By TYRONE A. VELEZ
DAVAO CITY – By challenging the Supreme Court, President Benigno Aquino III sounded like a Marcos who wanted things his way.
This was how Bayan Muna Partylist Rep. Carlos Zarate described Aquino’s speech Monday night defending the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) after it was ruled by the high court as unconstitutional.
Aquino went on a televised speech lasting 24 minutes, saying DAP brought the completion of electrification and school buildings in barangays on time.
The president also said brought out legal provisions to defend the DAP. In the end he gave a slight warning to the Supreme Court that the executive and judiciary should avoid going “head to head.”
“My message to the Supreme Court: We do not want two equal branches of government to go head to head, needing a third branch to step in to intervene. We find it difficult to understand your decision,” Aquino said.
The speech angered Zarate and other progressive groups which staged a simultaneous protest in San Pedro Street as the speech was shown in a large LED TV screen.
“What he said was an insult to the Supreme Court by challenging their decision. He does not respect the Supreme Court, the Philippine Constitution and the people,” said Zarate.
He said going by Aquino’s defense, he wants full control of other branches of government.
“He wants to be the judiciary, the legislative and the executive. He wants that he decides the budget, and implement the budget. He wants to castrate the (Congress’) power of the purse,” he added.
The controversial DAP is a financial scheme by budget secretary Francisco ‘Butch’ Abad that realigned national budget allocations anytime to subsidize government projects the president deemed necessary.
The Supreme Court ruled this move as unconstitutional, reminding Aquino that Congress alone determines the national budget and that savings from previous budgets should undergo Congress’ approval.
Aquino questioned the ruling, saying in his speech that projects could not wait for next year’s budget approval to take into place.
“With the Supreme Court’s decision, benefits would be delayed, because it would take until March of the following year to fulfill all the requirements regarding these funds; on top of this, it would all then have to go through another four to six months of bidding and procurement,” Aquino said.
“My conscience cannot bear this. I cannot accept that our countrymen will be exposed to danger because I let the process of bringing them assistance be unduly extended. Let us remember: The National Treasury belongs to our citizens,” he added.
But Zarate warned that Aquino is sounding like the dictator President Ferdinand Marcos.
“Marcos was like that, he was the one who interpreted the law, convened the legislative to make the laws,” he said. “He has the tendency, or rather, he seems to be becoming a dictator.”
Former Bayan Muna Representative Joel Virador also said Aquino should not use the people as justification to DAP.
“He is saying this is for the people, but it’s just tokenism. The truth is the country’s has not progressed with DAP. It only entrenches patronage politics with his allies,” Virador said.
Aquino defended that DAP is unlike PDAF which was siphoned to bogus non-government organizations (NGOs). But Virador said Aquino’s camp dangled DAP during the impeachment trial of Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona.
Pagbabago (Change) Movement convener Professor Aya Ragragrio said Aquino has not offered new arguments and his speech of defiance may actually make him more liable to face the people’s clamor to step down.
“The Supreme Court and many people have not agreed with his statements. We hope this now will galvanize the call for his impeachment, resignation of ouster for betraying the Filipino people,” said Ragragio.
Zarate added that Aquino’s defiance to the Supreme Court decision is enough ground to impeach him.