MANILA, Philippines - President Aquino avoided answering questions on the supposed realignment of Sen. Jinggoy Estrada’s Priority Development Assistant Fund (PDAF) to the city of Manila, although he said no pork barrel should have been in the 2014 national budget in the first place.
In an interview with reporters after the groundbreaking of a power plant in Batangas City yesterday, Aquino said he was still getting the details. “But I said, wait... there was no more PDAF. In fact, PDAF was no longer in the 2014 budget supposedly,” he said.
He promised to get back to the media once he gets the exact details from the Department of Budget and Management.
Aquino said he had a lot of meetings on Monday and this issue was not one of the priorities. They discussed energy and the power rate increases at length, which ate up much of their time during the meeting, he added.
Based on reports, several senators have decided to realign what was supposed to be their PDAF to other projects, but these would be subject to special budget request.
They cannot be automatically released because they were amendments to the original budget approved where programs and projects had been itemized, Malacañang said.
In Estrada’s case, his amendments or realignments were placed under “conditional implementation” since support for local governments chosen must be justifiable, as stated in the President’s veto message.
At the Senate, pro-administration Senators Sergio Osmeña III and Francis Escudero defended yesterday the legality of the lump sum appropriations under the 2014 budget.
Osmeña said it would be unrealistic if the Supreme Court (SC) decides against lump sum appropriations.
“I really doubt the Supreme Court will declare it unconstitutional because there’s simply no way anybody can predict what are the disasters that will hit the country,” he said. “If you can predict that, I think you will make a billion dollars. Everybody will know when to buy stocks and when to sell stocks. So it will be very unrealistic for the high court to make such a decision.”
In a separate interview, Escudero insinuated that the SC might as well declare their own lump sum funds unconstitutional if they decide against the lump sum appropriations in the 2014 budget.
“Well, they (SC) also have their own lump sum funds. They should declare this as unconstitutional as well. It cannot be other lump sum (appropriations) can be allowed, and others cannot be,” he said.
Congress has approved about P143 billion in lump sum appropriations for calamity and disaster relief operations in areas devastated by Typhoon Yolanda.
The Senate sought an additional P300 million for Quick Response Fund (QRF) of the Department of Transportation and Communications. – With Christina Mendez, Paolo Romero