MALACAÑANG on Thursday said it will contest a decision by the Supreme Court (SC) that implied that officials who implemented the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) should be held criminally liable, saying Cabinet officials who did something that benefited the economy should not be held accountable for acts that were deemed “unconstitutional.”
In a news briefing, its spokesman Edwin Lacierda said they “respectfully disagree” with the tribunal when it ruled that officials who disbursed public funds for projects done in good faith that eventually boosted the economy must be held criminally liable.
“You may declare certain acts unconstitutional but to declare an operative fact doctrine extending it beyond saying that it is unconstitutional and saying that we now have criminal liability, that is not something that is part of an effect of an operative fact doctrine,” Lacierda, a lawyer, told reporters.
He explained that the SC is yet to deal with criminal liability in any case involving a decision “on a particular provision in the GAA [General Appropriations Act] being declared unconstitutional.”
“The Supreme Court never went beyond saying ‘Oh, the Budget secretary, the National Treasury is liable.’ Never because in the time of [former Budget Secretary]Ben Diokno, the GAA, some GAA provisions were declared unconstitutional,” Lacierda said, adding that Diokno was never held criminally liable.
“Money was expended. But the Supreme Court never said ‘liable [is this guy], liable [is this other guy]’. Never did. And for that particular reason, this is the situation where the [SC] decision has put good men and women under fire and now accusing them of presumptively criminally liable,” he added.
Such “dissonance” in the SC ruling, Lacierda pointed out, has put the names of officials who were never implicated in any wrongdoing in bad light such as Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson and Education Secretary Armin Luistro.
When asked if the Palace legal team reviewing the decision would seek to expunge “criminal liability” of the Cabinet officials, including Budget Secretary Florencio “Butch” Abad, Lacierda replied in the affirmative.
“As to what the legal team is going to do, that’s being studied. The entire case is being studied. And so what particular arguments will be raised, that will be up to the legal team to decide,” the Palace official said.
According to him, the first “milestone” would be to arrive at a decision on whether to file a motion for reconsideration.
“First of all, is there a need for a motion for [reconsideration]? That’s the first milestone that we have to arrive at to decide on and after that, what will be the arguments in the motion for [reconsideration]? This is a standard process that every lawyer would do when confronted with the decision adverse to that,” he said.
The “import of the decision of the SC,” Lacierda also noted, is that it “affected good men and women doing reforms for the country.”
He said the public should read and understand the spirit of the SC decision, which did not charge any member of the Cabinet of stealing funds.
“Was there any allegation that Secretary Butch Abad stole the money? Because if they had, the Supreme Court would have said, ‘The effects of the DAP were wrong’,” the Palace official added.
“There’s a difference on how we interpreted the use of savings, when can savings be declared,” Lacierda said.