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Lawyers’ group insists Aquino, Abad liable for DAP

/ 11:00 AM March 14, 2017
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Former President Benigno Aquino III. FILE PHOTO

The National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) appealed the dismissal by the Ombudsman of the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) case of former president Benigno Aquino III.

In its motion for reconsideration, NUPL said the Ombudsman erred in not finding probable cause against Aquino and his budget secretary Florencio “Butch” Abad for technical malversation under the Revised Penal Code and violations of Section 3(e) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

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The DAP was a system of realigning savings to other agencies in a bid to stimulate the economy. It was perceived as President Aquino’s pork barrel fund. The Supreme Court declared as unconstitutional some practices under DAP.

READ: Ombudsman: Aquino, Abad under probe over DAP | SC modifies ruling against DAP, partly grants gov’t MR

NUPL said the Ombudsman erred in saying that Aquino and Abad were mere “policy makers” of the DAP and not “accountable public officers.”

Technical malversation under the Revised Penal Code is a criminal offense against public officers who use a public fund or property for any public use other than for which they were appropriated for by law or ordinance.

“The roles of Aquino and Abad could not be discounted as mere ‘policy makers’ of the DAP scheme. Rather, the policy direction chosen by respondents are the raison d’être of the DAP,” NUPL said.

READ: Graft raps vs Aquino, Abad over DAP dropped

“Thus, it is error for the Honorable Office of the Ombudsman to dismiss their participation as mere ‘policy makers;’ their acts are evidence to the fact that they are indeed the administrators of the entire national budget,” it added.

NUPL also appealed the Ombudsman’s finding that Aquino and Abad “did not apply public funds to other public purposes” and that “the issuance and approval of memoranda and budget circulars, in a strict sense, cannot be equaled with application of public funds under the statute.”

NUPL said there was a logical leap in the Ombudsman’s decision, because while it denied the second element of technical malversation of applying the public fund to some other public use, the Ombudsman ruled that “respondents declared unobligated allotments and unreleased appropriations as ‘savings’ and directed the application of these funds to programs, projects and activities different from those listed in the General Appropriations Act.”

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“Thus, while claiming that Aquino and Abad did not ‘apply’ public funds, the Decision nevertheless admits that Respondents directed their application. Herein lies the flaw in the assailed Decision’s logic,” NUPL said.

READ: ‘Letting Aquino off the hook for DAP screams impunity’

NUPL said the Ombudsman also erred in finding the declaration of savings under DAP as irrelevant in the finding of probable cause for technical malversation because premature declaration of savings did not consummate the offense.

“Premature declaration of savings is merely the first step in the consummation of the offense of Technical Malversation, which was consummated upon application of the public fund,” NUPL said.

NUPL also found irrelevant the Ombudsman’s finding that Aquino and Abad had “legal authority to transfer funds” under the Administrative Code and the 2011 and 2012 General Appropriations Act, which contained provisions that “gave the President blanket authority to approve the use of any savings in the regular appropriations in the GAAs for programs, projects and activities of any department, office or agency…”

NUPL said existence of legal authority is not an essential element of the crime of technical malversation.

“By directing the application of public funds, Aquino and Abad are the clear masterminds or authors of the crime. They are thus principals by direct participation in the crime of technical malversation,” NUPL said.

The NUPL also appealed the dismissal of the graft case against Aquino and Abad by the Ombudman, which found no evident bad faith or gross inexcusable negligence because the DAP was “motivated by a good purpose to spur economic growth and boost the national economy.”

NUPL said it did not agree with the Ombudsman’s finding that there was no bad faith on the part of Aquino because when he was senator he filed a bill seeking to limit executive influence on the General Appropriations Act and that Aquino knew beforehand that “acts of tinkering with the annual GAA and fiscal dictatorship are contrary to the Constitution.”

“On the contrary, complainants ascribe the highest standards to them, especially to the Chief Executive,” NUPL said.

Lastly, NUPL also noted that the Ombudsman did not even mention Aquino’s name in dismissing the complaint for usurpation of legislative powers, of which only Abad was indicted.

READ: Abad indicted for usurpation of powers over DAP 

The Ombudsman indicted Abad for the offense due to his issuance of National Budget Circular 541, which “expanded the meaning of savings under the GAA” which was “beyond his authority since this is a power reserved to Congress.”

“The decision made an exhaustive discussion as to the existence of probable cause for the crime of usurpation of legislative powers as against respondent Abad. However glaring is the lack of mention with respect to Aquino,” NUPL said.

This despite the fact that the Ombudsman in its decision “points to the role of Aquino in the commission of this particular offense,” NUPL said, citing the facts of the case such as the approval by Aquino of the DAP.

“Aquino, by approving the various DAP issuances, directly participated in the commission of the offense,” NUPL said.

NUPL also appealed the Ombudsman’s indictment against Abad of simple misconduct, maintaining that Abad should have been administratively liable for grave misconduct due to Abad’s authorship of the DAP which shows his “willful intent to violate the law.”

It added that since Abad was indicted of usurpation of legislative powers, “the same necessarily qualifies his misconduct as grave.” CBB

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TAGS: Benigno Aquino III, DAP, Florencio Abad, news, Ombudsman, technical malversation
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