THE Supreme Court (SC) has yet to rule on the legality of the controversial Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) but President Benigno Aquino 3rd on Tuesday said that the disbursement program will stay.
The High Court did not issue a temporary restraining order that would have stopped the implementation of DAP when it heard oral arguments yesterday. It however directed Malacañang and the Senate to explain the legality of the spending program.
The Palace and Senate President Franklin Drilon were told to file their answers within 10 days.
Likewise, the tribunal ordered the holding of oral arguments on the issue on October 22.
Two petitions have already been consolidated by the SC regarding the issue on DAP. The first was filed by former Rep. Augusto Syjuco Jr. of Iloilo, who recently filed a petition for Prohibition, Mandamus and Certiorari. The other petition was filed by former Manila Councilor Greco Belgica.
Aquino however said that his government will continue to disburse funds through DAP since there is nothing irregular in the program.
The President cited a Cabinet policy of “use it or lose it” when it comes to funds allotted for different agencies.
“There is no reason for everybody to be delayed if there is an opportunity to accelerate that project which was approved by Congress, which they found merit with and if we can accelerate the benefits that will accrue to the people, why delay it?” he told reporters.
“So why lose and go to the whole process of having it approved again in a subsequent year?” Aquino asked.
According to the President, the savings used for the program were from projects already approved by lawmakers.
“It is not a unilateral decision on our part, we can only fund from savings items that have already been approved by Congress. We are not inventing a new budgetary line,” he emphasized.
However, Aquino admitted that some savings were coursed through lawmakers who may have given them to questionable non-government organizations.
For instance, he cited a document showing that a lawmaker requested P5 million from DAP for “anti-dengue” medicine. He refused to name the lawmaker.
“So I was curious. I talked to our doctor, and I asked: ‘Is there such a thing as an anti-dengue medication?’ [The] vaccine is still being developed for all four varieties,” Aquino said.
“There is no such thing as anti-dengue medication. So I questioned [it]. How come no one caught this?” he said.
To help minimize fund misuse, Aquino said that the 2014 budget will specify the expected outputs of government agencies.
During the oral arguments yesterday, Syjuco said that the funds funneled to the DAP were realigned budgets from slow moving items to items or projects which Malacañang deemed appropriate to be financed by savings from the annual budget.
He argued that savings should comprise funds from already paid and completed projects or line budgets and not those still being undertaken but left unfinished.
Syjuco noted that since the definition of the word “savings” as provided in certain provisions of the Constitution are funds that were never used in the first place, like in the case of DAP funds, then it cannot be classified as savings.
“As such, it is for this reason that DAP creation and implementation is unconstitutional and illegal,” the former legislator pointed out.
Syjuco claimed that because of the DAP creation and implementation, “a total amount of P137.3 billion was released as of October 1, 2013.”
Belgica, for his part, said that the P1.107 billion DAP released by the Palace to senators clearly violated Section 25 (5) Article VI of the Constitution.
The law bars “any transfer of appropriations [except]to augment any item in the general appropriations law for their respective offices from savings in other items of the their respective appropriations.”