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Congress not usurping functions of executive branch

09:19 PM July 31, 2013

I read with much interest Neal H. Cruz’s column titled “Hated pork barrel still in new budget” (Opinion, 7/26/13). He noted his observations and issues regarding the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).

However, while I agree with him on some points in his disquisition on the PDAF, I would like to take exception to his statement that “[t]he members of Congress are duplicating and usurping the functions of the departments of the executive branch. The job of legislators is to make laws, not to be imitation DPWH, DepEd, DOH, etc. That is why they are called legislators.”

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First, a close reading of the present Constitution will tell us that the job of the members of Congress is not limited to law-making; it includes non-legislative duties. To name a few: the duty to revoke or extend suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus, or declaration of martial law, the duty to constitute themselves as Board of Canvassers in the election of the president and vice president.

Second, the idea that the members of Congress usurp and duplicate the functions of the executive branch is without basis. When members of Congress are requested by the executive branch, through the president, to recommend projects and programs which may be funded from the PDAF, there is no usurpation or duplication of duties because the Department of Budget and Management reviews and evaluates whether the recommended projects are consistent with the executive policies.  The spending power still rests with the executive branch. This is precisely the reason the Supreme Court in 2012 upheld the constitutionality of the PDAF.

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The judicial pronouncement on the matter is illuminating: “So long as there is no showing of a direct participation of legislators in the actual spending of the budget, the constitutional boundaries between the Executive and the Legislative in the budgetary process remain intact.” (Lawyers Against Monopoly and Poverty et al. v. Secretary of Budget and Management, G.R. No. 164987, April 24, 2012).

Lastly, to remedy the unfortunate situation surrounding the use of the PDAF, strict measures must be put in place to eliminate the perceived abuses spawned by it.

—GAUDENCIO G.C. CUALTEROS,

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TAGS: budget, Congress, executive branch, pork barrel
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