President Benigno Aquino 3rd on Monday openly criticized the Supreme Court (SC) for its ruling that the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) is unconstitutional.
To dramatize his defiance, Aquino warned that the issue may cause a head-on collision between the executive and the judiciary.
“There are those who say that this decision might be a personal vendetta against me, that I am being dared to act in the same vindictive manner against them. All I can say, as the President, as the father of this country, is that we need temperance and forbearance, we must comply with due process,” he stressed.
“My message to the Supreme Court: 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,” Aquino said.
He noted that this was not the first time that the SC did something that displeased him, alluding to his past disagreements with the court.
“You had done something similar in the past, and you tried to do it again, there are even those of the opinion that what you attempted to commit was far graver.
Abiding by the principle of ‘presumption of regularity,’ we assumed that you did the right thing, after all, you are the ones who should ostensibly have a better understanding of the law. And now, when we use the same mechanism, which, you yourselves have admitted, benefit our countrymen, why is it then that we are wrong?” the President asked.
He then urged the SC magistrates who “want only the best for the Filipino people” to “help us help our countrymen.”
“We ask that you review your decision, this time taking into consideration the points I have raised tonight. The nation hopes for your careful deliberation and response. And I hope that once you’ve examined the arguments I will submit, regarding the law and about our economy, solidarity will ensue, thus strengthening the entire government’s capability to push for the interests of the nation,’ Aquino said.
He maintained that the executive branch did not violate the law in implementing the acceleration program, and openly attacked the tribunal for striking out his project.
“It is clear that the Supreme Court has much to consider that they may better clarify their decision regarding the DAP, perhaps they can even identify the DAP’s negative effect on the country,” Aquino said.
The President insisted that the program was necessary to speed up priority projects and to pump-prime the economy.
“Without doubt, any good leader would want to implement projects that benefit the public at the soonest possible time. I do not see any reason to delay benefits for our countrymen, especially because we have the wherewithal to alleviate their plight. It is clear that if you delay the benefits due them, you prolong the suffering of the Filipino people,” he said.
Aquino added that the government will appeal the SC ruling and called on the justices to see DAP his way.
“We know that the system we inherited was one that did not help, or did not do enough to help, our countrymen. We are now righting the wrongs in the system, so that it may work toward this goal: To uphold the interests of the people, our bosses who handed us our mandate. Thus, to the Supreme Court, our message: Do not bar us from doing what we swore to do. Shouldn’t you be siding with us in pushing for reform? Let us, therefore, end this vicious cycle that has taken our people hostage,” he said.
The DAP allowed Malacanang to juggle savings, unprogrammed funds and allocations for slow-moving projects to priority projects. The SC ruled that the Palace usurped the power of Congress in implementing the program.
Aquino said DAP funds are not the same as the pork barrel funds, and there is nothing wrong and illegal with their use.
Records show that P137.3 billion has been released through the DAP as of October 1 last year. The amount included P82.5 billion in disbursements in 2011 and another P54.8 billion in 2012.
At least 91 percent of the DAP releases for 2011 and 2012 were channeled to projects of various government agencies and local government units.
The President denied stealing from public coffers through the DAP.
“The DAP is good. Our intentions, our processes, and the results were correct. Bosses, I promise you: I will not allow your suffering to be prolonged, especially if we could do what we can as early as now,” Aquino said.
DAP list released
Also on Monday night, the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) released a complete list of 116 projects under the controversial disbursement program.
Barely an hour after the President’s national address on the DAP, the department sent Palace reporters a 19-page detailed report containing the names of projects and amounts released through the acceleration program.
On the first page of the document, it said, “List of DAP-identified projects as of July 14, 2014.” The time of the document’s release was also noted at “4:30 p.m..”
Assistant Director Amanella Arevalo of the DBM’s Budget and Technical Service prepared and signed the report, which was also noted by Budget Secretary Florencio Abad.
The list indicated that from the P167 billion proposed funding for the DAP, only P144 billion have so far been released, leaving a balance of P13.6 billion.
It showed that the DAP came in six stages beginning in 2011. All the stages were approved by the Office of the President.
The DBM report said the first DAP stage was approved on October 12, 2011; second, on December 21, 2011; third, on June 27, 2012; fourth, on September 5, 2012; fifth, on December 21, 2012; and sixth, on June 14, 2013.
The President’s speech on Monday night was reminiscent of his public outbursts against the high tribunal during the time of then-Chief Justice Renato Corona.
“The DAP is not a project, it is an efficient way of spending the budget, it follows the law and adheres to the mandate granted to the executive branch. We did this to properly allocate funds, and by so doing maximize the benefits that the people may receive,” he said.
Later in his speech, Aquino sounded more confrontational, addressing the SC directly and rebuking it for supposedly not siding with the people.
“The Supreme Court’s decision questions our use of savings, and raises concerns on when we can use unprogrammed funds. They want savings declared only at the 31st of December of each year. If that were the case, when would the government be free to utilize these funds? Following their logic on savings, projects that could have been funded in the middle of the current year would have to be delayed until the following year,” he said.
Since he assumed office, Aquino has been at loggerheads with the SC, first when the Corona court shot down the Truth Commission, which would have investigated alleged corruption committed by the past administration of former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Arroyo.
Not long after, the SC under Corona ruled to distribute more than 4,000 hectares of sugar lands in the Cojuangco-Aquino-owned Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac province. After this ruling, Aquino heightened his attacks on the SC, eventually leading to the impeachment of Corona in 2012.
The impeachment by the House of Representatives was affirmed by the Senate that sat as an impeachment court in May 2012. Most senators voted to convict Corona.