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Palace denies enlisting Congress’ help vs SC

Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda: Clarification needed. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines–What is President Aquino up to in seeking a joint congressional resolution clarifying certain “definitions and ideas” in light of the Supreme Court’s decision against his Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP)?

Malacañang on Wednesday rejected speculations that the President was enlisting the support of congressmen to “gang up” on the magistrates.

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“No, no,” presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda told the Inquirer, saying a clarification was needed from Congress on such concepts as “savings” and when government could declare one.

Lacierda said a clarification could later allow executive agencies to proceed with implementing DAP-funded projects that had to be interrupted because of the high court’s ruling.

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For Malacañang, the matter of savings—which were pooled by Budget Secretary Florencio Abad and realigned to other projects through the DAP—is a subject of “statutory interpretation” requiring clarification from Congress.

Effect of law

Lacierda noted that a joint resolution “has the force and effect of law.”

“When a Supreme Court case defines something which is different from how the executive defines it, or defines something which is not correct, the legislature adopts (a resolution) to make sure that it is in compliance with either one or to remedy the situation,” he said in a press briefing.

In his State of the Nation Address on Monday, the President called on both chambers of Congress to pass a joint resolution “that will bring clarity to the definitions and ideas still being debated upon, and to the other issues that only you in the legislature—as the authors of our laws—can shed light on.”

Supplemental budget

He also announced that the Palace would submit a supplemental budget for 2014 “so that the implementation of our programs and projects need not be compromised.”

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Aquino earlier warned of the “chilling effect” created by the high court’s decision on public officials implementing DAP-funded projects “in good faith” prior to the ruling.

The Office of the Solicitor General later filed a motion for consideration, which also questioned the purported “bad faith” ascribed by the ruling on project implementers.

Lacierda said the proposed joint resolution and the appeal it filed in the Supreme Court were “not mutually exclusive.”

Doctrine of operative fact

“We’re using both approaches which are not entirely inconsistent with each other, which are, in fact, permissible under the Constitution and under the judicial processes and legislative processes,” he said.

A major point of contention for the Palace was the position of Associate Justice Arturo Brion incorporated in the decision. It says that “the doctrine of operative fact can apply only to the [programs and projects] that can no longer be undone, and whose beneficiaries relied in good faith on the validity of the DAP.”

“But [the doctrine] cannot apply to the 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,” according to the ruling.

The doctrine “nullifies the void law or executive act but sustains its effects,” the high court said.

The Volunteers against Crime and Corruption (VACC) and Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) said Wednesday that they would reply to the Palace MR once they had received the court’s July 22 order for the original DAP petitioners to respond to Malacañang’s appeal to the court’s July 1 ruling.

VACC founding president Dante Jimenez said he planned to go to the Supreme Court Thursday to ask for the records himself. Bayan Secretary General Renato Reyes said the group was already preparing its answer.

Greco Belgica’s camp received the copy of the court order on Tuesday, said his lawyer Harry Roque.

The high court had given the nine DAP petitioners 10 days to comment on the Palace motion.–With a report from Tarra Quismundo

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TAGS: Aquino, Benigno Aquino III, Congress, Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), Edwin Lacierda, joint congressional resolution, Supreme Court
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