MANILA (Mabuhay) – An anti-pork barrel group has asked the Supreme Court to decide on its petition, which sought the return of P6 billion worth of pork barrel funds allegedly used for ghost projects, even without the side of Commission on Audit chair Grace Pulido Tan.
In a manifestation filed on Monday, the group of petitioners composed of Greco Belgica of the Yeshua Change Agents, Bishop Reuben Abante of Bible Mode, Rev. Jose Gonzales of the Capitol Christian Leaders, and Quintin Paredes San Diego noted that Tan has yet to file a comment on their petition.
“Respondents’ time to file their respective comments to the petition has long expired,” said the group in its petition filed through lawyer Manuelito Luna.
“In consequence the court may consider them to have waived the filing of the same,” the petitioner added.
The petitioning group filed its original petition for mandamus in June. In July, the SC ordered Tan and fellow respondent Susana Garcia, director of COA’s Special Audit Office, to submit a comment “within 10 days from notice.”
Belgica’s group cited Section 8, Rule 65 of the Rules of Court which states that “the court, if it finds the allegations of the petition are true, shall render judgment for such relief to which the petitioner or petitioners is entitled to.”
“Wherefore foregoing premises considered it is respectfully prayed of the honorable court to consider the respondents to have waived the filing of their respective comments and to render judgment granting petition,” the petitioner said.
In its petition for mandamus, the anti-pork barrel group has pointed out that it has been eight months since Tan – during oral arguments in October 2013 – promised the court that they would be issuing notices of disallowance (ND) to agencies mentioned in a COA report covering 2007 to 2009.
The group was among those who questioned and succeeded in having the pork barrel system – formally known as the Priority Development Assistance Fund—struck down as unconstitutional following reports of its widespread misuse by several lawmakers in cahoots with private individuals.
In its petition, the group asked the SC to “issue a writ of mandamus compelling the issuance of thousands of notices of disallowance on the PDAFs for the total amount of Php6.156 billion, and covering the period 2007 to 2009, to the respective lawmakers and other public officials, NGOs and their officers, and all persons responsible for the misuse thereof with dispatch, and to furnish the petitioners copies thereof.”
“It is crystal clear that the tenacity of the respondents not to issue the NDs, despite being reminded of their duties/promise, constitutes defiance of the commands of the fundamental law, the Administrative Code, and Republic Act No. 6713, the General Auditing Code, and the 2009 Revised Rules of Procedure of the Commission on Audit, (and) warrants the issuance of such writ,” the group said.
It added COA’s “clear neglect of public duty” to issue the NDs shows that there is “justiciable case or controversy ripe for judicial resolution.”
The group said it has already sent a letter to Tan in December 2013 seeking the issuance of the NDs.
The COA report covered a total of P46 billion in government funds, including P32 billion in so-called hard projects, P12 billion in PDAF, and P2 billion in financial assistance to local government units. The COA has found irregularities in the use of P6 billion of these funds. (MNS)