Why DAP is unconstitutional

By Nestor Mata
Malaya

Supreme-Court-CJ-SerenoSOON after the Supreme Court justices voted unanimously to declare the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or congressional lump sum appropriations as unconstitutional, many in legal, political, media, congressional, and judicial circles wondered whether all those same magistrates would strike down the Development Acceleration Fund (DAF) or presidential lump sum funds also as illegal. And in such an event, would this pave the way for the impeachment of President Aquino?

First of all, is the DAP unconstitutional? We can find the answer in the November 19 decision of the SC magistrates, who voted 14-0 in ruling to bar the PDAF or the legislative pork barrel, which, like the DAP, constituted lump sum funds in the national budget. So, since there’s already such a ruling on the legality of lump sum appropriations, then one can clearly see that the DAP violated the Constitution, too.

Alas, that’s not exactly how all the justices saw it, as one may glean in their separate concurring opinions. While they struck down the pork barrel system as unconstitutional, some of them were divided on the legality of lump sum funds.

Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, who’s the most senior of the 14-member high tribunal, took the position that all lump sum appropriations in the budget are illegal. He cited Sections 35 and 23 of the Administrative Code which do not authorize lump sum appropriations in the General Appropriations Act. “The President has a constitutional duty to submit to Congress only a line-item National Expenditure Program (NEP) without lump sum expenditures, while Congress has a constitutional duty to enact only a line item GAA without lump sum appropriations,” Justice Carpio said. Associates justices Teresita Leonardo-De Castro and Robert Abad concurred with Carpio.

Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno, who was President Aquino’s appointee to the top post in the tribunal, countered Carpio’s position. She opined that the Administrative Code itself speaks of how to deal with lump sum appropriations, which implies there are legal forms of these kinds of fund. And she said that a ruling on other lump sum funds in general “could be premature and confusing.” Two associate justices, Arturo Brion and Marvic Leonen agreed with the Chief Justice.

The other question that has been raised is whether President Aquino will face impeachment proceedings in the event that the DAP is deemed unconstitutional. If this happens, lawmakers belonging to an opposition bloc in Congress reportedly plan to file an impeachment case against him. “The DAP has no legal leg to stand one,” they say. “The constitutional provision on the realignment of savings within the office of the President and the impoundment provision in the GAA on condition of uncontrolled budgetary deficits are not applicable.” That is why, they pointed out, Aquino may have committed impeachable offenses of culpable violation of the Constitution as well as betrayal of public trust over DAP.

Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, a well- known political ally of the President and the one who conceived the DAP as a presidential pork barrel scheme, pretentiously admitted the possibility of such an impeachment complaint if
DAP is declared unconstitutional. But he quickly said a favorable ruling by the high tribunal would “affirm our position that the DAP was a good and innovative measure to get the economy going” and that at this stage the economy has expanded, and now “we don’t need the DAP anymore.”

Well, even before the court could sit down en banc to decide with finality whether DAP is constitutional or not, there are already speculations that the vote will be 10-3, with one abstention, ruling it unconstitutional, just like the PDAF.

When and if this comes to pass, then and only then can we, all Filipinos, rejoice and welcome the resuscitation of our tainted Constitution and the restoration of our mangled democratic system!

***

Even before the worst of Super Typhoon Yolanda’s consequences in eastern and central Visayan Islands are past, there is urgent need for all Filipinos, especially our political leaders, who were caught unprepared for this scale of the monster storm’s assaults, to get really ready for more to come in the future, particularly in getting coastal communities out of harm’s way. The Philippines is an archipelago spread out over 7,100 islands.

The Western Pacific, according to many meteorological experts, has the highest frequency of tropical typhoons and cyclones north of the Equator. They say that the average number of such tropical storms a year may not have risen significantly when measured over several decades, but the severity of individual events has been increasing because of rising seas and air temperatures. Sea levels in the region have been rising.

For cities such as Manila, they warned, the risks are grave, since the city has been sinking because of the extraction of groundwater and the weight of foundations. It all increases the risk of lethal flooding.

And so, as the old saying goes, forewarned is to be forearmed!

– See more at: http://www.malaya.com.ph/business-news/opinion/why-dap-unconstitutional#sthash.PE3xNV9w.dpuf


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