‘Palace plea on DAP ruling seditious’ | Inquirer News
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‘Palace plea on DAP ruling seditious’

By: - Reporter / @TarraINQ
/ 04:36 AM August 24, 2014

Malacañang Palace. FACEBOOK PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines—“Seditious or treasonous.”

This was how the Philippine Constitution Association (Philconsa) described Malacañang’s motion for the Supreme Court to reconsider the high court ruling last month that struck down as unconstitutional President Aquino’s Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).

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In a comment to Malacañang’s motion that it submitted last Friday, Philconsa asked the high court to reject the Palace appeal, saying it was only right for the high tribunal to red-flag the presidential economic stimulus fund for violations of budget regulations, usurping Congress’ exclusive power of the purse and violating constitutional provisions.

“To initiate or encourage any measure to subvert or undermine or spoil the enforcement of the unanimous decision of the Court applying and interpreting the Constitution, is seditious or treasonous. It is a mutiny against the Constitution,” Philconsa said.

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Philconsa, represented by its president Leyte Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez, former Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno and former National Treasurer Leonor Briones, asked the high court to instead direct the Commission on Audit to “recover unused funds” disbursed to recipient agencies and hold accountable for administrative, civil and criminal liabilities “persons who participated in the approval, release and use of funds.”

The pleading also asked the court to “direct the Integrated Bar of the Philippines and/or the National Bureau of Investigation … to investigate, unmask and list the persons involved and responsible for every fund released or used contrary to the Constitution, the GAAs (General Appropriations Act) and penal laws and file the appropriate criminal, civil and/or administrative actions.”

Good faith

Malacañang appealed the DAP ruling on July 18, contending that it was done in good faith and within the bounds of the law and established regulations, particulary the Administrative Code of 1987.

It also asserted that questions on the program’s legality brought before the court were “not justiciable” as the petitioners have “neither been injured nor threatened with injury as a result of DAP.”

Philconsa, an organization aimed at promoting, protecting and propagating the Constitution, was one of nine petitioners that won the high court’s favor in questioning the constitutionality of the DAP.

In its comment, Philconsa said that Malacañang’s reading of the budget law was “not binding to and cannot override the interpretation of the judiciary.”

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“Any conflict or question on the validity of the acts of legislative and/or executive departments is the domain of the judicial department, the highest authoritative and final arbiter of constitutional conflicts or issues. The judiciary is supreme in the exposition of the Constitution,” it said in its pleading.

Null and void

All government departments—in fact, everyone—must comply with how the judiciary interprets the Constitution, it said.

The association also said that Section 38 of the 1987 Administrative Code, which Malacañang had invoked in justifying the DAP, had been rendered null and void by a high court ruling in 1987.

The Administrative Code says the President “is authorized to suspend or otherwise stop further expenditure of funds allotted for any agency, or any other expenditure authorized in the General Appropriations Act, except for personal services appropriations used for permanent officials and employees.”

Lifted verbatim

Philconsa said the section was “lifted verbatim” from Section 43 of Presidential Decree 1177, which had been “declared contrary” to Section 25, Article 6 of the 1987 Constitution by a high court ruling in 1987.

The Supreme Court ruled that the provision “unduly overextends” the powers of the President and empowered him “to indiscriminately transfer funds from one department, bureaus, office or agency of the Executive Department to any program, project or activity of any department, bureau or office included in the General Appropriations Act (GAA) or approved after its enactment, without regard as to whether or not the funds to be transferred are actually savings in the item from which the same are to be taken, or whether or not the transfer is for the purpose of augmenting the item to which said transfer is to be made.”

Unconstitutional and illegal

Philconsa also said the “withdrawal, transfer and use of unobligated allotments and/or suspension or stoppage of funds already appropriated,” as the Palace had undertaken through DAP, “are unconstitutional and illegal.”

It said acts the President had committed through DAP—the transfer of GAA-approved funds to another agency, the declaration of unobligated allotments and unreleased appropriations as savings, cross-border transfers of funds, and the use of unprogrammed funds—were “tantamount to amending the GAAs and the 1987 Constitution” and were beyond his power.

Balances from national appropriations must “revert to the general fund” and is “not available for expenditure except by subsequent legislation,” it said.

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TAGS: Benjamin Diokno, DAP, Disbursement Acceleration Program, Ferdinand Martin Romualdez, Leonor Briones, Malacañang, Philconsa, Philippine Constitution Association
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