MANILA (Mabuhay) – ACT-Teachers party-list Rep. Antonio Tinio on Monday led several teachers in submitting the fourth impeachment complaint against President Benigno Aquino III over what they claimed as the continuation of the pork barrel system in Congress.
The 40-page complaint was submitted to the office of House Secretary-General Marilyn Yap Monday morning, a few hours before the start of the plenary session during which three impeachment complaints filed against Aquino last July will reportedly be referred to the House Justice Committee. Yap, however, was not present to receive the complaint.
The petitioners accused Aquino of committing culpable violation of the Constitution and betrayal of public trust by allowing lawmakers to have access to lump sum funds in 2014 despite a Supreme Court ruling abolishing the pork barrel system.
Among the “incontrovertible evidence” that Tinio and the 16 other complainants attached to the complaint were audio recordings and the public admissions of high-ranking officials of at least three agencies implementing the projects endorsed by lawmakers.
Audio recordings, documents
The audio recordings presented by the complainants include those of an “executive session” recently conducted by the House Appropriations Committee with Commission on Higher Education (CHED) chairperson Patricia Licuanan to discuss the agency’s scholarship program, and a House briefing attended by Department of Health (DOH) Undersecretary Janet Garin to discuss the DOH Medical Assistance Program.
Also included as evidence were official press releases and news articles bearing the admission of Department of Labor and Employment Regional Directors that their offices invite and allow participation of lawmakers in the implementation of emergency employment and government internship programs.
According to the petitioners, the audio recordings and documents supposedly showed the following:
the congressional pork barrel continues to exist despite the SC ruling;
the agencies handling the house pork still set aside personal lump sums for House members, which the latter can tap and disburse according to their discretion; and
executive officials of the Aquino administration have put in place procedures and mobilized a “significant amount” of personnel and resources to enable lawmakers to exercise illegal post-enactment authority over the programs funded by the pork barrel funds supposedly received by certain House members
A total of P20 billion in lump sum funds were supposedly hidden in the 2014 national budget to be accessed by certain lawmakers, Tinio claimed.
He added that each House member is still entitled to lump sum funds such as P14 million allocation for CHED scholarships and P10 million for medical assistance even though their Priority Development Fund (PDAF) was scrapped.
Congressmen used to receive a P70 million PDAF allocation while senators received P200 million.
‘Alive and oinking’
The complainants likewise claimed that the President is fully aware that the legislators’ post-enactment authority or their entitlement to particular earmarked funds prohibited by the SC decision is “alive and oinking” in a national budget that is supposedly devoid of any pork barrel fund.
Aquino is also knowledgeable of the “informal practice” of lawmakers endorsing projects to certain government agencies, the petitioners alleged.
“The mechanisms admitted by Aquino’s alter egos and subordinates are necessarily informal—to conceal from the public the persistence of congressional pork barrel and the fact that the Chief Executive is subverting the law and public institutions. It is a mark of bad faith,” the complaint read.
Lawmakers were allowed to recommend their projects or constituents to the appropriate government agencies for funding after the PDAF was removed from the 2014 General Appropriations Act (GAA) following the Supreme Court’s decision declaring it unconstitutional last year.
Tinio said he is hopeful that the fourth impeachment complaint will be included in Monday’s Order of Business so it will be referred together with the three impeachment complaints to the Justice panel.
loilo Rep. Niel Tupas, chair of the committee, said the fourth impeachment complaint will not be entertained if it is not referred along with the three other suits.
Two of the three complaints filed against the President cited the controversial Disbursement Acceleration Program as basis while one is over the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement between the Philippines and the US. (MNS)