COA to Cebu: Return P41M in pork barrel funds
by Allan Yves Briones
The Commission on Audit (COA) ordered the provincial government of Cebu to return P40.77 million of unused “pork barrel” or Priority Development Assistance Funds (PDAF).
According to audit records, the outstanding PDAF balance has been idle in the local treasury for 5 to 12 years despite the landmark Supreme Court (SC) decision in 2013 rendering them unconstitutional.
“With the advent of the SC decision declaring PDAF unconstitutional, it was recommended…that the unspent PDAF be returned to the National Treasury…but management was unwilling to return the unspent funds,” the audit report read.
State auditors disclosed that the biggest pork barrel balances originated from Senator Aquilino “Kiko” Pimentel, Jr. with P9 million still unspent from its 2010 disbursement, and former Cebu Representative Pablo P. Garcia with over P8 million unspent from a total of over P205 million from 2009 to 2012.
“To further allow the funds to remain idle in its treasury or to temporarily place them in savings or time deposits would only defeat the purposes for which the funds were appropriated,” COA said.
According to Cebu officials, the Supreme Court decision is to be interpreted a different way.
“[T]he release/disbursement of PDAF funds that were not covered by NCAs were permanently enjoined and to be reverted back to the unappropriated surplus of the general fund of the national government and that the funds already transferred and deposited in the account of the Province were no longer covered by the SC decision,” the report read.
COA ordered the provincial government to return all P40 million of the pork barrel funds, or to request the Department of Budget and Management for authority to utilize them.
Regarding the latter, the provincial government of Cebu has already done so, according to the Provincial Legal Officer.