MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/13 July) — Defenders of the Disbursement Acceleration Program – who, by the way, are more interested in defending President Aquino and his embattled officials than in the legal questions hounding the program itself – have resorted to hair-splitting arguments in trying to cushion the impact of blows that have hit this administration.
Their arguments center on basically three things – the DAP is not unconstitutional per se; it had attained its purpose of revving up the economy; and all transactions made under were done in good faith.
I maintain though that arguments for or against DAP must stick to whether or not the program had worked within constitutional bounds. Contentions that it had supposedly helped the economy and all transactions under it were done in good faith are non-sequiturs. The advocates of such reasoning are essentially saying that the end justifies the means.
But first, here’s how the Supreme Court ruled on the petitions against the DAP. In a decision penned by Associate Justice Lucas Bersamin, the high tribunal declared that the following violated Section 25 (5) Article VI of the 1987 Constitution and the doctrine of separation of powers:
1. The withdrawal of unobligated allotments from the implementing agencies, and the declaration of the withdrawn unobligated allotments and unreleased appropriations as savings prior to the end of the fiscal year and without complying with the statutory definition of savings contained in the General Appropriations Acts;
2. The cross-border transfers of the savings of the Executive to augment the appropriations of other offices outside the Executive;
3. The funding of projects, activities and programs that were not covered by any appropriation in the GAA; and
4. The use of unprogrammed funds despite the absence of a certification by the National Treasurer that the revenue collections exceeded the revenue targets for non-compliance with the conditions provided in the relevant GAA.
In short, the high court sustained the arguments of petitioners that the Executive had usurped the power of Congress to appropriate funds, and declared as savings amounts that were not really savings and used these for items that were not in the GAA.
By usurping congressional powers, Aquino, conniving with Budget Secretary Florencio Abad and other high officials, had acted as a dictator, deciding through executive whim on how to spend nearly P150 billion in public funds. As Associate Justice Arturo Brion said in his concurring opinion, the DAP case, “demonstrated lack of respect for public funds, institutions, and the Constitution. This case, in my view, is the biggest (scandal) since I came to the Court in terms of these factors alone.”
The issue at stake is not only how Malacanang resorted to what may be considered “technical malversation” at the very least, but the glaring possibility that portions of the DAP were used for self-serving political purposes.
Recall that during the impeachment trial of former Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona, defense counsel Jose Roy III alleged that the Palace offered a P100-million bribe for each senator-judge who would vote for Corona’s conviction. But since Roy refused to divulge his source of information and the senator-judges who were reportedly approached by Malacanang, he was cited for contempt.
Senator Jinggoy Estrada, one of the senator-judges who voted to convict Corona, admitted on February 20 this year that he got P100 million in project allocations in March 2012, while the impeachment trial was still going on. He, however, said he did not know the amount came from the DAP.
Good faith has never been this good. (To be continued)
[MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. H. Marcos C. Mordeno can be reached at email@example.com]