FORMER President Benigno Aquino 3rd is asking the Office of the Ombudsman to uphold its March decision clearing him of fund misuse involving the outlawed Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), invoking anew his claim of “good faith.”
Complainants led by Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate had filed a motion for reconsideration arguing that the Ombudsman “committed grave errors of facts and laws” in not finding basis to charge former Budget and Management Secretary Florencio Abad and Aquino with graft and technical malversation.
In a comment submitted through his lawyer, Aquino said that “at the risk of belaboring the point, Respondent’s actions were performed in accordance with law, as well as the rules and regulations existing and presumed valid at that time, and was motivated solely by good faith and a desire to improve the operational efficiency of the government, as well as spur economic growth and development of the country.”
Abad had been charged by the Ombudsman only for the lighter offense of usurping legislative authority for issuing orders on DAP.
The DAP, declared illegal by the Supreme Court in 2014, is a spending program that allowed agencies under the Executive branch to declare their unspent appropriations as savings anytime and subsequently realign the funding to the Aquino administration’s priority projects and those proposed by lawmakers.
Aquino’s comment however said “All these actions were squarely done within the regular performance of Respondent’s duties as the former President of the Philippines, without malice and other ill intentions.”
Aquino also argued that there was no factual or legal basis to hold him liable for usurpation of legislative power.
He maintained that he “merely performed his core executive functions under Article VI, Section 25 (5) of the Constitution when he utilized what was considered and reported to him as savings and thereafter used such savings to augment deficient items in the budget.”
All he did, he added, “was to exercise his prerogative to augment” under the Constitution “upon being notified that savings were already available.”
Also, Aquino agreed with the Ombudsman that the second element of technical malversation, or the application of public funds to another purpose, was absent.
He argued that the issuance and approval of memoranda as well as budget circulars “cannot be equated with” the “application” of publi c funds.
“Being merely akin to authorization to spend public funds, ‘appropriation’ and ‘allotment’ cannot, by any stretch of imagination, be tantamount to hold a person liable, because both terms fall short of the definition of ‘application,’ which denotes actual spending. Similarly, declaration of unobligated allotments and unreleased appropriations as ‘savings,’ as well as directing the application thereof to other PAPs, stands wanting of the ‘actual spending’ standard,” he said.