MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The Supreme Court on Tuesday, July 1, ruled on the constitutionality of the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) – close to 3 years after it was conceptualized and implemented by Malacañang. It said 3 schemes under DAP were unconstitutional.
The justices ruled 13-0-1, excluding retired justice Roberto Abad. They identified 3 acts as unconstitutional: the creation of savings prior to the end of the fiscal year and the withdrawal of these funds for implementing agencies; the cross-border transfers of the savings from one department to another; and the allotment of funds for projects, activities, and programs not outlined in the General Appropriations Act.
The High Court’s ruling was in response to the filing of 9 petitions that questioned the power of the executive branch to control budgetary appropriations through this funding mechanism.
In some ways, the DAP is similar to the pork barrel, which was deemed unconstitutional by the SC in 2013. (READ: SC junks PDAF as unconstitutional)
The DAP was also questioned by both lawmakers and the public. It had been identified as an incentive given by the administration to senators who were expected to decide on the impeachment of former Supreme Court justice Renato Corona. Mired in controversy, with the administration claiming the DAP was intended to address government under-spending and stimulate economic growth, and critics saying realignments were being made by the executive without congressional approval, the DAP issue was brought to the High Court for settlement.
Below is a timeline that traces the short-lived DAP.
October 12 – President Benigno Aquino III approved 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. It was introduced to increase government spending after “sluggish disbursements” that resulted in a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth of 3.6% in 2011.
May – Malacañang allegedly used DAP as fund source to reward senators-judges who voted to convict former Supreme Court chief justice Renato Corona, whom Aquino had badly wanted impeached.
September 25 – After his name was dragged in the pork barrel scam, Senator Jinggoy Estrada revealed in a privilege speech that 20 senators received at least P50 million in additional lump-sum allocations after the conviction of Corona. Senate President Franklin Drilon, then Senate finance committee chairman, was said to have facilitated the release of the fund. (READ: Jinggoy: P50M for each convict-Corona vote)
September 28 – Budget Secretary Butch Abad clarified that the disbursements to senators on top of their 2012 pork barrel funds were not bribes and were necessary to “help accelerate economic expansion.” (READ: 2012 fund releases to pols not bribes – Abad)
September 29 – Senate President Franklin Drilon admitted getting P100 million worth of funds after the conviction of Corona in May 2012, but he insisted that the amount was not a bribe. (READ: Drilon admits receiving P100M after Corona trial)
September 30 – Commission on Audit (COA) chair Grace Pulido Tan said her agency had begun auditing DAP due to allegations of misuse. She added that COA would focus on implementing agencies, not individual senators, in its DAP audit. (READ: COA checking Palace’s spending booster program)
October 1 – Some lawmakers questioned the existence of DAP, calling it “an invention of Malacañang” and “illegal”. But Malacañang defended it as being constitutional, saying the President has the power to realign savings under the charter. (READ: Palace spending program ‘illegal’ and Palace cites Constitution to defend DAP)
October 2 – In a speech before businessmen, Aquino questioned the constant criticism hurled at him. He brushed aside comments that tagged him as the “Pork Barrel King,” and challenged his critics to pursue his impeachment if they believed he deserved it. (READ: PNoy dares critics: Impeach me)
October 4 – Malacañang claimed that DAP may be stopped eventually, but insisted it had nothing to do with the recent controversy questioning its constitutionality. (READ: Palace says it may stop DAP releases)
October 7 – Former Iloilo Representative Augusto “Boboy” Syjuco Jr asked the Supreme Court, through a petition, to declare DAP as unconstitutional. Two other related petitions were filed. (READ: Ex-solon asks SC to declare DAP unconstitutional)
October 8 – The Supreme Court did not grant a temporary restraining order on the implementation of DAP, but ordered the government to comment in 10 days on petitions questioning the program’s constitutionality. The Court also set oral arguments on the DAP on October 22 at 2 pm. (READ: SC sets oral arguments on DAP)
Senator Pia Cayetano and former lawmaker Panfilo Lacson denied Science and Technology Secretary Mario Montejo’s claim that the department received over P40 million from the two lawmakers under the agency’s Food and Nutrition Research Institute through DAP. (READ: Senators deny requesting DAP releases for DOST)
