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BELGICA V. OCHOA.

JR

G.R. No. 208566 | November 19, 2013

PETITIONER: Greco Antonious Beda B. Belgica


RESPONDENT: Honorable Executive Secretary Paquito N. Ochoa Jr.

BRIEF SUMMARY:

The Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), commonly known as the Pork Barrel, refers to as lump-sum,
discretionary funds of Members of the Legislature (p.51). Its purpose varied through time as it is awarded not only
to members of the legislative department but also the various departments such as DPWH and DepEd, the Vice
President, the President himself and NGOs. For this case, it talks about the investigation made by the National
Bureau of Investigation (NBI) in 2013 regarding the allegations that “the government has been defrauded of some
P10 Billion over the past 10 years by a syndicate using funds from the pork barrel of lawmakers and various
government agencies for scores of ghost projects” wherein these allegations came from 6 sworn affidavits of
whistle-blowers who declared that JLN Corporation – Janet Lim Napoles’ corporation, had gotten billions of pesos
from public officers for “ghost projects” of her dummy NGOs that have gotten money from public officers. In lieu of
this allegations, Petitioners Belgica et al. filed suit against Paquito Ochoa, who is the Executive Secretary at that
time, Florencio Abad (DBM Secretary), and Rosalia De Leon (National Treasurer), on the ground that the pork
barrel system is unconstitutional and prays for the injunction of such system.

The Court ruled that the 2013 PDAF Article and all other Congressional Pork Barrel Laws are unconstitutional that it
violated the principle of separation of powers, the principle of non-delegability of legislative power, the prescribed
procedure of presentment, the denial of the President’s power to veto items, as well as it impaired public
accountability, and subverted local autonomy. As for the aspect of Political dynasties, the Court ruled that the
petitioner’s claim regarding the PDAF enables politicians who are part of political dynasties to accumulate funds to
perpetuate themselves in power is highly speculative as the system does not properly demonstrate how to
propagate political dynasties (p. 134). For the Presidential Pork Barrel, the Court ruled that the phrases stated in
PD 910 and PD 1869 are also unconstitutional for both failing the sufficient standard test in violation of the
principle of non-delegability of legislative power.

DOCTRINE:

To the legislative branch of government, through Congress, belongs the power to make laws; to the executive
branch of government, through the President, belongs the power to enforce laws; and to the judicial branch of
government, through the Court, belongs the power to interpret laws. Because the three great powers have been,
by constitutional design, ordained in this respect, "each department of the government has exclusive cognizance of
matters within its jurisdiction, and is supreme within its own sphere.” Thus, "the legislature has no authority to
execute or construe the law, the executive has no authority to make or construe the law, and the judiciary has no
power to make or execute the law.”

FACTS:

1. Pork barrel - An appropriation of government spending meant for localized projects secured solely or primarily to
bring money to a representative’s district legislative control of local appropriations

a. In the Philippines, they are lump sum discretionary funds of members of the legislature. Later on, it would
evolve in reference to certain funds of the Executive.

2. Historical Background of the Congressional Pork Barrel in the PH

Pre-Martial Law (1922-1972)


The utilization of funds were subjected to post-enactment legislator approval. Discretion of choosing the projects
were also given to the legislators.
Martial Law (1972-1986)
 Each legislator receives P500k and thereafter would communicate their project preferences to the
Ministry of Budget for approval.
 Projects also began to cover not only hard projects (public works) but also soft projects (non-public
works such as education, health and livelihood).

Post Martial Law (1986-1992)


First, there was the Visayas and Mindanao Development fund. However, due to the demand by Luzon legislators
for the same fund – a Countrywide Development Fund was made.
Ramos Administration (1992-1998)
Members of Congress and the VP, in consultation with the implementing agency, were directed to submit to the
DBM the list of 50% of projects to be funded duly endorsed by:

V. Senate
V. Senate President
V. Chairman, Committee on Finance
V. House of Representatives
V. Speaker of the House
V. Chairman, Committee in Appropriations

The list for the other 50% was to be submitted 6 months thereafter. The project list shall be the basis for
release of funds; no funds shall be disbursed for projects not included therein.
Estrada Administration (1998-2001)
 The Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) emerged. Prior consultation with the representative
is needed before the funds are directly released to the implementing agency.
 Realignment of funds was allowed so long as the funds were not used for personal services.

