MANILA, Philippines - Despite the immediate need for cash for relief operations and rehabilitation of areas ravaged by killer Typhoon Yolanda, Congress cannot realign the remaining P13.5-billion Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) in this year’s budget as there is an existing Supreme Court temporary restraining order (TRO) on the use of the fund.
This was according to a member of the Supreme Court (SC) who warned that realigning PDAF “is arguably a violation of the TRO issued by the Court.” The SC issued the TRO in September after receiving petitions questioning the legality of PDAF.
The SC insider who declined to be named was reacting to the passage of House Joint Resolution No. 7 last Tuesday allowing the conversion of the remaining PDAF of congressmen for this year into savings.
The Senate had a similar resolution in the aftermath of the Bohol earthquake last month.
The source stressed the magistrates acknowledge the urgency of resolving this case. “That is why we intend to issue the decision before this year ends,” the SC insider said. Close to P25 billion had been allocated for this year’s PDAF.
At the Senate, Sen. Grace Poe said they are set to discuss next week a proposal to raise a P10-billion Visayan Rehabilitation Fund by realigning portions of the 2014 budget.
Senate President Franklin Drilon first broached the idea of creating a special fund for victims of recent calamities, including the earthquake in Bohol.
Senate finance committee chairman Francis Escudero said he and his colleagues in the committee are coordinating with different government agencies to determine which portions of their respective budgets can be diverted to a separate fund for the rehabilitation efforts. – With Jess Diaz, Christina Mendez, Marvin Sy, Paolo Romero, Rhodina Villanueva