SC puts off DAP ruling again

By Benjamin B. Pulta and Charlie V. Manalo
The Daily Tribune 

Delays fuel suspicions decision to favor Noy—Solon

Theodore-TeReporters waited with bated breath yesterday for the ruling of the Supreme Court (SC) on the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) fund where at least nine petitions challenging its constitutionality along with questions on the presidential lump sum pork amounting to some P1 trillion at President Aquino’s disposal. But they were disappointed at being greeted with the announcement from the SC spokesman, Theodore Te, that the decision has been put off once again,

It has been close to a year since the petitions were first lodged before the high court, yet to this day, the fate of Malacañang’s grip on its own pork barrel continues to hang on the balance still after yet another delay on the ruling on the petitions seeking to outlaw the DAP.

Te said the case was included in the agenda of the justices in their session yesterday, but they were not able to come up with a decision. It was the second time the high tribunal deferred ruling on this controversial case.

Last June 3, the DAP petitions were also included in the agenda but some justices asked for more time to decide.

Reliable court insiders told the Tribune that as of yesterday, there were already eight firm votes for the DAP to be ruled as unconstitutional, while five justices voted for the DAP to be declared constitutional.

The sources told the Tribune that the delay is being caused not by the DAP’s decision on the DAP’s unconstitutionality, but that the delay is mostly due to some justices wanting to have Aquino go scot-free by applying the “operative doctrine” which means that the acts committed by Aquino are to be upheld by the court, on the presumption of regularity, but that such acts become illegal after the DAP is declared unconstitutional.

The sources also implied that it is the five justices who are voting for the DAP’s constitutionality who are pushing for Aquino and his aides to get off without any sanctions against Aquino and without being accountable for their unconstitutional acts.

Gabriela Rep. Luzviminda Ilagan yesterday said the unnecessary delay in the Supreme Court’s (SC) decision on the petitions questioning the constitutionality of the Aquino administration’s Disbursement Acceleration Program only favors its architects and raises more doubts that a cover-up is being orchestrated for the President and his allies.

“Justice delayed is justice denied. “The longer it takes to decide on this issue, the stronger the suspicion of the people that again, there is some “hocus-pocus” (Palace manipulation) that is happening,” said Ilagan.

The Gabriela solon who is among the petitioners against DAP said there should be no reason for any further delay as the petitions have long been submitted for decision and the Constitution is explicit and leaves little room for discussion on the matter.

Section 25, Article VI of the Constitution states that, “No provision or enactment shall be embraced in the General Appropriations Bill unless it relates specifically to some particular appropriation therein. Any such provision or enactment shall be limited in its operation to the appropriation to which it relates.”

The Charter adds further that “No law shall be passed authorizing any transfer of appropriations; however the President, the President of the Senate, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, and the Heads of the Constitutional Commissions may, by law, be authorized to augment any item in the General Appropriations Law for their respective offices from savings in other items of their respective appropriations.”

“The Supreme Court’s dilly-dallying on Aquino’s DAP will serve only to fuel the people’s anger and the growing demand to make all those involved in the pork barrel scam accountable,” Ilagan said.

“This clamor for accountability spares no one, including President Aquino who signed the biggest disbursements in Malacañang,” she stressed.

Funds from the DAP, moreover, have been used by Aquino and his budget chief, Florencio “Butch” Abad, to bribe the members of Congress, both the Senate and the House, to impeach and convict then sitting Chief Justice Renato Corona, passing the funds given to the members of Congress, in the amounts of P50 million to P100 million, or a total of close to P2 billion in additional pork barrel, an act that can hardly be seen as done with the presumption of regularity.

Nine petitions against the DAP were filed last year by Greco Belgica, Augusto Syjuco, lawyers Jose Malvar Villegas Jr. and Manuelito Luna; Philippine Constitution Association (Philconsa); Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP); the militant Bayan Muna, Kabataan and Gabriela party-list groups; Confederation for Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees (Courage); and the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption.

Oral arguments heard the case last January where petitioners claimed the discretionary fund of the President violates the exclusive power of Congress to appropriate funds – just like in Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), which was declared unconstitutional by the high court last year.

The office of the solicitor general asked the high court to dismiss the petitions for being moot since DAP was already abolished by the office of the President.

Congress, represented by retired SC Justice Vicente Mendoza in the case, also asked the high court to dismiss all nine petitions for lack of jurisdiction.

In the hearing, the former SC justice contended that the petitioners failed to exhaust all other legal remedies before bringing the matter to the court.

He said the petitioners should have challenged the implementation of DAP first before the Commission on Audit or trial courts.

Aquino and Abad presented the DAP as a a stimulus package designed to fast-track public spending and push economic growth. This covers high-impact budgetary programs and projects which will be augmented out of the savings generated during the year and additional revenue sources.

Funds used for programs and projects identified through DAP were sourced from savings generated by the government, the realignment of which is subject to the approval of the President; as well as the Unprogrammed Fund that can be tapped when government has windfall revenue collections, e.g., unexpected remittance of dividends from the GOCCs and Government Financial Institutions (GFIs), sale of government assets, the Budget Department stated in its information on the DAP, which was a little known program that even the senators and congressmen were not made aware of.

The presidential bribery of the senators for their conviction vote was exposed by Sen, Jinggoy Estrada in a privilege speech but which he called the bribe an “incentive” to senators.

It was then that Abad quickly tried to cover up the bribery by claiming that certain senators who voted for acquittal of the then chief justice also got their share of the additional pork barrel funds.

The whole Abad DAP lie came crashing down after former Sen, Joker Arroyo, who had voted for acquittal denied that he had gotten any pork barrel funds, and that the pork that Abad claimed was given to Arroyo, was a congressional insertion approved by the Congress for some Makati Cty projects.

It was then that the DAP became the cause celebre, and part of the presidential pork, part of which was used by Aquino to bribe the senators into convicting the Chief Justice.

The congressmen who voted for the impeachment of the Chief Justice also got millions from Aquino and Abad, as did the House prosecution panel.

The Palace claimed the DAP funds came from savings, even when the claimed savings were allocated in the middle of the year, instead of the end of the year, to realize whether departments had funds left over.

Militant groups call for the abolition of the Disbursement Acceleration Program during an anti-pork rally at the Supreme Court yesterday. The SC has reset for the second time voting on petitions questioning the constitutionality of DAP. EDD GUMBAN/Philippine Star

Militant groups call for the abolition of the Disbursement Acceleration Program during an anti-pork rally at the Supreme Court yesterday. The SC has reset for the second time voting on petitions questioning the constitutionality of DAP. EDD GUMBAN/Philippine Star

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