The Philippine Supreme Court yesterday voided parts of President Benigno Aquino's 144 billion peso (HK$25.54 billion) stimulus package in a landmark ruling that may leave him open to lawsuits seeking his impeachment.
The court declared as illegal some parts of the president's Disbursement Acceleration Program, which fast-tracked infrastructure spending in the three years from 2011, while giving some perks to certain lawmakers.
"The ruling could subject Aquino to suits alleging culpable violation of the Constitution at the House of Representatives," said Ramon Casiple, executive director of the Institute for Political and Electoral Reform.
Aquino approved the stimulus package in October 2011. The programme ended earlier this year, having met its goal of achieving economic growth of an average 7.4 per cent gross domestic product growth in the first three quarters of last year.
Several civic groups including the Integrated Bar of the Philippines sued the government last year, arguing that the stimulus programme, dubbed the presidential pork barrel, violated Congress' exclusive power to appropriate funds.
Under the DAP, infrastructure spending had recovered from a 29 per cent decline in 2011 to grow 34 per cent by the end of September last year.
The court yesterday ruled the executive branch violated the separation of powers under the constitution.
The court in November stripped lawmakers of their discretionary power to allocate funds for infrastructure and development, known as pork-barrel budgets, ruling the practice illegal. It also barred the president from using his social fund to finance priority infrastructure development projects.
Aquino pledged to stamp out pork-barrel budgets last August after thousands of people turned to social media to criticise the system. Civic groups took to the streets on June 12, independence day, to seek the removal of politicians embroiled in the scandal, which threatens to tarnish Aquino's anti-corruption credentials.