The Supreme Court ruled in 2014 and reaffirmed in 2015 that DAP is unconstitutional. However, government executives who authored and implemented it have not yet been made to account for it until today.
By MARYA SALAMAT
MANILA – The partylist group Bayan Muna is not about to let former Pres. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino off the hook in the matter of the 72-billion peso Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP). In a statement today, March 8, Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate said it is highly unacceptable why Aquino has been spared from indictment when his very signature appears on the DAP memo.
The Office of the Ombudsman came out with a decision this week on the complaint filed by Bayan Muna and various other progressive groups in July last year. The complainants wanted to charge former President Aquino and former Budget Sec. Florencio Abad with technical malversation, usurpation of legislative powers and violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act because of the DAP.
In the Office of the Ombudsman’s decision this week, it found probable cause for usurpation of powers but only against former Budget Secretary Abad. Since the latter is no longer with the government, his punishment of three-month suspension translates to just being asked to return the three months’ equivalent of his salary as Budget Secretary under Aquino.
“Bitin ang decision ng Ombudsman dahil dapat kasama si Pres.Aquino sa dapat kasuhan,” (The Ombudsman decision is still wanting because they should have also indicted President Aquino), said Bayan Muna Rep. Zarate.
Former President Aquino has consistently defended the DAP, a fact which Rep. Zarate said clearly pointed to his authorship of the DAP, aside from the DAP memo bearing Aquino’s signature.
Through the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) billions of pesos of public funds were named as “savings” and diverted across government agencies to fund projects, activities, and programs not existing under the appropriations law. This, on top of the president’s already having the “biggest pork of all.”
Yearly, about half of the Philippine national budget was not at all studied or debated about in the budget proceedings because these are lump sums under automatic appropriations, unprogrammed funds, and SPFs (special purpose funds) at the discretion of a few.
DAP and the bigger problem of lump sums had galvanized the million people march and protest actions in Luneta and Makati during the Aquino administration.
DAP a serious case
The Supreme Court ruled in 2014 and reaffirmed in 2015 that DAP is unconstitutional. However, government executives who authored and implemented it have not yet been made to account for it until today. Worse, as Kabataan Partylist Rep. Sarah Elago found during the budget deliberation late last year, there are indications in the national budget even after the SC ruling that loopholes are being inserted in the General Appropriations Act to facilitate DAP-like malversation.
During the Aquino administration, Bayan Muna said, Aquino avoided answering impeachment complaints on his illegal DAP “by using the tyranny of numbers of the Liberal Party coalition” at the time.
Now that Aquino is no longer president, Bayan Muna hoped he and his cohorts in the Liberal Party would be made to answer the people’s legitimate complaints of malversation and corruption.
In September last year, when the Ombudsman started acting on the complaint filed by Bayan Muna and other groups two months before, the groups expressed trust that the Ombudsman, although appointed by Aquino, will keep the impartiality and independence of the Office.
Zarate said in a previous statement there is no way that Aquino can be absolved of accountability because DAP is a blatant case of malversation, illegal and unconstitutional as ruled by the Supreme Court. This week he announced that they will definitely file a Motion for Reconsideration once they officially receive a copy of the decision. In the meantime, his group urged the Ombudsman to restudy the case.