials and/or private individuals for possible criminal offenses related to the irregular, improper and/or unlawful disbursement of all funds under the pork barrel system.

The Commission on Audit (COA) is questioning the Technology Resource Center (TRC)’s disbursement of some P117.725 million in Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) funds to doubtful non-government organizations (NGOs) in 2012 and 2013.

It was found out that the releases were not supported with complete documentary requirements contrary to the audit rules and regulations.

State auditors said a visit to offices of some of the NGOs showed that they were no longer in their given business addresses.

Money was given to NGOs through endorsement letters of lawmakers, the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), and other public officials.

The COA’s audit showed that the TRC released a total of P146.830 million to various NGOs in 2012 and 2013 covered by a special allotment release order (SARO) and a notice of cash allocation (NCA) both dated Dec. 22, 2011.

Of that amount, P138.975 million were suspended in audit.

State auditors said the projects were mostly in the form of livelihood training programs sponsored by some government officials in their districts.

Records show that five disbursement vouchers amounting to P21.250 million were suspended for non-submission of pertinent documents.

The other 22 totaling P117.725 million were issued with Notices of Suspension pending submission of the liquidation documents and noted deficiencies.

The COA said the problems that resulted in the issuance of audit suspensions include absence of some terms of reference in Memoranda of Agreement like the identification of systems and procedures to implement the project such as, but not limited to, the procurement of goods and services and their distribution which should be documented and coordinated through the TRC-authorized officials and barangays and the time schedules for the release of funds.

State auditors said the agreements also had deficiencies in the issue of visitorial audit by COA officials and personnel authorized to perform the audit under an approved office order and maintenance by the NGO of a separate savings account for each fund received from TRC and the return of any amount not utilized to complete the project, including interest, if any.

Some of the documentary requirements for the release of the DAP funds were not submitted or if submitted, were photocopies only and unauthenticated, they added.

Missing or questionable documents include evidence of publication in the newspaper, agency website, bulletin board and the like of the list of priority projects which may be implemented by the foundation; results of evaluation of financial and technical capability of selected NGO; and audited financial statements for the past three years preceding the date of project implementation.

The documents being requested also include matters covering disclosure of other related business, if any; sources and details of proponent’s equity participation in the project; list and/or photographs of similar projects previously completed, if any, indicating the source of funds for implementation; and the sworn affidavit of the secretary of the NGO that none of its incorporators, organizers, directors or officers is an agent of or related by consanguinity or affinity up to the fourth civil degree to the official of the agency authorized to process and/or approve proposed MOA, and release funds.

State auditors are looking for documents showing that the NGO has equity equivalent to 20 percent of the total project cost, which shall be in the form of labor, land for the project site, facilities, equipment and the like, to be used in the project.

The COA said most of the endorsement letters from lawmakers, DBM, and other public officials were unauthenticated photocopies only and visit of some of the offices “disclosed that these NGOs were no longer occupying their given business addresses.”

State auditors said TRC officials requested for the indulgence of COA for the submission of the documents without proper labeling and indexing. – With Michael Punongbayan

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