GRECO ANTONIOUS BEDA B. BELGICA et al. v. HON. EXECUTIVE SECRETARY PAQUITO N. OCHOA JR. et al., G.R. No. 208566, November 19, 2013

Constitutional Law; Validity of the pork barrel system. The Court defines the Pork Barrel System as the 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 of government, including its members. The Pork Barrel System involves two (2) kinds of lump-sum discretionary funds: the Congressional Pork Barrel and the Presidential Pork Barrel.

Congressional pork barrel; Separation of powers. Post-enactment measures which govern the areas of project identification, fund release and fund realignment are not related to functions of congressional oversight and, hence, allow legislators to intervene and/or assume duties that properly belong to the sphere of budget execution. Indeed, by virtue of the foregoing, legislators have been, in one form or another, authorized to participate in — as Guingona, Jr. puts it — the various operational aspects of budgeting, including the evaluation of work and financial plans for individual activities and the regulation and release of funds in violation of the separation of powers principle. The fundamental rule, as categorically articulated in Abakada, cannot be overstated — 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 the law violates the principle of separation of powers and is thus unconstitutional. That the said authority is treated as merely recommendatory in nature does not alter its unconstitutional tenor since the prohibition, to repeat, covers any role in the implementation or enforcement of the law. Towards this end, the Court must therefore abandon its ruling in Philconsa which sanctioned the conduct of legislator identification on the guise that the same is merely recommendatory and, as such, respondents‘ reliance on the same falters altogether.

Congressional pork barrel; Non-delegability of Legislative Power. The Court observes that the 2013 PDAF Article, insofar as it confers post-enactment identification authority to individual legislators, violates the principle of non-delegability since said legislators are effectively allowed to individually exercise the power of appropriation, which – as settled in Philconsa – is lodged in Congress. That the power to appropriate must be exercised only through legislation is clear from Section 29(1), Article VI of the 1987 Constitution which states that: No money shall be paid out of the Treasury except in pursuance of an appropriation made by law. To understand what constitutes an act of appropriation, the Court, in Bengzon v. Secretary of Justice and Insular Auditor (Bengzon), held that the power of appropriation involves (a) the setting apart by law of a certain sum from the public revenue for (b) a specified purpose. Essentially, under the 2013 PDAF Article, individual legislators are given a personal lump-sum fund from which they are able to dictate (a) how much from such fund would go to (b) a specific project or beneficiary that they themselves also determine. As these two (2) acts comprise the exercise of the power of appropriation as described in Bengzon, and given that the 2013 PDAF Article authorizes individual legislators to perform the same, undoubtedly, said legislators have been conferred the power to legislate which the Constitution does not, however, allow. 

Congressional pork barrel; Checks and Balances; Accountability. The lump-sum/post-enactment legislative identification budgeting system fosters the creation of a budget within a budget which subverts the prescribed procedure of presentment and consequently impairs the President‘s power of item veto. The fact that individual legislators are given post-enactment roles in the implementation of the budget makes it difficult for them to become disinterested observers when scrutinizing, investigating or monitoring the implementation of the appropriation law. To a certain extent, the conduct of oversight would be tainted as said legislators, who are vested with post-enactment authority, would, in effect, be checking on activities in which they themselves participate. Clearly, allowing legislators to intervene in the various phases of project implementation – a matter before another office of government – renders them susceptible to taking undue advantage of their own office.

Congressional pork barrel; Local autonomy. The Court finds an inherent defect in the system which actually belies the avowed intention of making equal the unequal. In particular, the Court observes that the gauge of PDAF and CDF allocation/division is based solely on the fact of office, without taking into account the specific interests and peculiarities of the district the legislator represents. In this regard, the allocation/division limits are clearly not based on genuine parameters of equality, wherein economic or geographic indicators have been taken into consideration. As a result, a district representative of a highly-urbanized metropolis gets the same amount of funding as a district representative of a far-flung rural province which would be relatively underdeveloped compared to the former.

Presidential pork barrel; Malampaya Fund and Presidential Social Fund are valid appropriations. An appropriation made by law under the contemplation of Section 29(1), Article VI of the 1987 Constitution exists when a provision of law (a) sets apart a determinate or determinable amount of money and (b) allocates the same for a particular public purpose. These two minimum designations of amount and purpose stem from the very definition of the word appropriation, which means to allot, assign, set apart or apply to a particular use or purpose, and hence, if written into the law, demonstrate that the legislative intent to appropriate exists. As the Constitution does not provide or prescribe any particular form of words or religious recitals in which an authorization or appropriation by Congress shall be made, except that it be made by law, an appropriation law may – according to Philconsa – be detailed and as broad as Congress wants it to be for as long as the intent to appropriate may be gleaned from the same.

