I support Neal H. Cruz’s proposal for the abolition of the pork barrel system (“Mitos, Risa: Abolish the pork barrel system,” Inquirer, 11/7/12). I agree with him: All President Aquino “needs to do is not include an allocation for pork barrel in the budget that he submits to Congress for enactment …. It is that easy for a sincere, reform-minded, anticorruption President.” Let me elaborate on this proposition.
The so-called pork barrel is provided for in the annual General Appropriations Act (GAA) as Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF). The GAA is prepared by Malacañang every year. This is clear from Section 22, Article VII of the 1987 Constitution: “The President shall submit to the Congress within thirty days from the opening of every regular session, as the basis of the general appropriations bill, a budget of expenditures and sources of financing, including receipts from existing and proposed revenue measures.” As thus constitutionally mandated, the budget to be submitted by the President to Congress becomes the basis for the preparation by Congress of the annual GAA. From the constitutional standpoint, the preparation of the budget is a presidential duty and responsibility.
Clearly, the PDAF emanates from the President himself. In a real sense, the President, not Congress, is the initiator and creator of the fund. Now, if he is minded to do away altogether with this fund, the President can always desist from including it in his proposed GAA. By the simple expedient of deleting, omitting or leaving out any such outlay from the proposed GAA, the President can “abolish” the pork barrel system. As simple as that.
Should that happen, there is really nothing that Congress can do about it. Absent any PDAF in the President’s budget submission, there would be no basis for Congress to supply the omission by including/inserting in the GAA a provision to that effect lest it commit a serious breach of the constitutional ban against any increase by Congress of the “appropriations recommended by the President for the operation of the Government as specified in the budget” (Sec. 25/1/Art. VI, 1987 Constitution). In more specific terms, the 1987 Administrative Code provides that “The Congress shall in no case increase the appropriations of any project or program of any department, bureau, agency or Office of the Government over the amount submitted by the President in his budget proposal” (Sec. 24, Ch. 4, Bk. VI, EO 292, s. 1987). Neither may Congress “add special provisions in the budget earmarking the use of appropriations for specific programs or activities nor shall it increase the amounts specified in special provisions beyond those proposed by the President” (Sec. 25).
Yes, indeed, no law is needed to “abolish” the pork barrel system. The President can easily do it if he has the political will. The President is thus challenged—his much-vaunted advocacy against corruption spawned by the pork barrel system may yet attain fruition.
—BARTOLOME C. FERNANDEZ JR.,
5431 Curie St., Palanan, Makati City