Ex-SC chief justice Reynato Puno advised the use of the people’s initiative mechanism under Republic Act 6735, or the Initiative and Referendum Law, to look at how the Priority Development Assistance Fund and DAP are being misused and abused. (READ: Ex-CJ calls for people’s initiative to scrap pork)
October 9 – Montejo apologized to Cayetano and Lacson for linking them to the controversial funding mechanism. (READ: DOST chief apologizes to Lacson, Cayetano)
A defense department press release revealed that the Department of National Defense (DND) received P665.6 million worth of DAP fund during the fiscal year 2011-2012. Bulk of the funding was allotted to the Philippine Air Force (PAF) and the Presidential Security Group (PSG). (READ: Defense department got P666M in DAP, too)
October 13 – Amid questions regarding the constitutionality of DAP, Malacañang said it would be best to wait for the results of the ongoing COA probe into DAP’s usage and legality. (READ: Palace on DAP: Let’s wait for COA findings)
October 14 – Senator JV Ejercito filed a resolution urging the chamber to investigate DAP “with the aim of recommending and formulating laws, policies and regulations for the proper use of the savings of different departments of the governments (sic) and proper use of budget augmentation.” (READ: Senators want to probe DAP, Malampaya scam next)
October 16 – The Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) joined earlier petitioners who sought the issuance of a temporary restraining order on DAP. (READ: Lawyers’ group asks SC to stop DAP)
October 17 – Members of the Makabayan party list bloc in the House of Representatives and leaders of anti-pork barrel groups also submitted a petition to the SC to stop the implementation of DAP. (READ: Anti-pork groups file 6th petition vs DAP)
October 23 – At the annual presidential forum of the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (FOCAP), Aquino did not hide his disappointment with the media’s framing of DAP, and defended it, saying it “heralded [the] country’s economic boom.” (READ: Aquino: DAP drove PH’s economic boom)
October 26 – Malacañang welcomed the SC decision to defer the issuance of a TRO on the controversial DAP. (READ: Malacañang welcomes deferment of TRO on DAP)
October 30 – The President went on national TV to defend the DAP, which he said, is being attacked to divert attention from the lawmakers’ PDAF scam. (READ: Ahead of SC hearing, Aquino defends DAP)
November 4 – Malacañang said Aquino is planning to tour the nation to hold discussions on DAP, an effort to “gain clarity and understanding” why many Filipinos have criticized it. (READ: Aquino to explain DAP in dialogues with citizens)
November 7 – In a 41-page document, Malacañang through the Solicitor General, asked the SC to dismiss the cases against DAP for lack of merit and also deny applications for a temporary restraining order on the government’s controversial booster program. (READ: Malacañang to SC: Junk DAP cases for lack of merit)
November 19 – SC justice Antonio Carpio pointed out that the budget department under Abad had been realigning items in the budget without written consent from the President. (READ: DAP orals: DBM moved funds sans President’s approval)
December 10 – The SC asked the budget department to submit to the Court “a list of all sources of funds brought under the DAP and the uses of such funds pursuant to DAP per project or activity.” This was supposed to be submitted no later than January 21, 2014. (READ: SC to DBM: Submit list of DAP sources and uses)
January 28 – Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza, who defended DAP in the SC oral arguments, said it had already served its purpose of stimulating the economy, rendering moot the 9 petitions questioning its constitutionality. (READ: SolGen to SC: DAP won’t be used again, petitions moot)
But two SC justices said the DAP releases to senators were not allowed. (READ: Two justices say DAP releases to senators not allowed)
February 17 – The #Abolishpork Movement trooped to the Commission on Audit (COA) to renew calls for the agency to look into DAP projects. (READ: Anti-pork barrel group to COA: Audit DAP projects)
February 18 – Congress, represented by retired justice Vicente Mendoza in the SC oral arguments, argued before SC that petitioners against DAP were not aggrieved parties in the implementation of the controversial spending program. (READ: Congress to SC: DAP caused no harm to petitioners)
June 10 – SC deferred voting on the constitutionality of DAP, even as expectations were high for the Court to hand down a decision. (READ: SC: No decision yet on DAP)
July 1 – The High Court ruled 3 schemes under the DAP unconstitutional. – Rappler.com