Arroyo Administration (2002-2010)


 There was an order of release of funds directly to the implementing agency of local government unit
concerned.
 In 2003, DPWH and DepEd projects required prior consultation with Members of the Congress on
implementation delegation.
 PDAF shall be used to fund priority programs and projects under the 10-agenda of the national
government.

 It shall be released directly to implementing agencies.


 Program menu concept—list of general programs and implementing agencies from which a
particular PDAF project may be chosen by the identifying authority

 2002-2010 General Appropriations were silent as to the specific amounts allocated for individual
legislators, their participation in the proposal, and identification of PDAF projects.

Aquino Administration (2011)


 Express statement on lump sum amounts allocated for individual legislators and the VP.
 Realignment of funds allowed once.

 Realignment is within the same implementing unit and same project category as the original
project.
 Request for realignment is with the concurrence of the legislator concerned.
 Identification of projects and/or designation of beneficiaries shall conform to the priority list
prepared by each implementing agency.
 As practice, however, it is still the individual legislator who would choose and identify the
project from the priority list.

 In 2013, local government units were allowed to identify certain projects.


 Legislators were allowed to identify projects, except assistance to indigent patients and scholarships,
outside of their legislative districts provided they secure the written concurrence of the legislator of the
intended outside-district, endorsed by the Speaker of the House.

3. Later on, in the case of LAMP vs. Secretary of Budget and Management, citizens sought the nullification of PDAG
in the 2004 General Appropriations Act for being unconstitutional. However, this was dismissed due to lack of
evidence.
4. What followed was an NBI probe done due to allegations that stated that the government has been defrauded of
some P10 Billion over the past 10 years by a syndicate which uses funds from the pork barrel of lawmakers and
various government agencies for ghost projects.

 6 whistleblowers stated that the JLN Corporation swindled billions from public coffers for
ghost projects using 20 dummy non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

 The NGOs were supposedly the recipient of PDAF. However, the money were diverted to
Napoles’ private accounts.

5. According to the Commission of Audit investigation:

1. The amounts released for identified projects exceeded the respective allocations per legislator.
2. The amounts released were for projects outside of the legislator’s legislative districts.
3. The selection of NGOs were not compliant with laws and regulations.
4. These NGOs submitted questionable or spurious documents or failed to liquidate their utilization
of funds.

6. Take note of the following funds:

a. Malampaya Funds - Done pursuant to the need to set up a special fund to help intensify, strengthen and
consolidate government efforts relating to the exploration, exploitation and development of indigenous
energy resources vital to economic growth.

b. Presidential Social Fund - This is a special funding facility managed and administered by the Presidential
Management Staff through which the President provides direct assistance to priority programs and
projects not funded under the regular budget. This is sourced from the share of the government in the
aggregate gross earnings of PAGCOR.

7. Hence, the combined petitions were filed (Alcantara, Belgica, and Nepumuceno petition): a. Petition for Urgent
Petition for Certiorari and Prohibition with Prayer for the Immediate Issuance of TRO and/or Writ of Preliminary
Injunction under Rule 65 Seeking: Pork Barrel System be declared unconstitutional and the Executive’s lump-sum
discretionary funds (Malampaya and Presidential Social Fund) be declared unconstitutional and null and void for
being acts constituting grave abuse of discretion TRO against the Executive Secretary, DBM Secretary and the
National Treasurer to cease any expenditure under the aforesaid funds.

8. The Court in a Resolution issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) enjoining the DBM, National Treasurer and
Executive Secretary from releasing remaining PDAF under the 2013 General Appropriations Act.