Analyzing the legal text vis-à-vis the above-mentioned principles, it may then be concluded that (a) Section 8 of PD 910, which creates a Special Fund comprised of all fees, revenues, and receipts of the [Energy Development] Board from any and all sources (a determinable amount) to be used to finance energy resource development and exploitation programs and projects of the government and for such other purposes as may be hereafter directed by the President‖ (a specified public purpose), and (b) Section 12 of PD 1869, as amended by PD 1993, which similarly sets aside, ―[a]fter deducting five (5%) percent as Franchise Tax, the Fifty (50%) percent share of the Government in the aggregate gross earnings of [PAGCOR], or 60%[,] if the aggregate gross earnings be less than P150,000,000.00 (also a determinable amount) to finance the priority infrastructure development projects and x x x the restoration of damaged or destroyed facilities due to calamities, as may be directed and authorized by the Office of the President of the Philippines (also a specified public purpose), are legal appropriations under Section 29(1), Article VI of the 1987 Constitution.

Presidential pork barrel; Malampaya Fund; Undue delegation. While the designation of a determinate or determinable amount for a particular public purpose is sufficient for a legal appropriation to exist, the appropriation law must contain adequate legislative guidelines if the same law delegates rule-making authority to the Executive either for the purpose of (a) filling up the details of the law for its enforcement, known as supplementary rule-making, or (b) ascertaining facts to bring the law into actual operation, referred to as contingent rule-making. There are two (2) fundamental tests to ensure that the legislative guidelines for delegated rule-making are indeed adequate. The first test is called the completeness test. Case law states that a law is complete when it sets forth therein the policy to be executed, carried out, or implemented by the delegate. On the other hand, the second test is called the sufficient standard test. Jurisprudence holds that a law lays down a sufficient standard when it provides adequate guidelines or limitations in the law to map out the boundaries of the delegate‘s authority and prevent the delegation from running riot. To be sufficient, the standard must specify the limits of the delegate‘s authority, announce the legislative policy, and identify the conditions under which it is to be implemented.

The Court agrees with petitioners that the phrase “and for such other purposes as may be hereafter directed by the President” under Section 8 of PD 910 constitutes an undue delegation of legislative power insofar as it does not lay down a sufficient standard to adequately determine the limits of the President‘s authority with respect to the purpose for which the Malampaya Funds may be used. As it reads, the said phrase gives the President wide latitude to use the Malampaya Funds for any other purpose he may direct and, in effect, allows him to unilaterally appropriate public funds beyond the purview of the law.
That the subject phrase may be confined only to energy resource development and exploitation programs and projects of the government under the principle of ejusdem generis, meaning that the general word or phrase is to be construed to include – or be restricted to – things akin to, resembling, or of the same kind or class as those specifically mentioned, is belied by three (3) reasons: first, the phrase “energy resource development and exploitation programs and projects of the government” states a singular and general class and hence, cannot be treated as a statutory reference of specific things from which the general phrase “for such other purposes” may be limited; second, the said phrase also exhausts the class it represents, namely energy development programs of the government; and, third, the Executive department has, in fact, used the Malampaya Funds for non-energy related purposes under the subject phrase, thereby contradicting respondents‘ own position that it is limited only to “energy resource development and exploitation programs and projects of the government.” Thus, while Section 8 of PD 910 may have passed the completeness test since the policy of energy development is early deducible from its text, the phrase ―and for such other purposes as may be hereafter directed by the President under the same provision of law should nonetheless be stricken down as unconstitutional as it lies independently unfettered by any sufficient standard of the delegating law.

Presidential pork barrel; Presidential Social Fund; Financing priority infrastructure development projects an undue delegation. The Presidential Social Fund may be used to first, finance the priority infrastructure development projects and second, to finance the restoration of damaged or destroyed facilities due to calamities, as may be directed and authorized by the Office of the President of the Philippines. The Court finds that while the second indicated purpose adequately curtails the authority of the President to spend the Presidential Social Fund only for restoration purposes which arise from calamities, the first indicated purpose, however, gives him carte blanche authority to use the same fund for any infrastructure project he may so determine as a priority. Verily, the law does not supply a definition of priority infrastructure development projects and hence, leaves the President without any guideline to construe the same. In fine, the phrase “to finance the priority infrastructure development projects” must be stricken down as unconstitutional since – similar to the above-assailed provision under Section 8 of PD 910 – it lies independently unfettered by any sufficient standard of the delegating law. As they are severable, all other provisions of Section 12 of PD 1869, as amended by PD 1993, remains legally effective and subsisting.

Operative fact doctrine. All declarations of unconstititionality must only be treated as prospective in effect in view of the operative fact doctrine.

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