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President hits SC, Part 2; warns of paralysis

MANILA, Philippines–President Aquino was just getting started.

The morning after openly challenging the Supreme Court, the President on Tuesday assailed the magistrates once again, this time warning that their decision against his Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) ran the “risk of putting our country’s development in a state of paralysis.”

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Speaking before local and international business leaders, including World Bank president Jim Yong Kim, Aquino gave a litany of reasons why he thought the high court erred in ruling that the DAP was unconstitutional.

The President described the decision as “deeply unsettling,” claiming it would have “a chilling effect on our economy—and consequently on millions of Filipinos.”

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“Unfortunately, the effects of the Supreme Court decision run the risk of putting our country’s development in a state of paralysis—or worse, reversing the massive progress we have already made,” he said.

Difficult to accept

“I find it difficult to accept their decision, when I know that we are right, and more importantly, that doing nothing means depriving so many Filipinos of opportunities to grow and prosper,” he added.

“I find it difficult to accept the decision of the Supreme Court, when it goes against the benefit our countrymen. In fact, I believe that any reasonable person confronted with the same dilemma would come up with the same solution—or even a better refinement of what we did.”

The President made it clear that “I bear no grudge or ill will against the Supreme Court.” But he again floated the possibility of a “collision between the executive and the judiciary,” which “might require the intervention of the legislature.

Serve the 98M Pinoys, too

“And we do not want this,” he said. “We want to work with our coequal branches of government, in serving the Filipino people. That is why, I still hold the hope that our colleagues in the Supreme Court never forget that, as they display the legal prowess and acumen that has served them well in their long careers, these abilities must also serve their 98 million countrymen.”

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Ruling removes flexibility

The last time Aquino went all-out against the Supreme Court was in 2011 and 2012 when he campaigned for the ouster of then Chief Justice Renato Corona, an appointee of then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. He replaced Corona with his own appointee, Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno, who, incidentally, joined 12 other magistrates in voting against the constitutionality of DAP practices.

Malacañang has until July 19 to file a motion for reconsideration, which Aquino said it would do despite the ruling that junked the DAP by a 13-0 vote.

He warned that the ruling “condemns us to a spiral of inefficiency, uncertainty and lack of confidence” because “no government official can be confident in bidding out programs and projects, when the threat of a lawsuit hangs over their heads.”

Aquino was questioning the high court’s position that the doctrine of operative fact “cannot apply to authors, proponents and implementers of the DAP, unless there are concrete findings of good faith in their favor by the proper tribunals determining their criminal, civil, administrative and other liabilities.”

“In the short term, the decision will have the effect of once again slowing down government spending. In the long term, it removes our flexibility to act effectively in response to changing market conditions, and seize, or even create opportunities in doing so,” he argued.

The President pointed to the country’s 6.3-percent growth in its gross domestic product from 2010 to 2013, comparing it to the average growth of 2.8 percent from 1990 to 1999 and 4.5 percent from 2000 to 2009.

“This is indeed a shame, especially when we have come so far,” he said of the court ruling.

“They say that for a country to lift itself out of poverty, it is necessary to have a growth rate consistent at 7 percent or more. We are getting there. Unfortunately, the effects of the Supreme Court decision run the risk of putting our country’s development in a state of paralysis—or worse, reversing the massive progress we have already made,” he added.

Previous DAP versions

In defending the DAP, the brainchild of Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, the President claimed his predecessors “all had their versions” of the same budget-pooling mechanism. He cited the old “Reserve Control Account and alternatively Overall Savings, which were used in part, to respond to the Asian financial crisis, and the fiscal crisis.”

“I should add: These former Presidents also exercised the authority to transfer appropriations or savings to other branches of government and even to constitutional commissions,” he argued. “Perhaps we are being questioned today simply because we have been truly transparent about it.”

Little was publicly known of the DAP until Sen. Jinggoy Estrada said senators who voted to convict Corona for fudging his statement of assets, liabilities and net worth in May 2012 received “incentives” ranging from P50 million to P100 million each in additional pork barrel allocations. Abad later confirmed the existence of the DAP.

Though vigorously defending the DAP, the President said he had suspended the implementation of DAP-funded projects “out of prudence.”

“With their [Supreme Court justices] decision, it seems as if no government official can be confident in bidding out programs and projects, when the threat of a lawsuit hangs over their heads,” he said, citing suspended projects such as “health centers, agricultural facilities, and other social services that would have redounded to the benefit” of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

‘Bewildered’

“Eventually, we may be able to find the funds for these projects. It would entail going to Congress, and requesting supplemental budgets—an already-lengthy process that may even be extended by obstructionists and oppositionists.”

Aquino said he was “bewildered” with the high court’s ruling, questioning the “logic” behind the justices saying that the “DAP redounded to a lot of good, but in the same breath, saying that as a method, it was bad.”

He said the ruling came to be purportedly because the high tribunal “did not so much as look at the Administrative Code of 1987, which, I should add is still constitutional in its entirety.”

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TAGS: Aquino, Aquino vs Supreme Court, Benigno Aquino III, Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), Supreme Court
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