9. Malampaya Funds under the phrase “for such other purposes as may be hereafter directed by the President”.

ISSUES:

Procedural:

1. W/N the issues raised involve an actual and justiciable controversy – YES
2. W/N the issues raised are matters of policy not subject to judicial review – NO
3. W/N petitioners have legal standing to sue – YES
4. W/N the Court’s decisions in the Philconsa and LAMP cases bar the re-litigation of the issue of constitutionality of
the Pork Barrel System under the principle of res judicata and stare decisis – NO

Substantive:

W/N the 2013 PDAF Article and all other Congressional Pork Barrel Laws similar thereto are unconstitutional
considering that they violate constitutional provisions on:

1. Separation of powers? YES


2. Non-delegability of legislative powers? YES
3. Checks and balances? YES
4. Accountability? YES
5. Local Autonomy? YES
6. Budget Preparation? YES
7. Legislative Authorization? YES
8. Budget execution? YES

HELD:

WHEREFORE, the petitions are PARTLY GRANTED. In view of the constitutional violations discussed in this Decision,
the Court hereby declares as UNCONSTITUTIONAL:

 The entire 2013 PDAF Article;


 All legal provisions of past and present Congressional Pork Barrel Laws, such as the previous PDAF and
CDF articles and the various Congressional Insertions, which authorize/d legislators – whether individually
or collectively organized into committees – to intervene, assume or participate in any of the various post-
enactment stages of the budget execution, such as but not limited to the areas of project identification,
modification and revision of project identification, fund release and/or fund realignment, unrelated to the
power of congressional oversight;
 All legal provisions of past and present Congressional Pork Barrel Laws, such as the previous PDAF and
CDF Articles and the various Congressional Insertions, which confer/red personal, lump-sum allocations to
legislators from which they are able to fund specific projects which they themselves determine;
 All informal practices of similar import and effect, which the Court similarly deems to be acts of grave
abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction; and
 The phrases “and for such other purposes as may be hereafter directed by the President" under Section 8
of Presidential Decree No. 910 and (2) "to finance the priority infrastructure development projects" under
Section 12 of Presidential Decree No. 1869, as amended by Presidential Decree No. 1993, for both failing
the sufficient standard test in violation of the principle of non-delegability of legislative power.

Accordingly, the Court‘s temporary injunction dated September 10, 2013 is hereby declared to be PERMANENT.
Thus, the disbursement/release of the remaining PDAF funds allocated for the year 2013, as well as for all previous
years, and the funds sourced from (1) the Malampaya Funds under the phrase "and for such other purposes as
may be hereafter directed by the President" pursuant to Section 8 of Presidential Decree No. 910, and (2) the
Presidential Social Fund under the phrase "to finance the priority infrastructure development projects" pursuant to
Section 12 of Presidential Decree No. 1869, as amended by Presidential Decree No. 1993, which are, at the time
this Decision is promulgated, not covered by Notice of Cash Allocations (NCAs) but only by Special Allotment
Release Orders (SAROs), whether obligated or not, are hereby ENJOINED. The remaining PDAF funds covered by
this permanent injunction shall not be disbursed/released but instead reverted to the unappropriated surplus of the
general fund, while the funds under the Malampaya Funds and the Presidential Social Fund shall remain therein to
be utilized for their respective special purposes not otherwise declared as unconstitutional.

On the other hand, due to improper recourse and lack of proper substantiation, the Court hereby DENIES
petitioners‘ prayer seeking that the Executive Secretary and/or the Department of Budget and Management be
ordered to provide the public and the Commission on Audit complete lists/schedules or detailed reports related to
the availments and utilization of the funds subject of these cases. Petitioners‘ access to official documents already
available and of public record which are related to these funds must, however, not be prohibited but merely
subjected to the custodian‘s reasonable regulations or any valid statutory prohibition on the same. This denial is
without prejudice to a proper mandamus case which they or the Commission on Audit may choose to pursue
through a separate petition.

The Court also DENIES petitioners prayer to order the inclusion of the funds subject of these cases in the
budgetary deliberations of Congress as the same is a matter left to the prerogative of the political branches of
government.
Finally, the Court hereby DIRECTS all prosecutorial organs of the government to, within the bounds of reasonable
dispatch, investigate and accordingly prosecute all government officials and/or private individuals for possible
criminal offenses related to the irregular, improper and/or unlawful disbursement/utilization of all funds under the
Pork Barrel System.

This Decision is immediately executory but prospective in effect.

RATIO:

PROCEDURAL ISSUES:
1. Yes, the issues raised involve an actual and justiciable controversy.

