Supreme Court of Philippines supports Social Watch demand on budget

The Supreme Court (SC) has ordered the executive and legislative departments to answer a recent petition of anti-pork barrel advocates against the government’s spending of lump sum and discretionary funds in this year’s budget.

In session yesterday, the justices decided to require the Palace and both houses of Congress to comment on the petition for certiorari and prohibition filed last Sept. 1 by Social Watch Philippines, led by former national treasurer Leonor Briones.

A court insider said the respondents are given 10 days from receipt of notice to comply with the order.

Briones and other groups, who were joined by former senator and Yolanda rehabilitation czar Panfilo Lacson, asked the high court to issue a temporary restraining order (TRO) to stop the executive branch from further implementing Sections 70 and 73 of the 2015 General Appropriations Act and the special provisions for special purpose funds (SPF).

Section 70 defines savings as portions or balances of any unreleased appropriations in the GAA that were not obligated, while Section 73 contains rules in the realignment of allotment classes and reprioritization of items of appropriations.

The petitioners also urged the SC to declare the two sections as unconstitutional, citing earlier decisions of the high tribunal voiding the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) and key acts under the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).

They said there is a need for the court to act on the government’s continuing disregard of its PDAF and DAP rulings, with Briones saying the Aquino administration has “disregarded the Constitution and the people’s money” with the way it is spending the funds.

Specifically cited in their petition are the SPF items on e-Government Fund, International Commitments Fund, Miscellaneous Personnel Benefits Fund, National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Fund, Pension and Gratuity Fund and Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Program.

Named respondents in the Social Watch petition are Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr., Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, the Senate as represented by Senate President Franklin Drilon and the House of Representatives as represented by Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr.

The petition was filed with barely four months left in the fiscal year.

Source: The Philippine Star.