PRESIDENT Benigno Aquino 3rd continued attacking the Supreme Court (SC) on Tuesday, saying the tribunal’s ruling against the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) will “paralyze” the country and “reverse economic progress.”
“In the short-term, the decision will have the effect of once again slowing down government spending. In the long-term, it removes our flexibility to act effectively in response to changing market conditions, and seize, or even create opportunities in doing so. It condemns us to a spiral of inefficiency, uncertainty and lack of confidence,” Aquino said during a dialogue with officials of the World Bank and businessmen in Malacañang.
“We are getting there. Unfortunately, the effects of the Supreme Court decision run the risk of putting our country’s development in a state of paralysis, or worse, reversing the massive progress we have already made,” the President told his audience, who included World Bank President Jim Yong Kim.
In his speech, Aquino could not hide his disgust and frustration over the ruling, which he first openly ridiculed in his national address on Monday night.
“This is not acceptable. Ensuring that essential services reach our countrymen is not just part of the mandate of the executive branch, it is part of the mandate of every branch of government. I find it difficult to accept their decision, when I know that we are right, and more important, that doing nothing means depriving so many Filipinos of opportunities to grow and prosper,” he said.
“I find it difficult to accept the decision of the Supreme Court, when it goes against the benefit of our countrymen. In fact, I believe that any reasonable person confronted with the same dilemma would come up with the same solution, or even a better refinement of what we did,” the President added.
He said he “cannot support any ruling that severely limits government’s capacity to serve its people in the quickest manner possible.”
“A collision between the executive and the judiciary might require the intervention of the legislature, and we do not want this. We want to work with our co-equal branches of government, in serving the Filipino people,” Aquino added.
He noted that the tribunal’s magistrates should also use their legal prowess and acumen to “serve their 98-million countrymen.”
According to the President, they were at first bewildered by the SC ruling, which said the DAP was a policy well within their rights to implement that “did good.”
“What is the logic of saying that the DAP redounded to a lot of good, but in the same breath, saying that as a method, it was bad? But from their point of view, we can understand why the Supreme Court declared certain portions of the DAP unconstitutional,” Aquino said.
He rebuked the High Court for failing to look at the Administrative Code of 1987, which, he said, is still constitutional in its entirety.
“The Supreme Court decision is deeply unsettling, not only because our honorable justices failed to take into consideration all our legal bases for the DAP, but also and more important because their ruling will have a chilling effect on our economy, and consequently on millions of Filipinos,” Aquino added.
‘DAP was good’
The President insisted that “DAP was good” and that only a “minimal portion has any issue.”
“The most compelling statement that has risen above the din and clamor surrounding the DAP has been this undisputed truth, the DAP was good. Neither the Supreme Court nor our most vociferous critics have made statements to the contrary,” he noted.
He cited a report entitled “Philippines Quarterly Update: From Stability to Prosperity for All” released in March 2012, where the World Bank stated that the DAP contributed to economic growth “in the best way possible” by “funneling billions of pesos in savings back into the economy.”
“On top of this, it also had a positive signaling effect to the private sector. In 2011, after the slowdown, growth was only at 3.7 percent. After investors and businessmen saw how quickly and efficiently government moved to address this, they gained confidence to invest in the country, and the numbers do speak for themselves. In 2012, growth was at 6.8 percent,” Aquino said.
According to him, any abuse or misuse of the funds released through the program would be dealt with harshly.
“Rest assured, the Commission on Audit will ensure that, if there was any abuse or misuse of this fund, then those responsible will be held to account,” he warned.
Aquino said past administrations implemented the Reserve Control Account and alternatively Overall Savings, which were used to respond to the Asian financial crisis and the fiscal crisis. He added that the DAP is only being demonized today because they have been transparent about it.
But even after his attacks on the DAP ruling, Aquino maintained that he holds no grudge against the SC.
“Let me make it clear: I bear no grudge or ill-will against the Supreme Court. That is not why we have consistently expressed our opposition to their ruling, or why we have decided to file a Motion for Reconsideration. In pursuing this course of action, we remain cognizant of our responsibility to find ways to uphold public order. After all, good governance is not just about putting an end to corruption, it is also about finding ways to accelerate the development of our people,” he said.
The President again cited certain provisions of the Administrative Code, which his mother, former President Corazon Aquino, signed into law before surrendering her transitional powers to Congress in July 1987.
To prove that “DAP is perfectly legal,” he invited attention to Book VI, Chapter 5, Section 38 of the Code as well as Chapter 5, Section 39. Also, he cited Book VI, Chapter 5, Section 49 of the law, which supposedly served as the basis for the implementation of the DAP.
“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,” Aquino noted.
Meanwhile, the World Bank said it will work with the Aquino administration in identifying and implementing practical solutions to the “toughest government challenges.”
“Let’s build institutions that respond to the slow emergency of poverty with the same intensity as the sudden shock of a typhoon. Let’s redefine the limits of the possible together,” Dr. Jim told Aquino.