MANILA - Although the Supreme Court (SC) has declared lawmakers' Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) and parts of the Aquino administration's Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) as unconstitutional, former Chief Justice Reynato Puno said the public should still remain vigilant.
Speaking to ANC's "Beyond Politics," Puno said the high court's rulings on the controversial funds are merely "starting points."
He said it is possible that the PDAF, which is more notoriously known as "pork barrel," may come back in another form.
"It's always a possibility. There are no borders to our imagination," he said.
"The people should be on the lookout, should be vigilant that the budget that will come from Congress will follow the decisions of the high court," he said.
Puno has been calling for a People's Initiative to abolish all forms of pork barrel in government.
He said instead of going to the streets, the public can launch a People's Initiative and convene a People's Congress to push for budgetary reforms.
He said it is a constitutional right of the people to "exercise their sovereignty whenever...a branch of government like Congress refuses to exercise its constitutional duty."
He said a coalition of "like-minded" people could craft and enact a law that will "put an end to the abuses on the use of people's money."
The sovereignty of the people "is the real soul of democracy," he added.
Puno, however, admitted that launching a People's Initiative is a a difficult process.
A petition would need the signatures of at least 10 percent of the country's registered voters, and every legislative district must be represented by at least 3 percent. The Commission of Elections (Comelec) would then have to verify the signatures.
SC ruling on DAP expected
Meanwhile, Puno said the SC's ruling on the DAP did not come as surprising especially after it declared the PDAF as unconstitutional.
"After the PDAF decision, it was easy to anticipate the SC would not have a different ruling on the DAP. I would say that the issues raised by the petitioners in the DAP cases are more serious issues of constitutionality," he said.
He noted that the projects funded by the lawmakers' pork barrel funds were, at least, covered under the General Appropriations Act (GAA).
This is unlike in the case of the DAP, wherein the funding of the projects was not covered by any appropriation in the GAA.
Puno said it is clear in the Constitution that "no public money shall be spent except on the basis of appropriation passed by Congress."
The Aquino administration, for its part, has consistently claimed that it implemented the DAP in good faith in order to spur the country's economic growth.
But according to the former chief justice, determining good faith in the implementation of the DAP is a "difficult subject matter."
He said just because the DAP yielded some positive results on the country's economy, it does not mean that the officials behind it will be cleared of any wrongdoing.