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MANILA, Philippines – The Supreme Court (SC) deferred voting on the constitutionality of the controversial Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), even as expectations were high for the Court to hand down a decision Tuesday, June 10.
In a press briefing, SC Spokesperson Theodore Te said “there is no decision yet on the DAP” and “no date given by the Court on which they will decide.”
Regular en banc sessions of the SC are scheduled every Tuesday morning. Resolution of the consolidated petitions seeking to nullify the DAP was listed in the High Court’s June 10 agenda.
The assailed disbursement program was initiated in 2011 under the administration of President Benigno Aquino III meant to boost the laggard economy.
The Aquino administration said the DAP fast-tracked government spending by diverting unused funds from slow-moving projects to quick-disbursing ones.
Also on Tuesday, anti-DAP protesters gathered in front of the SC.
Groups led by the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) pressed for the immediate resolution of the petitions assailing DAP.
“It is not enough that Malacañang claims that the DAP no longer exists, and has been terminated in 2013. The so-called presidential authority used to implement the DAP is highly questionable,” Bayan Secretary General Renato Reyes said.
Nine petitions were brought before the High Court in 2013, questioning the power of the executive branch to control the budget through a system of re-appropriation dubbed DAP.
Petitioners said the re-alignment of government savings to items that are not outlined in the General Appropriations Act (GAA) without congressional approval or consultation encroaches upon the jurisdiction of the legislative branch.
The government, however, argued that the pump-priming aim of the program had already been achieved. This essentially renders the petitions moot, Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza argued before the Court. (READ: SolGen to SC: DAP won’t be used again, petitions moot)
Hints towards unconstitutionality
During the oral arguments on DAP, Congress argued that no controversy or case worthy of intervention by the High Court exists. The program has caused “no injury in fact” to the petitioners, Congress argued.
The legislature was represented by retired Justice Vicente Mendoza during the SC oral arguments. (READ: Congress turn to defend DAP before Supreme Court)
There is no “specific public right” that petitioners were seeking to vindicate, Mendoza said during his speech. (READ: Congress to SC: DAP caused no harm to petitioners)
While the SC has yet to hand down its decision, Justice Lucas Bersamin and Justice Marvic Leonen hinted at the unconstitutionality of the program.
The two justices pointed out the illegality of DAP’s cross-border augmentations, where savings from one branch of government are transferred to augment another branch. (READ: Two justices say DAP releases to senators not allowed)
The government’s lawyer earlier argued that the implementation of DAP falls within the executive’s duty and power of implementation, as DAP is not a lump sum per se but a system of spending.
DAP became controversial when a raging Senator Jinggoy Estrada exposed in a privilege speech the disbursements given to senators immediately following the impeachment trial of former chief justice Renato Corona.
Estrada delivered the speech after being indicted for plunder for alleged links to the illegal diversion of lawmakers’ development funds to fake non-governmental organizations.
Budget Secretary Florencio Abad denied allegations these disbursements were bribes in exchange of votes for the impeachment of Corona, an appointee of the previous administration disfavored by Aquino.
Based on budget department records, below are the names of senators and the amount of funds they received via DAP in 2012:
|Date of disbursement
|Juan Ponce Enrile
|October 2012 / December 2012
|P35M / P9M
|October 2012 / November 2012 / December 2012
|P25.5M / P5M / P15M
|October 2012 / December 2012
|P23M / P27M
|October 2012 / November 2012
|P11M / P39M