MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/01 July) – Progressive groups in Mindanao today lauded the Supreme Court decision declaring the Disbursement Acceleration Program unconstitutional and urged that all those behind it should be held accountable.
In a statement, Balay Mindanaw said it “lauds the courage and independence displayed by the SC in unanimously putting a stop to the abusive, unbridled and immoral use of the people’s money.”
“Now that the excesses have been exposed and declared unconstitutional, the work towards transparent, accountable and responsible governance has finally been given a chance to succeed,” it added.
The SC released Tuesday its unanimous decision on the controversial DAP which was the subject of nine petitions asking the High Tribunal to declare it unconstitutional. Among the petitioners were Bayan Muna, Integrated Bar of the Philippines and the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption.
Petitioners argued that DAP, a discretionary fund of the President, had usurped the exclusive powers of Congress to appropriate funds.
In a text message, Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate called the SC decision a “partial victory of the people in the fight against the pork barrel system.”
Zarate called DAP a “form of budgetary dictatorship of the Aquino administration that ran afoul with the letter and spirit of the Constitution,” adding, “it exposes the hypocrisy of the administration’s hollow, selective and even deceptive anti-corruption campaign.”
He said Aquino, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad and all those responsible for the DAP should be made accountable, “in the same manner that those involved in the PDAF (Priority Development Assistance Fund) are to be made accountable.”
But Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez said he was surprised by the Supreme Court’s decision declaring the DAP unconstitutional and urged the President to file a motion for reconsideration.
He said the President can argue that his office has inherent powers to plow back the savings for development projects “otherwise his hands are tied.”
“Past Presidents did that,” he said.
However, Gabriela Rep. Luz Ilagan said Aquino’s DAP did not come from any savings, making the “illegality and the unconstitutionality of the DAP clear.”
Ilagan, who was among the petitioners, also debunked Malacanang’s claims that Aquino’s DAP disbursements benefitted the economy.
“This is a clear attempt to diffuse the people’s outrage against Aquino’s illegal use of public funds under the DAP. What benefit did the people get from Aquino’s disbursement of P2B in DAP funds for various road projects in Tarlac or from Aquino’s approval of DAP funds for more than 116 projects endorsed by political allies? This demonstrates how the DAP is in fact presidential pork and how it is being used to buy loyalties,” she said.
Meanwhile, Gabriela Rep. Emmi de Jesus expressed dismay that it took long for the SC to decide on the petitions.
She said the delay in the decision also meant delaying justice for citizens who were “robbed and deceived” by Malacanang.
She added Aquino should account for DAP disbursements amounting to over P150B in 2011 and 2012.
De Jesus alleged that Aquino used the DAP to bribe lawmakers during the impeachment of former Chief Justice Renato Corona.
“It (DAP) validates accusations that he is indeed the Pork Barrel King.”
Bishop Felixberto Calang of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente said “the action of the High Court in stating the unconstitutionality of DAP is commendable. Consequently, the IFI strongly calls [for] accountability over those who are liable.”
It was Senator Jinggoy Estrada who first revealed the existence of DAP in a privilege speech last year in response to accusations that he, along with other lawmakers, had earned millions in kickbacks from the PDAF.
Estrada said Malacanang released amounts to a number of senators through DAP after the impeachment trial of Corona.
Estrada, along with Senators Bong Revilla Jr. and Juan Ponce Enrile, has been charged with plunder before the Sandiganbayan. (MindaNews)