Banning Pork

PHILIPPINES - In Brief 20 Nov 2013 by Romeo Bernardo

Voting unanimously, the Supreme Court yesterday found the Priority Develpment Assistance Fund (PDAF), i.e., the lawmakers' pork barrel funds, unconstitutional, ordering some P14.5 billion remaining in the fund to be returned to the Treasury. On the whole, we think that this outcome is favorable to the Executive, giving the President the opportunity to build new systems for strengthened budget accountability and effectiveness in the use of public resources.  Importantly, the latter allows him to demonstrate his continuing strict adherence to the “daang matuwid” (straight road) governance slogan. The challenge now is to ensure that the alternative system still gives him enough persuasive powers in dealing with congress. We are more wary about the ongoing review of the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).  Unlike the PDAF, an adverse Supreme Court ruling would erode the power of the President. Under the DAP, surplus funds in the annual budget are realigned to other items to speed up government spending to boost economic growth. The legal issues here are more intricate, having to do with whether the President overstepped his authority in terms of (a) identifying “savings” in the budget, (b) using these to augment items that may not have been approved by congress, and (c) for a portion of it, allowing lawmakers to identify the projects that will receive funding. To the man on the street, the third point is equivalent to augmenting the PDAF and worse, only for a selected few.

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