Ombudsman orders Aquino to comment on DAP appeal
The Office of the Ombudsman ordered former President Benigno Aquino III on Thursday to respond to an appeal by progressive activists on its March 3 resolution clearing him from any culpability over the outlawed Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).
Aquino, including former Budget Secretary Florencio Abad and Undersecretary Mario Relampagos, were directed to submit their comment within 15 days of the receipt of the order, the Ombudsman’s media bureau said.
Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales earlier cleared Aquino but said she found probable cause against Abad for usurpation of legislative powers, as DAP effectively redefined “savings” as provided for by the 2012 General Appropriations Act (GAA) passed by Congress.
The lack of explanation on why Aquino was absolved of criminal liability was seen as an “attempt to shield” the former President who appointed Morales to the position in 2011.
Complainants led by Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate questioned why the Ombudsman ignored Aquino’s own DAP-related issuances in resolving their criminal complaint.
“Glaring is the lack of mention with respect to Aquino,” a March 13 motion for reconsideration filed on their behalf by the National Union of People’s Lawyers.
They said Aquino approved DAP in October 2011 and Abad’s request to withdraw and pool the unutilized funds for the first half of 2012.
For them, National Budget Circular No. 541, the issuance cited by the Ombudsman resolution, merely confirmed Aquino’s prior actions and Abad could not have issued it without the President’s approval.
“The decision, in its attempt to shield Aquino, mentioned only NBC 541 apparently as the only document/act which ‘unduly modified, expanded the meaning of savings under the GAA,’” the appeal stated.
The Supreme Court in July 2014 declared certain budgetary practices under DAP unconstitutional, granting the petition by several personalities including Neri Colmenares.
The outlawed practices include the cross-border transfer of funds and the declaration of savings before the end of the fiscal year in order to realign them for items not contained in the budget law passed by Congress.
Another anti-DAP petitioner, losing senatorial candidate Greco Belgica, sought Morales’ disbarment, but his complaint was thrown out by the Supreme Court because the Ombudsman has legal immunity.
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