President Benigno Aquino 3rd and Budget Secretary Florencio Abad are under investigation in connection with the implementation of the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales said Tuesday.
Morales made the disclosure when her office sought the House Appropriations panel’s approval of its proposed P1.7 billion budget for 2016.
The DAP, declared illegal by the Supreme Court in February 2015, is a spending program that allowed the agencies under the Executive branch to declare their unspent appropriations as savings anytime and subsequently realign the money to the administration’s priority projects.
“Yes, there have been motu propio investigations and investigations conducted on the complaint of several complainants. The respondents include the President, the DBM Secretary and others who appeared to have been involved in the conception of DAP,” Morales said when asked by Rep. Carlos Zarate of Bayan Muna if her office had started investigating officials behind the implementation of DAP.
“All of them are pending fact-finding investigation. In fact, a report [on the case]by the field investigation office is under evaluation by the Ombudsman,” Morales added.
She did not elaborate further.
“We don’t release the investigation report. It’s either we approve or disapprove it. If we approve it and we recommend the conduct of PI (preliminary investigation), then so be it. If we do not agree with the recommendation to initiate preliminary investigation, that means that the case is deemed closed and terminated,” the Ombudsman said.
She also said they will decide this month whether further investigation will be conducted on the plunder complaints against Abad.
“It should be resolved anytime this month. That is with respect to the investigation report [written]by the fact-finding investigators,” she said.
Immune from suit
But Malacañang twitted the Ombudsman, saying that President Benigno Aquino 3rd enjoys immunity from lawsuit.
“We wish to point out the Constitutional principle that an incumbent President of the Philippines is immune from suit,” Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma said.
Coloma however admitted that it is within the powers of the Office of the Ombudsman to investigate Aquino and Abad over the DAP.
“The Office of the Ombudsman is empowered by law to conduct such investigation,” he said.
Abad, meanwhile, refused to issue a statement saying he has yet to study the statements of the Ombudsman at the House of Representatives.
“It is prudent to read the transcript of the hearing before making any statement,” Abad said in a text message.
It was Sen. Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada who bared the existence of DAP when he claimed that some senators received P50 million in DAP funds as reward for the conviction for former Chief Justice Renato Corona.
The High Court, in a unanimous ruling, declared DAP illegal, specifically three of the program’s provisions: withdrawal of unobligated funds and their declaration as savings, the funding of projects, activities and programs not covered by the General Appropriations Act, and the “cross-border” transfer of savings by the executive branch.
The Ombudsman also told lawmakers that her office will appeal the SC ruling allowing Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile to post bail.
“We are about to file a motion for reconsideration on the Supreme Court decision granting bail to Senator Enrile,” she said.
Enrile reported back to the Senate last week, two days after he walked out of the Philippine National Police hospital where he was detained for more than a year for plunder.