A measure signed into law by Corazon Aquino just before losing her transitional powers as revolutionary president to the elected Congress in 1987 may rescue her son President Benigno Aquino 3rd from a political downfall that could loom over his legal blunder on the use of a presidential development fund.
A former official of the Cory Aquino Cabinet said Malacañang can invoke that law in defense of the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), which was recently declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.
Executive Order 292, otherwise known as the Administrative Code of 1987, has been cited by President Benigno Aquino’s team as one of the reasons to justify “good faith” in the release of public funds through DAP. The measure was signed into law on July 25, 1987, according to Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda.
“The Revised Administrative Code of 1987 is EO 292. That was enacted, signed as an Executive Act by President Cory Aquino when she was a revolutionary government president. It was signed, I believe, two days before the First Congress under the 1987 Constitution was convened. She signed it July 25, I think. The First Congress convened on July 27,” Lacierda said.
President Cory Aquino delivered her first state of the nation address on July 27, 1987 when the First Congress opened.
Interestingly, she never had the chance to use the powers given to her by the Administrative Code she signed into law. It is her son Benigno who may need to avail of the full force and effect of her mother’s last law if he faces impeachment over the unconstitutionality of the DAP.
Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. confirmed that EO 292 is among the “legal measures being studied” by Palace lawyers and the Office of the Solicitor General.
According to Lacierda, Cory’s legislative powers under the 1987 Charter ended on the day Congress convened.
“If you look at the 1987 Constitution, the transitory provisions there said that the President will continue to exercise her legislative powers until, [and]I’m paraphrasing here, the President will continue to exercise her legislative powers until the First Congress convenes,” said the Palace official.
The law has since been “the basis for the continuing authority of the President to reorganize the executive branch or the executive department.”
There were insinuations that the Admin Code was a spillover from the Marcos era, which Lacierda readily belied because of the fact that Cory signed it on July 25, 1987, more than a year after Marcos had fled to Hawaii.
“So, the implication it was signed by Mr. Marcos is not supported by facts and the dates of events. The Revised Administrative Code was signed by President Cory under powers provided to her during that time prior to the normalization of our government. It is also supported by the transitory provisions in the 1987 Constitution,” he pointed out.
Even former Sen. Rene Saguisag, in an article published in The Manila Times, said Malacañang can invoke the Code in defense of DAP, and if only to justify “good faith” in the release of public funds through the controversial program.
Saguisag particularly cited Sec. 49 which says: “Authority to Use Savings for Certain Purposes—Savings in the appropriations provided in the General Appropriations Act may be used for the settlement of the following obligations incurred during a current fiscal year or previous fiscal years as may be approved by the Secretary in accordance with Rules and procedures as may be approved by the President: . . .”
The former senator and famous human rights lawyer said the same power extends to “Priority activities that will promote the economic well-being of the nation, including food production, agrarian reform, energy development, disaster relief, and rehabilitation . . . [and]Repair, improvement and renovation of government buildings and infrastructure and other capital assets damaged by natural calamities.”
Activist lawyer disagrees
Activist lawyer Argee Guevarra, however, told The Times that EO 292 cannot shield the Aquino government from liability. If his memory serves him right, Guevarra said, the Administrative Code was not even raised by the SolGen during oral arguments at the SC.
“It was only an afterthought . . . Admin Code cannot be used as an excuse to establish good faith,” the lawyer stressed.