4th impeach raps vs Aquino scrutinizes 'hidden pork'
MANILA, Philippines (3rd UPDATE) – A group of public school teachers and employees led by ACT Teachers Representative Antonio Tinio and National Artist for Literature Bienvenido Lumbera filed the 4th impeachment complaint against President Benigno Aquino III on Monday, August 11, over "hidden pork barrel."
The complaint was received by the Office of the Secretary General of the House of Representatives but has yet to be verified by Secretary General Marilyn Barua-Yap, who is out of town. An unverified impeachment complaint can't be referred to the committee for deliberations.
The House plenary endorsed 3 previously filed verified complaints to the committee on justice Monday afternoon. It remains to be seen whether this impeachment complaint would still be considered in the deliberations.
Once impeach raps have been referred to the committee, the next complaint may only be filed and considered one year after based on the rules.
Complainants allege that Aquino committed betrayed public trust and violated the Constitution by perpetuating "hidden, informal practices" where lawmakers still have access and entitlements to lump sum funds from the abolished Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) even if the amount has been realigned to 6 government agencies in the 2014 national budget in the aftermath of the multi-billion-peso pork barrel scam.
The Supreme Court declared the PDAF scheme and other lump sum discretionary funds for lawmakers as unconstitutional in 2013, banning legislators from participating in the post-enactment stages of the budget execution.
By the time the High Court made decision, the House of Representatives had already abolished the PDAF and realigned P25.2 billion (about $569 million) worth of funds intended for 6 government agencies: the Department of Health, Commission on Higher Education, Department of Education, Department of Labor and Employment, Department of Public Works and Highways, Department of Social Welfare and Development.
Complainants, however, said statements made by officials of at least 3 government agencies that received the realigned funds reveal that lawmakers still have access to such lump sum amounts.
One of the primary evidence in the complaint is an audio recording of an executive session conducted by the House committee on appropriations with Commission on Higher Education chair Secretary Patricia Licuanan. Executive sessions are closed to the media and confidential.
It also includes an audio recording of Health Undersecretary Janette Garin in a May 20 briefing with members of the House of Representatives to discuss the DOH medical assistance program.
"Dito rin kaharap niya ang mga kongresista at siya rin malinaw na malinaw na sinabi niya, 'Ang perang nasa DOH, actually, pera ninyo. Kayo ang magtatakda kung paano gagamitin.' Kaya idinetalye niya kung paano 'yung mekanismo na pag nagre-rekomenda ang congressman, maglalabas ng pera. Malinaw na malinaw na labag sa batas at betrayal of public trust," Tinio said.
(In this recording she was also facing congressmen and she said very clearly, 'The money that is in DOH is actually your money. You should be the ones to dictate how it should be used.' That's why she discussed in detail how the mechanism works when a congressman recommends a patient or a project. This is a clear violation of the law and a betrayal of public trust.)
Also included as evidence are press releases and news articles allegedly bearing the admission of DOLE regional directors that their offices "invited and allowed the participation of lawmakers in the implementation of emergency employment and government internship programs," according to the complaint's executive summary.
"With DAP (Disbursement Acceleration Program), in good faith ang kanilang ginawa pero ngayon hindi na nating masasabing in good faith ang kanilang ginawa. Nandito ang hayagang paglabag sa batas na nilinaw na ng Supreme Court," Lumbera said.
(With DAP, they said what they did was based on good faith. Now, they can't say this was done in good faith. This is where you can see a violation of the law that has already been clarified by the Supreme Court.)
The first two verified impeachment raps against Aquino focused on the administration's controversial spending program known as DAP or the Disbursement Acceleration Program. The 3rd complaint focused on the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, a military to military deal between the Philippines and the United States that allows American troops greater access to military facilities here.
All complaints, including the yet-to-be verified impeachment raps on hidden pork, were endorsed by the leftist Makabayan Coalition in the House.
Meanwhile, Malacañang said it is not bothered by the new complaint, saying it is not among the administration's top concerns.
"That is not a priority for us. Number one, the allegations—that they alleged that the President committed wrongdoing – certainly, we do not agree with. But is it something that we’re concerned (about)? No, we’re not. We will let the impeachment complaint, impeachment proceeding take its course in Congress," Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said.