Abad must take rap for DAP releases—Santiago
In an unprecedented move, President Aquino invoked the Administrative Code to create the “patently illegal” Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), and for that alone, Malacañang should hale itself to court, former Sen. Joker Arroyo said on Sunday.
But given the President’s immunity from suit, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad Jr. should take the rap for his boss, Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago said.
Arroyo said the late President Corazon C. Aquino and former Presidents Fidel V. Ramos, Joseph Estrada and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo never invoked the Administrative Code, passed in 1987, to realign funds in the national budget.
But the second Aquino administration is now invoking the code to justify the DAP and fund releases to pet projects of senators and representatives after the conviction of Chief Justice Renato Corona in May 2012 “without regard for guidelines,” said Arroyo, who was executive secretary in the first Aquino administration.
“Twenty-four years after it was enacted, it’s now being used for a patently illegal program. Why is this administration so aggressive to use it without regard for guidelines, or standards? The four Presidents never used it,” the former senator said in an interview over dzBB.
Arroyo insisted that the DAP was illegal because its creation was never authorized by Congress or by law.
“There should be a law. No money shall be paid out of Treasury without congressional authority. Otherwise, we’re a dictatorship,” he said. “This is worse than the PDAF (Priority Development Assistance Fund) because there is no law.”
Popularity, he added, doesn’t give anyone license to commit a crime.
Malacañang said the releases were legal, citing provisions of the Constitution and the Administrative Code that authorized the President to realign savings.
Constitutional law expert Fr. Joaquin Bernas and former Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno said Malacañang was not authorized under the law to transfer items in the General Appropriations Act from one department to another.
Before filing charges against the next set of key players in the P10-billion pork barrel scam allegedly orchestrated by Janet Lim-Napoles, Malacañang officials should think about filing charges against themselves, Arroyo said.
“The problem with Malacañang is that it has no feelings. It doesn’t care whoever gets run over. That’s not good because each one of us has a reputation to protect. Now, they’ve been filing cases, but these have never been heard in court. They should file cases against themselves,” he said.
Bid to ‘deodorize’ DAP
The former senator earlier cried foul over an attempt by the administration to “deodorize” the DAP by including him among the recipients.
But in reality, he said he requested funds for projects from regular items in the General Appropriations Act, not from the DAP.
Following Sen. Jinggoy Estrada’s disclosure of the release of a P50-million “incentive” to senators, Abad confirmed that 20 senators received a total of P1.107 billion in additional pork after Corona’s trial.
In May 2012, the senators voted 20-3 to convict Corona of dishonesty in declaring his assets, liabilities and net worth. Senators Santiago, Arroyo and Ferdinand Marcos Jr. voted against his conviction.
After filing a flurry of charges against Napoles, senators, former President Arroyo and her Cabinet officials for the pork barrel scam and misuse of the Malampaya Fund, the Aquino administration has found itself fending off accusations that it is guilty too of political patronage by dangling DAP funds to lawmakers.
Santiago, for her part, said the executive department’s claim that it was the lawmakers who requested DAP funds did not exclude it from charges.
And since the President is immune from suit, she said Abad should instead be charged with the illegal DAP and PDAF releases, which she said were unconstitutional and constituted bribery.
“Absolutely, you could see the criminal mind of the one who thought of this,” she said of Abad when asked over dzBB whether the DAP releases were a bribe. “He didn’t think that this would be uncovered in the future …. The problem is, it was uncovered.”
Theoretically, Abad would have to face criminal liability “because this involves public funds, and it qualifies as a crime of malversation” under the Penal Code, Santiago said.
If it reaches the threshold amount of P50 million, then it qualifies as plunder, she added.
Even if the President is the brains behind the DAP “scam,” the former trial court judge said, “it is the secretary who has to assume criminal liability because you cannot sue the President criminally until his term is over.”
Sought for comment, deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said the government should first determine if the DAP was misused.
“What is important in this case is not just the fund, but if there is misuse,” she said over government-run dzRB. She said lawmakers’ nominations for projects to be funded under the DAP had been suspended, but DAP fund releases to agencies continued.
Santiago also cautioned the public against using antipork street protests to call for the President’s resignation. She said the two were different matters.
“Filipinos are against that. We don’t like illegal or unconstitutional mode of regime change in our country. We prefer to wait for the elections. So the power of the voice of these demonstrations will be diluted once these are used in politics,” she said.
Still best for reforms
In a statement on Sunday, Albay Gov. Joey Salceda ruled out any attempt to oust Aquino. “Any impeachment is dead on arrival,” he said.
“He remains to me the best chance our nation has for reforms to take root and bear fruits for this generation, or at least the next,” said Salceda, an economic adviser to the Arroyo administration.
“In fact, there remain more reasons to support him in this period of uncertainty,” he said.
Salceda said Aquino’s achievements in the past three years included “quality expenditures on the universal health program, P46 billion in conditional cash transfers, bottoms-up budgeting that increased the Economic Development Fund (EDF) of local governments across the country, the K to 12 program that puts the country’s basic education on international standards and disaster risk reduction and management program.”
It is also on Aquino’s watch that major social policies have been implemented, he said, such as the higher sin tax law and the reproductive health law.
However, Salceda said, the “Filipino public, especially the long-suffering masses, the vocal urban middle class and the intelligentsia, must engage him and his team to invest his political capital in accelerating infrastructure, especially for tourism connectivity and countryside and rural development.”—With a report from Mar S. Arguelles, Inquirer Southern Luzon
Originally posted: 2:29 pm | Sunday, October 6th, 2013
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