By GENALYN D. KABILING
Manila, Philippines – Malacañang is mapping out its options, including a possible supplemental budget for the “Yolanda” relief efforts, among others, after the Supreme Court declared the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or the “pork barrel” fund unconstitutional.
Presidential spokesman Edwin F. Lacierda initially declined to comment on the SC decision against the PDAF since he has not read the document but later conceded that the Palace prefers to “move forward.”
Since the congressional pork barrel funds rendered unconstitutional will return to the National Treasury, Lacierda acknowledged that the funds could only be tapped by proposing a supplemental budget to Congress.
The budget proposal was among those discussed in President Aquino’s meeting with some Cabinet members in the Palace about rebuilding efforts in Yolanda-hit places.
“Obviously, it’s a decision that is contrary to the position taken by the Office of the Solicitor General so we have to look forward, what do we do now with the PDAF that has been rendered unconstitutional,” Lacierda said.
“I had a discussion with Secretary Butch Abad this morning because the Supreme Court declared PDAF as unconstitutional so it will return to the national treasury. How do you use that? You can use that only by way of supplemental budget. Is that one of our options? That will be discussed by Secretary Abad with the President,” he added.
Lacierda likewise admitted that “one of the concerns” of the government is how to sustain the funding for the scholars and medical patients previously funded by the PDAF. “It’s a valid concern that we have. How do people who have been going to school, who have been going to hospitals, being given dialysis treatment, now be funded now that the PDAF has been rendered unconstitutional?” he said.
He noted that congressional leaders have already started to look at a supplemental budget for that P14-billion that has been rendered unconstitutional. “It will have to be in discussion with the President and also with the congressional leaders,” he added.
Asked if the Palace welcomes the SC decision against PDAF, Lacierda said: “We have to see first the decision yet as to the totality so I can’t comment on what OSG would have to say for that matter.”