Greco Belgica vs Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa
710 SCRA 1 – Political Law – Constitutional Law – Local Government – Invalid Delegation
Legislative Department – Invalid Delegation of Legislative Power
This case is consolidated with G.R. No. 208493 and G.R. No. 209251.
The so-called pork barrel system has been around in the Philippines since about 1922. Pork Barrel is commonly known as the lump-sum, discretionary funds of the members of the Congress. It underwent several legal designations from “Congressional Pork Barrel” to the latest “Priority Development Assistance Fund” or PDAF. The allocation for the pork barrel is integrated in the annual General Appropriations Act (GAA).
Since 2011, the allocation of the PDAF has been done in the following manner:
a. P70 million: for each member of the lower house; broken down to – P40 million for “hard projects” (infrastructure projects like roads, buildings, schools, etc.), and P30 million for “soft projects” (scholarship grants, medical assistance, livelihood programs, IT development, etc.);
b. P200 million: for each senator; broken down to – P100 million for hard projects, P100 million for soft projects;
c. P200 million: for the Vice-President; broken down to – P100 million for hard projects, P100 million for soft projects.
The PDAF articles in the GAA do provide for realignment of funds whereby certain cabinet members may request for the realignment of funds into their department provided that the request for realignment is approved or concurred by the legislator concerned.
Presidential Pork Barrel
The president does have his own source of fund albeit not included in the GAA. The so-called presidential pork barrel comes from two sources: (a) the Malampaya Funds, from the Malampaya Gas Project – this has been around since 1976, and (b) the Presidential Social Fund which is derived from the earnings of PAGCOR – this has been around since about 1983.
Pork Barrel Scam Controversy
Ever since, the pork barrel system has been besieged by allegations of corruption. In July 2013, six whistle blowers, headed by Benhur Luy, exposed that for the last decade, the corruption in the pork barrel system had been facilitated by Janet Lim Napoles. Napoles had been helping lawmakers in funneling their pork barrel funds into about 20 bogus NGO’s (non-government organizations) which would make it appear that government funds are being used in legit existing projects but are in fact going to “ghost” projects. An audit was then conducted by the Commission on Audit and the results thereof concurred with the exposes of Luy et al.
Motivated by the foregoing, Greco Belgica and several others, filed various petitions before the Supreme Court questioning the constitutionality of the pork barrel system.
I. Whether or not the congressional pork barrel system is constitutional.
II. Whether or not presidential pork barrel system is constitutional.
I. No, the congressional pork barrel system is unconstitutional. It is unconstitutional because it violates the following principles:
a. Separation of Powers
As a rule, the budgeting power lies in Congress. It regulates the release of funds (power of the purse). The executive, on the other hand, implements the laws – this includes the GAA to which the PDAF is a part of. Only the executive may implement the law but under the pork barrel system, what’s happening was that, after the GAA, itself a law, was enacted, the legislators themselves dictate as to which projects their PDAF funds should be allocated to – a clear act of implementing the law they enacted – a violation of the principle of separation of powers. (Note in the older case of PHILCONSA vs Enriquez, it was ruled that pork barrel, then called as CDF or the Countrywide Development Fund, was constitutional insofar as the legislators only recommend where their pork barrel funds go).
This is also highlighted by the fact that in realigning the PDAF, the executive will still have to get the concurrence of the legislator concerned.
b. Non-delegability of Legislative Power
As a rule, the Constitution vests legislative power in Congress alone. (The Constitution does grant the people legislative power but only insofar as the processes of referendum and initiative are concerned). That being, legislative power cannot be delegated by Congress for it cannot delegate further that which was delegated to it by the Constitution.
Exceptions to the rule are:
(i) delegated legislative power to local government units but this shall involve purely local matters;
(ii) authority of the President to, by law, exercise powers necessary and proper to carry out a declared national policy in times of war or other national emergency, or fix within specified limits, and subject to such limitations and restrictions as Congress may impose, tariff rates, import and export quotas, tonnage and wharfage dues, and other duties or imposts within the framework of the national development program of the Government.
In this case, the PDAF articles which allow the individual legislator to identify the projects to which his PDAF money should go to is a violation of the rule on non-delegability of legislative power. The power to appropriate funds is solely lodged in Congress (in the two houses comprising it) collectively and not lodged in the individual members. Further, nowhere in the exceptions does it state that the Congress can delegate the power to the individual member of Congress.
c. Principle of Checks and Balances
One feature in the principle of checks and balances is the power of the president to veto items in the GAA which he may deem to be inappropriate. But this power is already being undermined because of the fact that once the GAA is approved, the legislator can now identify the project to which he will appropriate his PDAF. Under such system, how can the president veto the appropriation made by the legislator if the appropriation is made after the approval of the GAA – again, “Congress cannot choose a mode of budgeting which effectively renders the constitutionally-given power of the President useless.”
d. Local Autonomy
As a rule, the local governments have the power to manage their local affairs. Through their Local Development Councils (LDCs), the LGUs can develop their own programs and policies concerning their localities. But with the PDAF, particularly on the part of the members of the house of representatives, what’s happening is that a congressman can either bypass or duplicate a project by the LDC and later on claim it as his own. This is an instance where the national government (note, a congressman is a national officer) meddles with the affairs of the local government – and this is contrary to the State policy embodied in the Constitution on local autonomy. It’s good if that’s all that is happening under the pork barrel system but worse, the PDAF becomes more of a personal fund on the part of legislators.
II. Yes, the presidential pork barrel is valid.
The main issue raised by Belgica et al against the presidential pork barrel is that it is unconstitutional because it violates Section 29 (1), Article VI of the Constitution which provides:
No money shall be paid out of the Treasury except in pursuance of an appropriation made by law.
Belgica et al emphasized that the presidential pork comes from the earnings of the Malampaya and PAGCOR and not from any appropriation from a particular legislation.
The Supreme Court disagrees as it ruled that PD 910, which created the Malampaya Fund, as well as PD 1869 (as amended by PD 1993), which amended PAGCOR’s charter, provided for the appropriation, to wit:
(i) PD 910: Section 8 thereof provides that all fees, among others, collected from certain energy-related ventures shall form part of a special fund (the Malampaya Fund) which shall be used to further finance energy resource development and for other purposes which the President may direct;
(ii) PD 1869, as amended: Section 12 thereof provides that a part of PAGCOR’s earnings shall be allocated to a General Fund (the Presidential Social Fund) which shall be used in government infrastructure projects.
These are sufficient laws which met the requirement of Section 29, Article VI of the Constitution. The appropriation contemplated therein does not have to be a particular appropriation as it can be a general appropriation as in the case of PD 910 and PD 1869.
RELATED NEWS: July 1, 2014 | SC strikes down certain provisions of DAP as unconstitutional
Leave a Comment