COA told to comment on move to recover misused PDAF

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Wednesday, July 2, 2014

COMMISSION on Audit (COA) Chairperson Grace Pulido-Tan has been ordered by the Supreme Court (SC) to comment on the petition of anti-corruption crusaders to compel her agency to recover more than P6 billion worth of pork barrel, which allegedly went to questionable projects.

In a notice dated June 10, the SC directed Tan and other COA officials to comment on the petition filed by the group of former senatorial candidate Greco Belgica within 10 days.

Belgica's group wanted the COA to issue notice of disallowances to 12 senators and 180 congressmen after they collectively earmarked P6.156 billion in Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) to 82 non-government organizations (NGOs).

The data came from COA’s special audit report on PDAF covering years 2007 to 2009, which was used by the government to press charges at the Sandiganbayan against three senators and businesswoman Janet Napoles, the alleged leader of the scam involving ghost projects of her NGOs.

Napoles NGOs cornered P2.157 billion during those years, according to the audit report.

Belgica's group went to the SC because Tan allegedly ignored their request to fulfill her promise to the SC, which was hearing the petitions against the PDAF's constitutionality last October, to issue the notices of disallowance.

"The blatant disregard of public duties and Tan’s own promise to the Supreme Court to issue thousands of disallowances smack of deception on her part. Tan is, therefore, compellable through said writ (of mandamus)," the petitioners said.

The SC ended the pork barrel system in November last year as it violated constitutional provisions on separation of powers, local autonomy, line-veto discretion of the President and public accountability.

The justices particularly hit the powers entrusted to legislators by the system--project identification, fund release and fund realignment—as these were not lawmaking duties but encroaching on responsibilities that belong to the Executive department.

The pork barrel system was also seen as a source of kickbacks for lawmakers. (Sunnex)

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