Ombudsman to probe DAP releases as calls mount for heads to roll

 Source: GMA News

Conchita-Carpio-Morales.2(Updated 9:55 p.m.) The Office of the Ombudsman will look into the Aquino administration’s controversial Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) after the Supreme Court declared some of its portions unconstitutional.

In a statement on Wednesday, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales said her office would create a panel of field investigators that would look into the DAP transactions “to see if any crime or offense has been committed by involved public officials.”

“In light of the Supreme Court’s decision on the DAP case, we are initiating an investigation into the matter,” Morales said.

Morales made the statement amid rising calls for government officials who implemented the DAP to be held accountable.

Cubao Bishop Honesto Ongtioco said heads must roll now and “those who promoted and used” the controversial funds should be held accountable.

“I believe in the decision of the SC. I’m sure it was thought [of] and deliberated well,” Ongtioco said in a report on the news site of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines.

Marbel Bishop Dinualdo Gutierrez echoed Ongtioco’s statement.

“All those involved should answer,” Marbel Bishop Dinualdo Gutierrez said.

In the same report, CBCP president Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas said the ruling “challenges of all us to be vigilant against graft,” and that “we must be a nation of laws and citizenry of integrity.”

Most guilty’

Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago said Budget Secretary Florencio Abad and some senators should be charged with malversation in the wake of the Supreme Court decision.

In a press conference, Santiago said Abad seemed to be the “most guilty” in the DAP issue, since he headed the department that supposedly encroached on Congress’ powers.

Santiago said Abad should just quit his post and take up the cudgels for President Benigno Aquino III after the high court ruling on the DAP.

“My gentle recommendation is just resign. It will show the public that you are contrite… If only to spare the President of further embarrassment, the secretary has to resign,” she said.

Santiago added that the 20 senators who received DAP funds should also be charged with malversation, even if they did not have an idea that they used allocations from unconstitutional acts.

Return funds

She also supported calls for her colleagues to return the P1.1-billion DAP funds allocated to them in 2012.

“If you’re a lawmaker, ignorance is not an excuse. Dapat chineck mo kung saan nanggaling ito at saka ano ba ang guidelines dito,” Santiago said.

The militant group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN) said Aquino himself was accountable for the fund releases under the DAP.

Citing the executive branch’s submissions before the Supreme Court, BAYAN said Aquino approved the release of more than P170 billion under the DAP from 2011 to 2013.

“We have proof. Aquino is accountable for DAP because he signed and approved the release of billions of pesos from 2011-13,” BAYAN secretary-general Renato Reyes said in a statement.

The Kabataan party-list group, a group allied with BAYAN, on Tuesday said that it will initiate an impeachment complaint against Aquino.

Nothing criminal

Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda indicated there was nothing criminal with the DAP even after it was struck down as unconstitutional.

“How does one regret a decision to help thousands of our countrymen?” Lacierda said during a press briefing.

“You seem to equate constitutionality with criminality, those are two different things the basic question is nawaldas ba yung pera?,” Lacierda said.

DAP is a discretionary fund that hit the headlines late last year after Sen. Jinggoy Estrada bared that several senators received P50 million to P100 million in 2012 after the conviction of then-Chief Justice Renato Corona by the Senate impeachment court.

The Aquino government said the fund came from “unobligated allotments of all agencies with low level of obligations as of June 30, 2012 both for continuing and current allotment” that President Benigno Aquino III ordered withdrawn on June 27, 2012.

Ombudsman Act of 1989

Citing Republic Act 6770 or the Ombudsman Act 1989, the Ombudsman said it has the power to initiate an investigation even without a lodged complaint on any “act or omission of any public officer or employee, office or agency, when such act or omission appears to be illegal, unjust, improper or inefficient.”

“The law also grants the Ombudsman the power to investigate any serious misconduct in office allegedly committed by impeachable officers, but only for the purpose of filing a verified complaint for impeachment, if warranted,” it added.

Among the “acts and practices” under the DAP that were declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court are:

– the withdrawal of unobligated allotments from the implementing agencies, and the declaration of the withdrawn unobligated allotments and unreleased appropriations as savings prior to the end of the fiscal year and without complying with the statutory definition of savings contained in the General Appropriations Act;

– the cross-border transfers of the savings of the executive to augment the appropriations of other offices outside the executive; and

– the funding of projects, activities and programs that were not covered by any appropriation in the GAA.

The high court said these acts violated Section 25 (5) Article VI of the 1987 Constitution and the doctrines of separation of powers. —Amanda Fernandez/KBK/NB, GMA News

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