Palace welcomes SC 'de facto reversal' on DAP ruling

MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang welcomed the Supreme Court ruling on the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), calling it a “de facto reversal” of its July 1, 2014 decision.

Asked if Malacañang welcomed the High Court’s ruling announced that day, Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said Tuesday, February 3: “Yes. SolGen [Florin] Hilbay describes it as ‘de facto reversal.’”

Lacierda explained that based on the “limited information” provided by SC spokesman Theodore Te, the High Court “has upheld the doctrine of Operative Fact which declared all acts are valid until they are declared unconstitutional.”

Lacierda added, “Moreover, the presumption of good faith has been preserved and emphasized, which clarified the previous impression that the authors are presumed to be in bad faith.” (READ: Palace: No regrets on DAP)

He further clarified that the ruling "restored good faith as a presumption, and not as a burden for the [DAP] authors to prove."

The SC has partially granted the government's appeal on the July 2014 decision on the DAP by reversing itself on one of 3 executive acts under the scheme that it had deemed as unconstitutional in its original ruling. (READ: SC partially grants gov't appeal on DAP)

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.

Budget Secretary Florencio Abad said in an interview on ANC that while he has not read the decision, he has received “feedback” that in the new ruling, the DAP authors are considered to have acted in good faith.

If such is the case, he said, if he and President Benigno Aquino III were considered DAP authors, “then we are presumed to have acted with regularity and acted in good faith.”

“But we still have to see that decision,” he said, adding that there seems to be differing interpretations of the ruling even before it could be read in full by those commenting on it.

'Shocking reversal'

Lawyers Harry Roque and Roger Rayel, counsel for petitioner Greco Belgica and others, said they would appeal the ruling.

“The new resolution of the High Court on the Disbursement Acceleration Fund (DAP) is a shocking reversal of the constitutional safeguards on the use of public funds and a virtual stamp of approval on the de facto appropriation by the Executive without the benefit of congressional review,” the lawyers said.

They took note of the Court’s decision to reverse itself on the point on the funding of projects, activities, and programs that were not covered by any appropriation in the General Appropriations Act – among the 3 executive acts deemed unconstitutional in its original decision but now declared constitutional in the latest ruling.

They said this reversal “just about restores a wide swath of un-appropriated and not legislatively considered expenditures to the sole discretion of the Chief Executive.”

“This defeats the whole purpose of giving the power of the purse to the legislature. Precisely, a wide array of expenditures under the DAP have been made outside the General Appropriations Act. For all intents and purposes, the reversal by the Supreme Court reinstates and legitimizes the Presidential Pork Barrel System without benefit of congressional approval and oversight,” they said.

The lawyers also found “surprising” the High Court’s clarification on those who may be held liable for acts under the DAP, as it made a “new distinction between authors on the one hand, and proponents and implementers on the other hand, and in addition making criminal liability prospective as regards the latter.”

“This is as if the constitutional provision stating that no money shall be paid out of the treasury without an appropriation made by law is not clear enough. This cannot be prospective,” they said.

Final nail in Aquino's coffin?

Militant lawmakers, however, have a different interpretation, calling the SC ruling  the “final nail” in Aquino's coffin.

“The decision affirms our stand that indeed President Aquino violated the Constitution in his force declaration of savings and freely spending it based on the administration's whims, including the supposed influence exerted during the impeachment of former SC Chief Renato Corona,” Bayan Muna party-list Representative Carlos Isagani Zarate said in a statement.

Zarate, one of the petitioners against the DAP, alleged that Aquino and his advisers  “were in utter bad faith when they conceptualized, approved and implemented the DAP.”

“Even if the decision has apparently modified...the next move for us now is to make Aquino, et al  accountable to the fullest extent for their P157-Billion unconstitutional  acts,” he said.

Kabataan party-list Representative Terry Ridon, another petitioner against DAP, urged Aquino to “resign immediately,” calling the DAP ruling the “final nail” in his coffin.

“If President Aquino has any sense of decency left, he should already resign. The botched Mamasapano operation is enough for him to step down. The DAP decision is the final nail in the coffin. President Aquino, face the music and pack your bags,” Ridon said.

He said Aquino and Abad as DAP authors "should not wait for formal charges to be filed, or on part of the President, for another impeachment complaint.” – Rappler.com