SC urged: Gag Aquino, Cabinet on DAP
MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – “President Aquino [had an] utter lack of respect for a co-equal branch of government and a cavalier attitude to basic constitutional tenets.”
In a manifestation to be filed on Wednesday, November 6, Former Iloilo Rep Augusto Syjuco Jr asked the Supreme Court to issue a gag order prohibiting President Benigno Aquino III, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, Senate President Franklin Drilon and anyone acting on behalf of the President from making public comments on the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).
Syjuco is one of the petitioners asking the Court to declare the DAP unconstitutional. There are at least 8 petitions against the DAP. A copy of the petition was released to media.
The Court will hold oral arguments on the DAP on November 11.
In his manifestation, Syjuco said Aquino’s primetime TV address defending the legality of the administration’s spending program was a “clear violation of the sub judice rule."
Citing jurisprudence, Syjuco said the sub judice rule bars parties to a case from commenting on judicial proceedings to avoid prejudging the issue, influencing the court or obstructing the administration of justice.
“To ask the sentiment and approval of the public on the constitutionality of the DAP by presenting the alleged benefits derived from it, makes his speech in utter violation of the sub judice rule,” Syjuco told the Court.
“At worse, his speech constituted a very contumacious act of impressing a hint to the Supreme Court. In effect, he was subtly exerting pressure on the Supreme Court. Clearly, his speech was not only intended for the general public but also for the Supreme Court,” he added.
In his speech, Aquino said the DAP was legal and benefitted disaster preparedness, livelihood and scholarship programs.
Aquino said, “The [DAP] is not pork barrel. Of the DAP releases in 2011 and 2012, only 9% was disbursed for projects suggested by legislators. The DAP is not theft. Theft is illegal. Spending through DAP is clearly allowed by the Constitution and by other laws.”
The President further said, “You can decide for yourselves: Is this wrong? When has it ever been wrong to look for a constitutional way to serve our countrymen more effectively?”
Syjuco said Aquino’s remarks impacted on public opinion on DAP.
“Whatever reaction that may have been drawn from the speech of Pres. Aquino, one thing is very clear on this; The speech of Pres. Aquino last October 30, 2013 affected and altered public perception on the constitutionality of the DAP,” he said.
His manifestation comes as the Palace announced the President is open to holding dialogues with citizens to explain the DAP.
The DAP is a program of the executive branch meant to boost government spending when the country’s growth slowed down. Aquino and Abad said the money came from savings used for “quick-moving projects that directly supported the Aquino administration’s socio-economic development platform.”
The controversy broke out when Sen Jinggoy Estrada delivered a privilege speech in September accusing the administration of giving P50 million each to senators who voted to convict former Chief Justice Renato Corona.
Abad later admitted that P50 million was given to 20 senators but said the money did not come from pork barrel funds but from the DAP. He also said it was not a bribe but was meant to boost government spending.
Legal experts then criticized the DAP, saying it was unconstitutional and undermined Congress’ power of the purse.
Aquino delivered his speech last week after a Pulse Asia survey showed a drop in public appreciation of governments’ anti-corruption efforts. Reports also said an internal Malacañang survey showed a sharp drop in Aquino’s popularity, a charge the Palace denied.
6 issues for oral arguments
The Supreme Court has announced that the oral arguments next week will focus on 6 issues about the DAP:
- The real nature of the DAP (whether it's a fund or a program)
- The legal basis for the creation of the DAP
- The constitutionality of the DAP based on fund releases upon requests of specific legislators
- The definition of "savings" as used in the Constitution and relevant issuances
- The legality of the DAP as a program based on existing laws
- The constitutionality of the use of DAP funds to augment GAA appropriations.
The Court gave 30 minutes for the petitioners to present their arguments and 30 minutes for the respondents.
The High Tribunal is handling a separate case on the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), and is expected to rule on this case this month. - Ayee Macaraig/ Rappler.com