By Aurea Calica
The Philippine Star
‘SC also transferred P1.865 B’
MANILA, Philippines – President Aquino resumed his tirade against the Supreme Court (SC) yesterday even as he allayed fears of a constitutional crisis.
Aquino devoted much of his speech during the commemoration of the 150th birth anniversary of Apolinario Mabini, the brains of the Philippine revolution, to the legal battle being fought by Malacañang at the SC.
Reiterating arguments in a motion for reconsideration, Aquino stressed there was nothing wrong with his Disbursement Acceleration Program, and said similar acts by the SC bolstered Malacañang’s belief that the DAP was in accordance with the law.
He stressed that Malacañang was not defying the tribunal even as he cited the SC’s own DAP-like cross-border fund transfers involving P1.865 billion for projects of the executive branch.
“The truth was that we followed not just the main points of the decision, we also moved to consider all the opinions included in it,” the President said, referring to the SC ruling last July 1 declaring certain acts under DAP unconstitutional.
He said the filing of an appeal showed the Palace’s adherence to legal processes.
With the SC decision, the executive branch had to suspend some projects for lack of funds and seek a supplemental budget from Congress, he said.
In July 2012, Aquino said the SC utilized its P1.865-billion savings to augment funds for the construction of the Manila Hall of Justice. The truth was that a groundbreaking ceremony was held for that building in August of the same year, he said.
“The only problem is that the budget item for this project was under the Department of Justice. It is clear: Judiciary funds were allocated for a project that the executive was supposed to be doing,” Aquino said.
He said the high tribunal again sought cross-border transfer of another P100 million for the construction of the Malabon Hall of Justice.
The two cases were cited by Malacañang in its motion for reconsideration of the unanimous SC ruling.
“We don’t see anything wrong with this because it will speed up the justice system in the country. They took back their request in December 2013, when the issue on DAP had become hot,” the President said.
“If you notice: In these examples, the executive did not make any offer. We did not intend to meddle with the power or duties of another branch of government. We did not ask for anything in return,” Aquino said.
“The only question for us is if it will be beneficial to the people. If it is, then why would we refuse the opportunity to speed up the delivery of services to our bosses?”
In declaring DAP unconstitutional, the SC said the executive cannot pool savings and enforce cross-border transfer of funds as this would usurp Congress’ power of the purse.
In his speech, Aquino reiterated what he called the “chilling effect” of the SC decision as new laws or guidelines would be “retroactive,” meaning they would be judged by rules not yet present. “How do you abide by something that is just forthcoming?”
He said there must be presumptions of “good faith” or pure intentions in implementing projects deemed beneficial to the people so as not to tie the hands of officials approving or signing documents for certain programs.
“But like what Abraham Lincoln said, ‘You can please some of the people some of the time; all of the people some of the time; some of the people all of the time; but you can never please all the people all the time.’ It is natural that some will question our actions,” Aquino said.
The President said that with the SC ruling, members of the executive branch would have second thoughts about carrying out vital programs because of the absence of presumption of good faith.
In a public bidding, for example, Aquino said the SC decision would give losing bidders an excuse to make damaging claims against the department or agency that awarded the project.
“The poor one who made the decision would now have to defend himself. How could you work if cases were all that you had to take care of,” Aquino said.
He again enumerated the projects funded under the DAP that benefited the people.
In his speech, Aquino also said it is his obligation to make the people understand the issues, especially the implication of the SC ruling against DAP.
He said he and his administration were trying to live by the examples set by Mabini, often referred to as “the Sublime Paralytic” and “the Brains of the Revolution” against Spain.
He said Mabini had played a key role in giving the people the power to elect their officials. Aquino said Mabini helped organize the Malolos Congress or the first national assembly that elected Emilio Aguinaldo as first president of the republic.
The President also praised Mabini for his genuine sense of public service, noting how the “Brains of the Revolution” had shunned the trappings of power and led a simple life.
DAP for education
As Aquino continued to defend DAP, the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) reported yesterday that state universities and colleges benefited from P4.28 billion released under the program in 2011 and 2012.
“CHED hopes that with the continued increase of government support to our SUCs, they would be able to sustain the reforms and development efforts initiated from the 2011 DAP investment,” CHED Chairman Patricia Licuanan said.
She said the University of the Philippines and the Mindanao State University (MSU) systems received more than half of the investment at P1.38 billion and P1.04 billion, respectively.
CHED said the program funded the renovation of UP-Diliman’s National Science Complex, renovation of Palma Hall pavilions and various residence halls.
UP-PGH was able to purchase urgently needed medical equipment such as MRI and CT Scanners, Licuanan said.
MSU-Marawi, she said, was able to implement 14 high-impact infrastructure projects such as the three-story Science and Technology Center building and the College of Information and Technology building.
She also cited 40 research and development projects funded through DAP.
“These projects are expected to produce research and development technologies to benefit more than 400 poor barangays,” Licuanan said.
In Bacolod City, Negros Occidental Gov. Alfredo Marañon Jr. yesterday said more local officials in his province have signified their support for Aquino and DAP.
“Of all the presidents in the country, PNoy helped Negros Occidental the most,” he said.
“This DAP (controversy) should not stop him from aggressively pushing for projects and bring more progress to the country,” Vice Gov. Eugenio Jose Lacson said.
‘Let it be, let it go’
Meanwhile, Armed Forces chief Lt. Gen. Gregorio Catapang said two songs released decades apart should remind his men of the military’s position on the DAP issue – “Let it be” of the Beatles and “Let it Go,” a song from Disney’s animated film Frozen.
“The Supreme Court ruled that it (DAP) is unconstitutional. So let it be. It’s like the song of the Beatles,” he said during his visit to the 1st Air Division Headquarters in Clark last Tuesday.
Perhaps to appeal to young officers in the audience, Catapang said the military’s reaction to the court’s decision on DAP should be to “let it go.”
“For the youngsters, the song is ‘Let it go’ but I do not know how to sing it,” he said.
“That is the ruling and we can’t do anything about it. But this is part of the dynamics of democracy. Let the legal experts share their ideas and opinions while the executive branch awaits the decision on its motion for reconsideration,” he said.
“We are in good hands. Our President is taking good care of us so let us help him because he will be giving another SONA (State of the Nation Address),” he said.
Catapang noted that the military was one of the beneficiaries of DAP funds. He expressed optimism that the three branches of government would meet eye to eye on the issue.
“We should remain professional and non-partisan. We should allow the democratic process to take its course.” Alexis Romero, Helen Flores, Danny Dangcalan