 There are contrary claims when it comes to legal rights.


 Questions are ripe for adjudication since the challenged funds and provisions allowing for their utilization
are currently existing and operational. Thus, there is an immediate and threatened injury to the
petitioners as a result of the unconstitutional use of the said funds.
 The President’s declaration that he had already “abolished the PDAF” render the issues moot because the
Executive branch has no constitutional authority to nullify or annul its legal existence, which can be done
only in two cases:
o Congress passes a law to repeal it or
o Court declares it unconstitutional
 The case is also capable of repetition and evading review

2. Yes, the issues raised are matters subject to judicial review.

 The issue at hand is not a political question. The constitutionality of the Pork Barrel System is a legal issue
which only the court can take cognizance of.
 Political question—questions which, under the Constitution, are to be decided by the people in their
sovereign capacity; concerned with issues dependent upon the wisdom, not legality, of a particular
measure.

3. Yes, petitioners have legal standing to sue as taxpayers since they are bound to suffer from the
unconstitutional usafe of public funds.

4. No, the court’s decisions in the Philconsa and LAMP cases do not bar the re-litigation of the issue of
constitutionality of the Pork Barrel System.

 Res judicata and stare decisis cannot be applied since the case at hand deals with the entire pork barrel
system. Plus, the ruling in the previous cases were both dismissed due to procedural technicalities.
 The Philconsa ruling centered more on the separation of powers wherein it stated that the power of
appropriation given to the congress carries with it the power to propose and identify the projects to be
funded- it can be as detailed or as broad as the congress wants it to be. However, it shall be noted that
the proposal and identification made by the congress are merely recommendatory.
 This case, however, as compared to the Philconsa case is a holistic examination of the inter-relation of the
Country Development Fund and PDAF and the intra- relation of post-enactment measures within a
particular CDF or PDAF Article; including the areas of project identification, fund release and realignment.

SUBSTANTIVE ISSUES:

Take note first of the definition of terms:

Pork barrel system – Collective body of rules and practices that govern the manner by which lump-sum
discretionary funds, primarily intended for local projects are utilized through the respective participations of the
Legislative and Executive branches, including its members.

Congressional barrel system - Lump-sum discretionary fund wherein legislators, either individually or collectively
organized into committees, are able to effectively control certain aspects of the fund’s utilization through various
post-enactment measures and/or practices.

Presidential pork barrel system – Lump-sum discretionary fund which allows the President to determine the manner
of its utilization.

1. The 2013 PDAF and all other Congressional Pork Barrel Laws similar thereto are unconstitutional
considering that they violate the separation of powers.

I. It shall be remembered that from the moment the law becomes effective, any provision of law that
empowers congress or any of its members to play any role in the implementation or enforcement of law
violates the principle of powers and is thus unconstitutional.
II. The enforcement of the national budget is a function both constitutionally assigned and properly assigned
to the Executive branch.
III. Unless the Constitution provides otherwise, the Executive should exclusively exercise all prerogatives
which go into the implementation of the national budget. Budget execution covers:
i. Various operational aspects of budgeting
ii. Evaluation of work and financial plans for individual activities
iii. Regulation and release of funds
IV. Upon approval and passage of the GAA, Congress’ law-making role necessarily comes to an end and the
Executive’s role of implementing the national budget begins.
i. However, Congress may still exercise its oversight function—a mechanism of checks and balances
that the Constitution allows which is limited to:

o Scrutiny based primarily on Congress’ power of appropriation; budget hearings in


connection with it; power to ask department heads to appear and be heard on any matter
pertaining to their departments; its power of confirmation.
o Investigation and monitoring of implementation of laws pursuant to the power of Congress
to conduct inquiries in aid of legislation.

