A number of the country’s high-ranking Roman Catholic bishops on Wednesday said President Benigno Aquino 3rd and Budget Secretary Florencio “Butch” Abad should be held liable for the implementation of the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) which the Supreme Court (SC) declared unconstitutional on Tuesday.
Marbel (Cotabato) Bishop Dinualdo Gutierrez and Sorsogon Bishop Arturo Bastes said all government officials who were involved in the implementation of the program should also be made to account for it.
“Yes, all [those]involved [in the DAP implementation]should answer,” Gutierrez said in an interview.
“Aquino and Abad [should be held liable],” Bastes said.
The SC on Tuesday declared specific acts under the DAP as unconstitutional.
Ruled as violations of the Constitution were the withdrawal of unobligated allotments from implementing agencies and declaration of the withdrawn unobligated allotments and unreleased appropriations as savings prior to the end of the fiscal year and without complying with the statutory definition of savings contained in the General Appropriations Act (GAA); cross-border transfers of savings of the executive to augment appropriations of other offices outside the executive; and funding of activities, programs and projects that were not covered by any allocation in the GAA.
Quezon City Bishop Honesto Ongtioco agreed with the call of Gutierrez and Bastes and hailed the decision of the High Court, saying the justices had deliberated on the DAP well.
“I believe in the decision of the SC. I’m sure it was well thought out [and]deliberated on well. Those who prompted and used these funds [under DAP should be held accountable],” Ongtioco said.
Lingayen-Dagupan Bishop Socrates Villegas, President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, also praised the SC magistrates for declaring DAP unconstitutional.
He said the justices’ decision was a “challenge” to the people to be more vigilant against corruption in the government.
“We must be a nation of laws and citizens of integrity,” Villegas added.
The bishops’ demand for accountability was echoed more strongly by Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago.
When asked on the role of Abad in the DAP, Santiago said the Budget secretary should resign if only to spare the President from further embarrassment.
Abad, she told a news briefing also on Wednesday, could be liable criminally and administratively and must be charged with bribery and technical malversation for releasing P50 million each to senators for voting to impeach former Chief Justice Renato Corona was sourced from DAP.
Santiago said she and Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. did not receive anything.
While the President could be impeached for approving the creation of DAP, she added, Santiago noted that such move might suffer a major setback because majority of members of the House of the Representatives are allies of Malacañang.
But removing the President, the senator said, could be realized if “Mr. E,” apparently Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile, used his money to bribe Congress into taking out Aquino.
Enrile and senators Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada and Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. have been charged with plunder in connection with the pork barrel scam.
In Malacañang, Aquino’s spokesperson Edwin Lacierda also on Wednesday gave Palace reporters a “crash course” on the Constitution, specifically on why DAP should not be deemed illegal.
In a heated exchange with journalists on issues surrounding the acceleration program, Lacierda passionately defended the program, stressing that criminal acts are specific acts listed in the Criminal Code such as malversation and plunder, none of which is found in DAP.
He cited the High Court’s ruling against the Truth Commission in 2010.
“[The commission] was unconstitutional. Was it criminal? It was [implemented].
We did it. We started. We already formed a commission. We were starting to discharge the functions. So, again, so the issue here is: Is it criminal when you can find a criminal act?” Lacierda asked.
In the case of the Reproductive Health Law, he said, the Supreme Court also disagreed with some of its provisions. President Benigno Aquino 3rd had signed it into law but he was never charged for any criminal offense after the measure was declared unconstitutional.
“When you speak of constitutionality . . . When you speak of unconstitutionality, it does not immediately equate to wrongdoing,” Lacierda added.