MANILA, Philippines - President Benigno Aquino III appeared unfazed by talk that his administration's government spending is illegal and unconstitutional, and are grounds for impeachment.
On Wednesday, October 2, Aquino challenged his critics to pursue his impeachment if they believed he deserved it.
"Isulong nila kung sa palagay nila nasa tama pero kakabasa ko lang sa Constitution, merong authority sa savings to put to other uses, basta nandun sa ating budget (They can pursue it if they think they are right but I just read the Constitution and it says I have authority to direct savings to other uses as long as its included in the budget)," he said.
Aquino was referring to his administration's creation of the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), a mechanism designed by the government to ramp up spending and help accelerate economic expansion, sourced from savings or unreleased General Appropriation Act (GAA) items, as well as realignment and unprogrammed funds.
The Palace has argued its legal basis, citing the Constitution which gives the President power to realign savings, and insisted it has only been used for projects already authorized by Congress.
Aquino also questioned the constant criticism he has received, saying he was initially slammed for the lack of government spending, but is now being castigated for DAP, which was meant to accelerate spending.
"Alam mo, napaka-short ng memory ng mga tao e... Ang reklamo ng business community, ng economic sector, ng ilang mga kritiko natin, ang kupad raw naming gumastos nitong budget, at nawawala ‘yung pump-priming effects. So, ‘yung Disbursement Acceleration Program was meant [para sa] departamento na efficient na idinivide mo into several years ‘yung gagawin, puwede namang magawa in shorter period of time kung may funding support, ay hinanapan natin ng funds," he said.
(You know the memory of the people are so short-term... The complaint of the business community, the economic sector and our critics is that we underspent and we spent the budget so slowly. So the DAP was meant for the efficient departments whose projects we had earlier divided over several years to complete, although they can finish them in a short period of time with funding support. So we found the funds for them.)
Aquino also brushed off critics who tagged him as the "Pork Barrel King," arguing he has been "very careful about how the executive uses government money," because his administration needs to be able to defend it against all sorts of critics – including the way DAP was used.
He said he has faithfully adhered to spending various funds only for their stated purpose, such as the Malampaya Fund for energy-related projects.
Aquino also denied DAP was used to bribe senators to vote for the impeachment of former chief justice Renato Corona.
"Why don't you check when DAP was released? The release was made in October. How can there be a bribe after the fact?" he asked.
The Aquino administration has been forced to explain details of DAP after questions were raised over millions of pesos released after the impeachment of Corona . Critics tagged the release a bribe or incentive, while another former lawmaker, Sen Joker Arroyo, questioned the source of the funds given to senators.
When the Palace announced that additional cash releases for projects of lawmakers came from DAP, senators raised concerns about its constitutionality and the illegal nature of releasing funds without congressional approval — even calling the release of funds "a crime."- Rappler.com