'Aquino off the hook until SC says DAP is unconstitutional'
MANILA, Philippines – Until the Supreme Court declares the releases under the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) unconstitutional, President Benigno Aquino III may not be held culpable over it.
His budget secretary, Florencio Abad, can be held directly accountable, however.
These conclusions were made during the Philippine Medical Association's weekly Kapihan Forum at Manila Hotel on Monday, October 7.
Former Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno, a professor of economics at the University of the Philippines, maintained what he had said in various interviews: DAP releases are unconstitutional because the funds involved are not budget savings that the President is empowered to re-align under the Constitution.
Nilo Divina, dean of the University of Santo Tomas College of Law, was not as definite about it. He said questions on DAP may only be a matter of interpretation of the law.
“If there’s a divergence of views over it, then it may not amount to a culpable violation of the law,” Divina said.
The controversy over DAP surfaced following allegations by Senator Jinggoy Estrada that additional funds were released to senators as to entice them to vote to convict impeached Chief Justice Renato Corona, whom the President badly wanted to remove from office.
What lawmakers and the public initially thought was part of the Priority Development Assistance Fund turned out to have come from re-aligned funds not previously approved by Congress and put into effect by a mere budget department memorandum.
The Aquino administration created the DAP in October 2011, supposedly to resolve the then sluggish spending of the administration.
A total of P137.3 billion has been released under DAP, P82.5 billion of which was spent in 2011 and P54.8 billion in 2012.
Malacañang had already announced that they may discontinue fund releases through DAP since the country has picked up on its public spending.
Diokno added that, at the very least, Abad may be held accountable.
“Hindi gagalaw ito unless hindi siya (Secretary Abad) nagprepare ng memo para sa Presidente,” Diokno said. (The DAP would not have happened without Abad preparing a memo for the President to sign.)
In the forum, Diokno maintained his previous stand that the DAP serves as “a budget within a budget,” and is therefore illegal. – Rappler.com