V. The specific PDAF provisions are as follows:

ii. Program Menu Feature – allows individual legislators to identify PDAF projects as long as the
identified project falls under a general program listed therein.
iii. Provision 2
1. Implementing agencies shall, within 90 days from the passage of the GAA, submit to
Congress a more detailed priority list from which the legislator may make his choice
2. Authorizes legislators to identify PDAF projects outside his district for as long as the
representative of the district concerned concurs in writing
iv. Provision 4 - Requires that any modification or revision of the project identification be submitted
to either the House Committee on Appropriations and the Senate Committee on finance for
favorable endorsement to the DBM or the implementing agency
v. Provision 5 - All requests for release of funds shall be supported by documents favorably
endorsed by the House Committee on Appropriations and the Senate Committee on Finance

VI. From the foregoing provisions, it cannot be doubted that legislators have been accorded post-enactment
authority to:

o Identify PDAF projects


o Participate in fund release
o Participate in fund realignment

 That the said authority is treated as merely recommendatory in nature does not alter its unconstitutional
tenor because the prohibition covers ANY ROLE IN the implementation or enforcement of law.

2. It is violative of the non-delegability of legislative power.

I. Legislative power is solely vested in the Congress. The PDAF provisions insofar as it confers post-
enactment identification authority to individual legislators, violates the principle of non-delegability
since legislators are effectively allowed to individually exercise the power of appropriation, which is
lodged in Congress.
II. Only the following are recognized exceptions:
a. Delegation to LGUs which are allowed to legislate on purely local matters.
b. Power of the president to:
i. Exercise powers necessary and proper to carry out a declared national policy in times of
war and other national emergency
ii. Fix within specified limits as congress may impose tariff rates, import and export quotas,
tonnage and wharfage dues and other duties or imposts within the framework of the
national development program of the government
c. Delegate the rule-making authority to implementing agencies for the limited purpose of either
i. Supplementary rule-making filling up details of the law for its enforcement
ii. Contingent rule-making ascertaining facts to bring the law into actual operation
III. In this case, the individual legislators are given personal lump-sum fund from which they are able to
dictate how much from such fund would go to a specific project or beneficiary that they themselves
determine. This, the court cannot allow.
3. It is violative of the constitutional provisions of checks and balances.

 In order to prevent log-rolling legislation, to impose fiscal restrictions on the legislature, and forfity the
executive’s role in the budgetary process – the veto power against a law is given to the President.
 For the veto power to be exercised, there must be a proper item which may be the object of the veto. To
ensure the veto power, there shall be specific appropriations of money and not just general provisions.
o An item of appropriation must be characterized by a singular correspondence = each item must have
its own corresponding purpose.
 This check and balance through the veto power is violated when appropriations merely provide for a
singular lump-sum amount to be tapped as source of funding for multiple purposes. In that event, there is
determination for the amount to be expended and the purpose of the appropriation.
 Hence, it is not a proper appropriation when there is no specific appropriation of money which the
President can veto.
 In the current system where the PDAF is a lump-sum appropriation, the legislator’s identification of the
projects after the passage of the GAA denies the President the chance to veto that item later on.
o In the current system where the PDAF is a lump-sum appropriation, the legislator’s identification of
the projects after the passage of the GAA denies the President the chance to veto that item later on.

4. It violates the constitutional provisions on accountability.


o Remember: Public office is public trust.
o The conduct of oversight would be tainted as legislators, who are vested with post- enactment
authority, would in effect, be checking on activities in which they themselves participate.
o Allowing legislators to intervene in the various phases of project implementation renders them
susceptible to taking undue advantage of their own office, thereby violating SEC 14, ART 6 of the
Constitution which states:
o No member of Congress shall be directly or indirectly financially interested in any contract,
franchise or special privilege granted by the government during his term. He shall not
intervene in any matter before any government office for his pecuniary benefit or where he
may be called upon to act on account of his office.

5. They are violative of the principle of local autonomy.


o The PDAF and CDF allocation or division is based solely on the fact of office, without taking into
account the specific interests and peculiarities of the district the legislator represents.
o Such allocation or division limits are clearly not based on genuine parameters of equality; wherein
economic or geographic indicators have been taken into consideration.
o The PDAF and CDF had become personal funds under the control of each legislator and given unto
them on the sole account of their office.

6. With regard to the Special Allotment Release Order ordering funds to be released by the Department
of Budget and Management (DBM) and to the Malampaya Funds, the DBM is to be enjoined from
releasing them. These funds shall then be converted back as part of the general funds.