MANILA, Philippines – If only to remind him of how democracy works, a lawyer is mulling over the possibility of filing a motion for contempt of court against President Benigno Aquino III for his statements on the Supreme Court ruling on the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).
University of the Philippines law professor Harry Roque made the statement at the first Lingkod Bayan Series, a panel discussion on DAP held at UP National College of Public Administration and Governance (UP NCPAG) on July 24, Thursday.
The participants included former national treasurer and Social Watch Philippines lead convenor Leonor Briones, investigative journalist Raissa Robles, and political analyst Malou Tiquia.
“You don’t bully a co-equal branch of government just because you want to reverse their decision. You don’t simply do that in a democracy,” Roque said.
Roque referred to the President’s recent speeches on the DAP ruling as “televised assaults to the Constitution” as Aquino criticized the tribunal after it ruled as unconstitutional certain acts under the DAP.
The President had also hinted at a possible conflict between the Executive and judiciary branches arising from the ruling, which he said he would like to prevent, thus the government’s Motion for Reconsideration on the matter.
Considering the President’s immunity from suit, Roque acknowledged that Aquino may not end up in jail but at least he “can be reminded by the Supreme Court of the Constitution, the nature of the Consititution and the limits of the executive power.” (Read: Aquino and the Sereno court)
The Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) had said that it was considering filing a motion to cite the President in contempt of court for violating the sub judice rule, following his public statements on the DAP ruling.
Alternatives to DAP
DAP is a mechanism created by the Aquino administration to ramp up disbursements by allowing the transfer of savings and unused funds from “slow-disbursing programs” to “fast-moving projects.”
The President had maintained that DAP did not violate the Constitution, citing the Admnistrative Code as its legal basis, and that the mechanism had served to correct flaws in the country’s budget system. (Read: The gaps in the Supreme Court’s DAP ruling)
Responding to Aquino’s argument that the Court decision is akin to parking in a parking in a “no parking zone” during an emergency situation, Roque argued that there is no comparison between a traffic ordinance and the Constitution.
The law professor also added that the President does not need a new mechanism to fast-track growth in the economy as it is the budget law that should deliver that goal.
This was echoed by Briones, who had served as national treasurer during the Estrada administration. She suggested to Aquino the following alternatives to DAP in her power point presentation at the forum:
- Whip the Cabinet into line; declare savings at the appropriate time,
- Utilize existing items in the General Appropriations Act – debt service
- Utilize lump sum funds in his own office
- Utilize special purpose funds which are directly under his office
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