The Office of the Ombudsman has found basis to file a complaint against former Budget Secretary Florencio “Butch” Abad for violation of Article 239 (Usurpation of Legislative Powers) of the Revised Penal Code in connection with the implementation of the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).
The Ombudsman, however, cleared former President Benigno Aquino 3rd and former Budget Undersecretary Mario Relampagos from any accountability in the implementation of the P72-billion program from 2011 to 2013.
In a statement, the Office of the Ombudsman said the complaint stemmed from Abad’s issuance of National Budget Circular (NBC) No. 541 which pave the way for the enforcement of DAP.
Abad can appeal the Ombudsman’s decision that found probable cause to file a complaint at the Sandiganbayan by filing a motion for reconsideration.
The Ombudsman said that by issuing the circular, Abad “unlawfully encroached” on the powers of Congress by effectively modifying the 2012 General Appropriations Act’s (GAA) provisions on savings.
“NBC No. 541 provided the principal bases for the withdrawal of unobligated allotments which were declared as savings and used to fund PAPs (programs, activities and projects) under the DAP. The issuance of this circular is an act of usurpation. This is contrary to law,” Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales said.
The withdrawal of unobligated allotments of agencies with low levels of obligations as of June 30, 2012 was authorized, the Ombudsman said.
The Ombudsman’s office also found Abad administratively liable for simple misconduct and ordered his three-month suspension, which is convertible to a fine equivalent to his salary for three months considering that he is no longer in the service.
Abad said he respects the Ombudsman’s decision.
“I respect the Ombudsman’s decision, and welcome the fact that her office has dropped the graft, corruption, and technical malversation charges against me. It is as I have always said: although the DAP was ruled as partly unconstitutional, the Supreme Court itself acknowledged that the program helped boost the country’s economy when it was most needed. The Ombudsman’s decision also affirms the truth that I did not personally benefit from implementing the DAP. I never used public funds for my own gain, and I never will,” he said in a statement.
“I am consulting my legal advisers on the appropriate course of action following this development. As always, I look forward to the quick and fair resolution of this matter,” he added.
DAP, a stimulus package under the Aquino administration that aimed to fast-track public spending and push economic growth, was declared partly unconstitutional by the Supreme Court (SC) in July 2014.
The Ombudsman’s office recalled that the SC declared unconstitutional the withdrawal of unobligated allotments from the implementing agencies, and the declaration of the withdrawn unobligated allotments and unreleased appropriations as savings prior to the end of the fiscal year without complying with the statutory definition of savings under the GAA.
The High Court also declared unconstitutional the transfer of the savings of the Executive branch to augment other offices’ appropriations.