Ombudsman probing Aquino, Abad on DAP
President Aquino and Budget Secretary Florencio Abad are under investigation by the Office of the Ombudsman in connection with the government’s discontinued Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).
Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales told lawmakers on Tuesday her office began the investigation motu proprio, or on its own initiative, after the Supreme Court struck down as unconstitutional the DAP, a stimulus program launched in 2011 to pump-prime the economy.
She named President Aquino, Abad and “others who appear to have been involved in the conception of the DAP,” as possible respondents if the inquiry should find sufficient basis for filing a case in the Sandiganbayan.
“All are, pending a fact-finding investigation, and a report is under evaluation by the Ombudsman,” Morales said at the hearing of the proposed P1.77-billion budget of her office in the House appropriations committee.
Presidential spokesman Herminio Coloma Jr. said that while the Ombudsman had the power to investigate the President, no suit could be filed against him during his term of office. Abad said he would cooperate in the inquiry to put a closure to the issue.
Asked by Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate if the results of the DAP probe would be made public, Morales said her office did not allow the release of investigation reports.
“Either we approve or disapprove it. If we approve it, then, a case is filed,” Morales said. If not, that means “the case is closed and terminated,” she said. “That’s why we need ample time to review jurisprudence in order to make sure that everything we do is in accordance with the law.”
At the behest of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), the DAP was launched in 2011 to stimulate the slowing economy.
But it sparked a controversy when Abad admitted the existence of the little-known savings impounding mechanism in reply to a privilege speech by Sen. Jinggoy Estrada charging that pork barrel funds were used as “incentive” in the impeachment and subsequent conviction of Chief Justice Renato Corona.
In July last year, the high court struck down unconstitutional practices in the DAP, such as the cross-border transfer of funds, the declaration of savings before the end of the fiscal year and their realignment for items not found in the budget law.
At the hearing, Morales acknowledged that her office had prioritized “high-profile” cases, or those involving big amounts of money or officials occupying high positions.
She said the office was trying to restructure their processes such that the number of cases reaching the Ombudsman would be substantially reduced.
“The trouble is that the mandate of the Ombudsman is too extensive that any complaint from any Tom, Dick or Harry has to be acted upon for any violation that has bearing on the office of the respondent,” she said.
Morales also reported her office’s accomplishments.
For 2014, the Office of the Ombudsman resolved 6,236 criminal and administrative cases from a combined workload of 14,951, leaving a balance of 8,715 as of January 2015.
However, its budget for 2016 was slashed by the DBM from the agency’s proposed P2.8 billion to P1.77 billion, the current budget.
Some of the lawmakers, including Abakada Rep. Jonathan dela Cruz and Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, proposed restoring a portion of the Ombudsman’s proposed budget.
Rodriguez, for instance, proposed adding another P500 million to the Ombudsman, as a compromise, instead of restoring the entire budget originally proposed by the office. DJ Yap
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