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DAP faces defeat in SC

Justices liken presidential lump sum to ‘pork’

THE Supreme Court justices who voted unanimously to bar legislative pork barrel remain divided over the legality of the President’s lump sum funds, including those disbursed through the administration’s Disbursement Acceleration Program.

Because most justices agreed that the Priority Development Assistance Fund or pork barrel constituted lump sum funds, there is a strong possibility that they will strike down the DAP as well, a Court insider said Sunday.

“Since there is already a ruling [that] lump sum appropriations are illegal, then it is not a remote possibility that the Court will also declare DAP as unconstitutional,” the source said.

While PDAF and the DAP funds are separate cases, both dealt with the legality of lump-sum discretionary funds.

In a decision last Nov. 19, the magistrates struck down the pork barrel system as unconstitutional.

However, in separate concurring opinions, they were apparently divided as to legality of lump-sum funds in general.

In his concurring opinion, Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio took the position that all lump-sum appropriations in the budget are illegal.

Carpio said Sections 35 and 23 of the Administrative Code do not authorize lump-sum appropriations in the General Appropriations Act.

“The President has a constitutional duty to submit to Congress only a line-item NEP (National Expenditure Program) without lump-sum expenditures, while Congress has a constitutional duty to enact only a line-item GAA without lump-sum appropriations,” he said.

Associate Justices Teresita Leonardo-De Castro and Roberto Abad concurred.

But Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno, who was appointed to the top post by President Benigno Aquino III, took an opposing view in her separate concurring opinion.

She countered that the Administrative Code itself speaks of how to deal with lump-sum appropriations, which implies that there are legal forms of these kinds of funds.

This, she added, was the same opinion espoused in the majority decision on PDAF written by Associate Justice Estela Perlas-Bernabe.

Sereno said that ruling that PDAF is a “prohibited form of lump-sum” fund implies that there are allowable forms of lump sum funds.

A ruling on other lump-sum funds in general “could be premature and confusing,” she said.

“To arrive at an unwarranted conclusion, i.e. that all lump-sum appropriations are invalid, whether in the 2013 GAA only or in all appropriation laws, is not sufficiently sensitive to the process of deliberation that the members of this Court undertook to arrive at a significant resolution,” the Chief Justice said.

Associate Justices Arturo Brion and Marvic Leonen agreed with Chief Justice Sereno on this point.

In his concurring and dissenting opinion, Brion argued that a total condemnation of lump sum funding is an “extreme position that disregards the realities of national life.”

Leonen said the issue “should be clarified further in a more appropriate case.”

Voting 14-0, the SC ruled that PDAF and previous pork barrel funds violated the constitutional principle of separation of powers of the Executive and Legislative branches as it “allowed legislators to wield, in varying gradations, non-oversight, post-enactment authority in vital areas of budget executions.”

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

The pork barrel system, including the earlier countrywide development fund (CDF) and the practice of congressional insertions in the national budget, also denied the President the power to veto items, the Court said.

The Court also disallowed the President from using the Malampaya Fund for projects unrelated to energy, and using the President’s Social Fund to finance priority infrastructure projects.

The Court is set to rule on the constitutionality of the DAP, whose legality has also been challenged. The Office of the Solicitor General is set to defend the program before the justices in oral arguments on Dec. 10.

On Saturday, the independent minority bloc called for the realignment of a portion of the President’s lump sum funds to rehabilitate areas devastated by super typhoon Yolanda.

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