NOT only Budget Secretary Florencio Abad Jr. but practically the entire Cabinet of President Benigno Aquino 3rd may be held liable for implementing “unconstitutional” provisions of the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) as it was “designed” and recommended for approval by the Development Budget Coordinating Council (DBCC) and the Cabinet clusters, which count all department heads as members.
The DAP, which the government claims was a stimulus package designed to fast-track public spending and push economic growth, was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court (SC) on Tuesday.
Although Palace officials maintained that there was “good faith” in the implementation of the program, DAP implementors may not escape liability.
The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) headed the crafting of the controversial program with the full cooperation of other Cabinet members.
“The DAP was approved by the President on October 12, 2011 upon the recommendation of the [DBCC] and the Cabinet clusters,” the DBM said on its website.
In a news briefing on Thursday, Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. explained that according to the structure of the Cabinet, those with direct participation in matters pertaining to the national budget are included in the DBCC.
“The [DBCC] is similar to the composition of the economic cluster that regularly participates in sharing inputs to the design and implementation of the national budget,” Coloma said.
He added that while Abad heads the DBM, “the head of the economic cluster is the Secretary of Finance Cesar Purisima.”
Coloma said the members of the clusters who approved the DAP for implementation “are the heads of the agencies that are members of the [DBCC].”
The Manila Times learned that the DBCC is composed of the Secretary of Budget and Management, as chairman; the Director-General of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Secretariat, as co-chairman; and the Executive Secretary, Secretary of Finance and the Governor of the Central Bank of the Philippines, as members.
The DBCC recommends to the President the level of annual government expenditures and the ceiling of government spending for economic and social development, national defense and government debt service, among others.
The “clusters” pertain to the five Cabinet groups formed under Executive Order (EO) 43 to address key priority areas of the administration.
Based on the EO, which the President signed on May 13, 2011, the five Cabinet clusters are Good Governance and Anti-Corruption; Human Development and Poverty Reduction; Economic Development; Security, Justice and Peace; and Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation.
Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. explained that the clustering of the Cabinet aims to ensure efficiency, effectiveness and focus in carrying out the programs and policies of the government.
The clusters were practically the brainchild of Ochoa.
The Cabinet heads agreed that the cluster system would be effective in advising the President by recommending policies related to their respective cluster’s concerns.
Speaking for the entire Cabinet, Coloma said on the implementation of the DAP, they have observed due diligence and good faith.
“We affirm that in implementing the DAP, the executive branch exercised good faith and due diligence, in accordance with existing laws and pertinent auditing rules and procedures. We believe we have been abiding by and complying with such lawful processes,” the Palace official noted.
He said they will “review the decision further to gain a more comprehensive understanding of its ramifications and study the appropriate legal options.”
“We note that the Supreme Court affirmed the authority of the President as Chief Executive to implement the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) as a stimulus program to achieve economic growth and as an administrative system of prioritizing spending in the execution of the national budget. It is in the interpretation of the Constitution and applicable laws on the fine details of budget execution that the views of the executive and the Supreme Court diverged,” Coloma pointed out.
He also noted the SC’s assertion that “the implementation of the DAP yielded undeniably positive results that enhanced the economic welfare of the country.”
“To count the positive results may be impossible but the visible ones, like public infrastructure, could easily include roads, bridges, homes for the homeless, hospitals, classrooms and the like. Not to apply the doctrine of operative fact to the DAP could literally cause the physical undoing of such worthy results by destruction and would result in most undesirable wastefulness,” he further quoted the court as saying.