MANILA, Philippines – Two senior justices agree: Budget Secretary Florencio Abad and President Benigno Aquino III should be held liable for the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).
In separate opinions released on Wednesday, February 11, Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio and Associate Justice Arturo Brion said Abad and Aquino are the “authors” of the unconstitutional spending program.
“Since the President and the DBM (Department of Budget and Management) Secretary approved and issued NBC (National Budget Circular) 541, they are considered the authors of the unconstitutional act,” Carpio wrote.
“As a consequence, neither the President nor the DBM Secretary can invoke the equitable doctrine of operative fact although they may raise other defenses.”
He added, “As authors of the unconstitutional act, they have to answer for such act.”
Brion agreed, saying the two “were in fact the parties responsible for establishing and implementing the DAP’s unconstitutional terms and, in these capacities, cannot rely on the unconstitutionality or invalidity of the DAP as reason to escape potential liability for any unconstitutional act they might have committed.”
DAP was a program initiated in 2011 by Aquino to boost the economy by transferring unused funds in slow-disbursing projects to fast-disbursing ones. (READ: TIMELINE: The rise and fall of DAP)
In July 2014, the Supreme Court (SC) declared as unconstitutional 3 executive acts under the scheme. The government appealed the decision. On February 3, the court partially granted the government's appeal. It also clarified the executive officials who may be held liable over DAP, limiting them to the scheme's "authors," and excluding project proponents and implementors.
'COA should probe DAP'
Carpio specifically said Aquino was responsible for the illegal “withdrawal of unobligated allotments of agencies with low level of obligations as of June 30, 2012” to augment or fund “priority and/or fast moving programs/projects of the national government” since it was he who approved NBC 541.
Brion, on the other hand, said Abad broke the law consciously.
“There are indicators showing that the DBM Secretary might have established the DAP knowingly aware that it is tainted with unconstitutionality,” he said.
Brion also said the Commission on Audit should now investigate the DAP after the court ruling.
“Further, in light of my recommendations as regards that implementation of the Court’s ruling on the release of unprogrammed funds and augmentation, I recommend that we provide the Commission on Audit with a copy of the Court's decision and the records of the case, and to direct it to immediately conduct the necessary audit of the projects funded by DAP,” he added.