MANILA - Malacañang defended yesterday the grant of pork barrel funds this year to Sen. Jinggoy Estrada who realigned half of his allocation – or P100 million – to the city of Manila, whose mayor is his father Joseph Estrada.
Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte clarified that the grant of priority development assistance funds (PDAF) to Estrada was “conditional” and that it would not be implemented without compliance with the conditions set forth in the budget.
“We should remember that this is conditional, the implementation of what we call realigned funds is conditional under the PDAF of Senator Estrada,” she reiterated over state-run radio station dzRB.
“I think it’s pretty clear based on what President Aquino laid down as requirements before there can be any movement on that particular fund, and it has been stated in the President’s veto message,” Valte said.
All of these issues or reservations have been addressed, and will be fully complied with.
Bicameral body blamed
In mid-January, Malacañang insisted that there are no more pork barrel funds for congressmen and senators in the 2014 national budget, but nonetheless officials attributed to the bicameral conference committee the P100-million realigned funds of Estrada.
“First and foremost, what is very, very clear under the law is that there is no more PDAF because the President, the Supreme Court already mentioned there is no PDAF,” presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda reiterated.
“So based on that decision of the SC, legislators from both the House and Senate complied with the SC decision. As to the special request, that was part of the veto message that was put in by the President,” he explained.
He tossed the issue to the budget department about Estrada’s realignment of his PDAF to the city of Manila.
“The answer of (Budget) Secretary Butch (Florencio) Abad was that we need to study. This was an amendment introduced by the senators, so we need to get their or the intention of the senators, insofar as this is concerned, since it is not specified,” he said.
If there could have been insertions made, then the bicameral conference committee composed of members of both chambers – the Senate and the House of Representatives – should have made the amendments, prior to Aquino’s signing of the budget bill into law.
“Look, the bicam is in a situation where… I think in the SC decision you’ve got... the Lower House, the Upper House. The bicam is often called the Third House, where both agree to agree on a unified bill,” he stressed.
“This does not only apply to the budget. It applies also to any legislative action where both Houses have two different versions, and they reconcile in the bicam,” Lacierda said.
“So that is, I think, part of the legislative process. As to the propriety of the insertion, I think we will leave it with the legislators to explain that because, primarily, that was their amendment,” he maintained.
At the same time, Lacierda rectified misimpressions that lump sum appropriations have been prohibited by the high court.
“If I remember the SC decision, there was no all-out ruling that lump sum appropriations are wrong,” he said.
“That’s why you have lump sum appropriations on that, we have a requirement on what we call conditional implementation that was stated in the veto message of the President,” he added.
Lacierda also refused to admit Aquino may have been had by some senators who still managed to get their PDAF allocations, as in the case of Estrada and some other senators who still availed of the funds, even though majority of their colleagues have given it up.
“And, in fact, with that conditional implementation we still have to talk to the senators, in fairness to them. What was your intention to this,” Lacierda said.
Aquino avoided answering questions earlier about the supposed realignment of Estrada’s PDAF, although he reiterated that no pork barrel should have been in the 2014 national budget in the first place.