Ombudsman orders Aquino to comment on DAP appeal

MANILA, Philippines – The Office of the Ombudsman ordered former president Benigno Aquino III to comment on the motion to reinstate the cases against him in connection with the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).

"The parties to the DAP cases, including Aquino, have 15 days from notice within which to file comment," the Ombudsman said in a statement on Thursday, April 6.

Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales earlier cleared Aquino of all administrative and criminal liabilities and only proceeded to order usurpation of legislative power charges against former budget secretary Florencio Abad.

Complainants from Bayan Muna filed a motion for reconsideration on the resolution on March 13, and asked the Ombudsman to charge Aquino not only with usurpation of legislative power, but also with graft and malversation.

In its statement, the Ombudsman reiterated why it charged only Abad for DAP, parts of which were declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court (SC).

"During the investigation, the Ombudsman found that by issuing NBC No. 541, Abad unlawfully encroached on the powers of Congress by effectively modifying the provisions on savings of the 2012 General Appropriations Act (GAA)," the Ombudsman's statement said.

NBC 541 is the circular from the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) signed by Abad that carried out the withdrawals of P72 billion worth of unobligated allotments, which then became the DAP fund.

In its appeal, Bayan Muna asked the Ombudsman to look at previous DAP issuances that bear the signature of Aquino, which it said was a clear liability on the part of the former chief executive.

Bayan Muna accused Morales of intentionally shielding Aquno from criminal charges.

The dismissal of charges against Aquino was used as basis for a disbarment complaint against Morales. The disbarment complaint was immediately junked by the SC for lack of merit.

In a recent speech, President Rodrigo Duterte rehashed the DAP issue and called on critics to go after Aquino and Abad. (READ: TIMELINE: The rise and fall of DAP)

DAP, which critics described as Aquino's "pork barrel", was a special spending program under the Aquino administration meant to stimulate economic growth. Implemented from 2011 to 2013, it pooled government savings and realigned unused funds to 116 high-priority projects. (READ: Where did DAP funds go?)

While the SC deemed as unconstitutional 3 executive acts under DAP in July 2014, it reversed itself on one of these acts in a ruling in February 2015, when it partially granted the government's appeal on the earlier ruling. The SC also ruled that there is a presumption of good faith in the implementation of DAP-related projects.

In the February 2015 ruling, the SC left only "authors" of the DAP as those who may be held liable. – Rappler.com

Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email lian.buan@rappler.com or tweet @lianbuan.

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