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SC deems 4 kinds of lump-sum discretionary funds constitutional

MANILA, Philippines — Not all lump-sum discretionary funds are unconstitutional.

The Supreme Court has declared constitutional four kinds of lump-sum discretionary funds in the 2014 national budget, which was passed months after the high court struck down  congressional discretionary funds, or pork, as unconstitutional.

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During their full-court session on Tuesday, the justices said allocations under the unprogrammed fund, contingency  fund, e-government fund and the local government support fund were legal.

Unlike PDAF

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These funds, according to the tribunal, were unlike the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), or the multibillion-peso pork barrel inserted annually in the national budget.

The pork barrel system allowed senators and representatives to identify supposed projects to be funded after the national budget had been passed.

According to the Supreme Court, the four lump-sum funds have identified the specific purpose for their use and therefore are constitutional.

It said the unprogrammed fund would be spent on identified programs; the contingency  fund on new or urgent projects that were not foreseen during the budget process, including the foreign travel expenses of the President; the e-government fund on the strategic information and communication technology projects of various government agencies; and the local government support fund on financial assistance to local governments.

“The court stressed the requirement of singular correspondence does not mean that all lump-sum appropriations are unconstitutional per se; hence, the specifically assailed appropriations are constitutional,” the tribunal said in a statement issued Wednesday.

The decision itself had not yet been released, and would not identify which of the justices wrote it.

Belgica petition dismissed

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The court made the ruling as it dismissed the petition of former Manila Councilor Greco Belgica against the four lump-sum discretionary funds.

Belgica, who won the court’s ruling against the PDAF in 2013, had argued that the lump-sum discretionary funds in the 2014 General Appropriations Act, or national budget, went against the Supreme Court Nov. 19, 2013, decision nullifying the pork barrel system.

In its ruling against the PDAF, the Supreme Court said an appropriation must have a corresponding purpose to be considered a proper line item.

The Supreme Court also declared unconstitutional on July 1, 2014, the Disbursement Allocation Program (DAP), the so-called Malacañang pork barrel.

The high court nullified the way former President Benigno Aquino III and then Budget Secretary Florencio Abad funneled government “savings” into other projects outside the Congress-approved national budget.

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