MANILA – House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. said yesterday that President Benigno Aquino III needs to ask Congress to approve a supplemental budget to augment the draining fund to fast-track the rehabilitation of provinces heavily hit by typhoon "Yolanda."
This was after the Supreme Court, voting 14-0-1, yesterday declared unconstitutional the controversial Priority Development Assistance Fund of congressmen and senators, and struck down as illegal provisions in two laws that which allow the President to use the Malampaya Fund and the President's Social Fund for purposes beyond the funds’ mandate.
Belmonte said he noticed the wordings “return to the coffers of the government,” referring to the PDAF which was subject of the temporary restraining order of the SC.
“If the SC is claiming that the P12 billion 2nd tranche of 2013 PDAF must go to the National Treasury, then it means that the President needs to ask for supplemental budget,” Belmonte told House reporters.
In a statement, Senate President Franklin Drilon said he welcomed the decision of the SC, and the Senate will abide by it.
“The highest court's decision is moot and academic insofar as the Senate is concerned, as the senators have already waived their use of the remaining PDAF for 2013. At least 15 of us have already decided to fully delete the PDAF in the 2014 budget, which in effect, will lower the country's budget deficit pegged at P266.2 billion," Drilon said.
“With the SC decision, we are eyeing the passage of a supplemental budget for 2013 – and we will urge the President to certify it as urgent – in the amount of P14.5 billion, representing the unutilized PDAF for 2013,” he said.
Drilon said the Executive Branch may use the money to bolster its relief operations and rehabilitation of areas affected by typhoons “Yolanda, Santi and Labuyo”, the siege in Zamboanga City, and the 7.2 magnitude earthquake in Central Visayas.
Belmonte reminded that the House of Representatives had already decided to forego PDAF and realign it to the rehabilitation fund for the Yolanda-affected provinces in the Visayas before the SC handed its decision.
He said they are eyeing to file a supplemental budget to address the needed funding even as he admitted that they still need to have the copy of the SC decision to assess the grounds imposed by the highest court in declaring PDAF as unconstitutional.
Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone expressed his disappointment over the decision of the High Tribunal. He said this would greatly affect the "Yolanda" victims, adding that the SC should have delayed its decision amid the relief and rehabilitation efforts in the Visayas.
Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago, considered the constitutional law expert of the Senate, said upon learning of the SC decision, “There's a God, after all.”*PNA
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