CBCP on Aquino’s DAP speech: Respect SC

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

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Leaders should be 'humble,' Philippine bishops say after President Benigno Aquino III slammed the High Court for an 'unreasonable' decision

'RESPECT SC.' Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas, president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines, urges respect for the Supreme Court after Philippine President Benigno Aquino III criticized one of its rulings against his administration. File photo by Noli Yamsuan/Archdiocese of Manila, as posted on www.cbcpnews.com

MANILA, Philippines – Respect the Supreme Court (SC), the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) said Monday, July 14, after President Benigno Aquino III slammed the Philippines’ top justices for ruling against his administration’s spending program.

In a statement, CBCP president Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas said Aquino’s “right to express himself” on the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) “must be respected,” as the SC declared 3 schemes under the DAP unconstitutional. 

“But it is equally important for our people to hold fast to the basic tenets of the democratic way of life enshrined in our Constitution – it is for the judiciary to interpret the law with definitiveness in the process of resolving justiciable issues,” said Villegas, who also urged respect for the SC even if it upheld the Church-opposed Reproductive Health law.

“We must respect the Supreme Court. Where there was error, there must be humble admission and immediate rectification,” Villegas said.

‘Respect democratic institutions’

In his statement on Monday, he explained: “The Rule of Law is a fundamental requirement – an objective condition – of the common good. That the Rule of Law is at all times safeguarded is therefore a moral concern. When the Rule of Law is compromised, the common good becomes its victim.”

“The CBCP prays that our nation will tread the path of peace, and that our national leaders may truly be HUMBLE (emphasis his) and respectful of our democratic institutions so that our most sacred freedoms and liberties are always upheld,” Villegas said.

Still on behalf of the CBCP, he earlier called on the Commission on Audit and the Office of the Ombudsman “to tell the nation where the DAP funds went.” (READ: CBCP dares Aquino admin: Probe the corrupt within)

A protegé of the late Jaime Cardinal Sin, Villegas released Monday’s statement after Aquino delivered a televised speech against the SC’s “unreasonable” decision to declare key executive moves under the DAP as unconstitutional.

Voting 13-0-1, the SC ruled as unconstitutional the following schemes under the DAP, a source of discretionary funds allegedly used to bribe politicians:

  • 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 branch of government to another

  • the allotment of funds for projects, activities, and programs not outlined in the General Appropriations Act

(READ: Understanding the SC ruling on the DAP)

Like saying, ‘I am the law’

Criticizing this ruling, Aquino on Monday told the SC: “We do not want two equal branches of government to go head to head, needing a third branch to step in to intervene. We find it difficult to understand your decision.”

Vice President Jejomar Binay’s opposition coalition United Nationalist Alliance (UNA), for its part, described Aquino’s speech as a “bad precedent.”

UNA Secretary-General Navotas Representative Tobias “Toby” Tiangco described it as a “veiled threat” to the SC.

“That is what is very dangerous about it. He is questioning the decision of the Supreme Court. It’s like he is saying he is more correct that the Supreme Court in interpreting the law. That is really dangerous. He is saying, ‘I am the law,’” Tiangco told Rappler.

He added: “Even if you are President, you need to respect the law. The speech is worse than DAP itself. He does not want to follow the law.” – Rappler.com

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Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email pat.esmaquel@rappler.com