• Drilon, Davila, and the DAP disinformation drive

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    … the following acts and practices under the Disbursement Acceleration Program, National Budget Circular No. 541 and related executive issuances [are declared]UNCONSTITUTIONAL for being in violation of Section 25(5), Article VI of the 1987 Constitution and the doctrine of separation of powers, namely:
    (a) The withdrawal of unobligated allotments from the implementing agencies, and the declaration of the withdrawn unobligated allotments and unreleased appropriations as savings prior to the end of the fiscal year and without complying with the statutory definition of savings contained in the General Appropriations Acts;
    (b) The cross-border transfers of the savings of the Executive to augment the appropriations of other offices outside the Executive; and
    (c) The funding of projects, activities and programs that were not covered by any appropriation in the General Appropriations Act.
    — Supreme Court decision on DAP

    HERE’s the latest twist in the administration’s effort to justify President Benigno Aquino 3rd’s illegal Disbursement Acceleration Program, which covered between P140 billion and P170 billion in public expenditures, according to varying soundbites.

    The new DAP tack rolled out by Aquino allies in Congress and mainstream media is to focus public attention and congressional action on the issue of misdeclaring savings. With this distraction, the apparently aim is to wipe from the public mind the inexcusable and far more serious violation of spending on “projects, activities and programs that were not covered by any appropriation in the General Appropriations Act.”

    This DAP disinformation was on display in Senate President Franklin Drilon’s interview yesterday morning on ANC’s Headstart program, hosted by Karen Davila. Unless they’ve read the Supreme Court decision, especially the dispositive portion quoted above, most people watching Drilon and Davila would think that the main violation committed by Aquino and his Budget Secretary Florencio Abad had to do with savings.

    As a seasoned lawyer and a former Justice Secretary, Drilon knows that the High Court ruling cited three violations: misdeclaring savings, transferring Executive Department appropriations to other branches of government and constitutional commissions, and allocating public money on expenditures not approved or budgeted by Congress, the only entity empowered by the Constitution to authorize any government disbursement. But he never mentioned the last two offenses, and Davila didn’t press him hard on it.

    Absolving the President
    This misinformation may help absolve the President and his alter ego of fiscal and criminal liability, if only in the public mind. Wrongly declaring and realigning savings could be excused as a purportedly honest mistake due to an erroneous interpretation of the GAA definition of savings. Plus: The subservient Congress plans to amend the law to include the DAP manner of declaring savings among those allowed under the budget.

    Senate President Drilon went even further, suggesting that the Supreme Court ruled DAP unconstitutional under its own reading of the statutes on savings. Hence, he contended, Congress just has to clarify what it really meant in the savings definitions, and all would be made right.

    Not so. The definitions in the 2011, 2012 and 2013 national budgets were clear and not open to wide interpretation. The GAAs provided that savings can only come from three sources: unspent appropriations of programs and projects already completed, discontinued or abandoned; unpaid salaries and other compensation for budgeted but vacant positions; and lower implementation costs due to greater efficiency and improved systems. In its bill to legalize DAP’s declaration of savings, Congress would, in fact, adopt a new definition altogether, different from the ones used in past budgets.

    There is no such way out, however, for the much more egregious violation of spending DAP funds on items never authorized by Congress. For one thing, no government official who understands English can credibly claim that he misconstrued Article VI, Section 29 of the Constitution: “No money shall be paid out of the Treasury except in pursuance of an appropriation made by law.”

    Anyone lacking in literacy or intelligence to correctly understand that provision is clearly unqualified to hold high public office. Since Aquino and Abad evidently have both the high education and the long experience required for their respective posts, they cannot claim that they misunderstood the charter’s prohibition against unauthorized government expenditures. Nor can Congress scrap this constitutional ban by merely passing a law.

    To repeat: anyone who authorizes the disbursement of state funds for expenditures not covered by legislation, is guilty of violating the Constitution. And that is what Aquino and Abad did. Said the Supreme Court ruling: “Upon careful review of the documents contained in the seven evidence packets [presented in the case], we conclude that the ‘savings’ pooled under the DAP were allocated to PAPs [programs and projects]that were not covered by any appropriations in the pertinent GAAs.”

    Under the Revised Penal Code, such unauthorized spending is punishable as malversation, at the very least. The Commission on Audit can also order culpable officials to pay back misappropriated funds. If the expenditures unduly benefited the officials who authorized them, that could be grounds for corruption or plunder charges. And for impeachable officials like Aquino, disbursing public monies with no budget cover may constitute culpable violation of the Constitution and betrayal of public trust.

    Avoiding accountability
    Few expect the current Congress to impeach him for the biggest misappropriation of funds in Philippine history. Nor is his handpicked Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales likely to push for his impeachment so he can be held accountable. She probably won’t file charges either against DAP architect Abad. After all, she has been sitting on countless cases against Aquino allies in Congress, including dozens involved in the decade-old P700-million fertilizer fund scam, for which voluminous documents have long implicated those lawmakers.

    All this may change, however, if an opposition Chief Executive takes power in 2016, and gains full access to all the DAP and pork barrel papers now locked up by Abad in the Department of Budget and Management.

    Right now, Vice-President Jejomar Binay, leader of the opposition United Nationalist Alliance, is the most popular presidentiable. This week he revealed that administration feelers have contacted him about possibly uniting behind a single presidential standard bearer. Some factions in the Aquino camp, including his sisters, are said to look with favor on the VP, an Aquino loyalist since the time of the late president Corazon Aquino.

    If her son backs Binay in 2016, it may well enable both to avoid accountability for unsavory allegations raised against them. Ensuring he is undisturbed after his presidency ends—that imperative may ultimately be the bottom line for Benigno Simeon Cojuangco Aquino 3rd.

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    9 Comments

    1. If the conjectural predictions come about, it would give the best chance for an Erap come back and clear his name finally for his unjustified removal, but political morality will .again be at stake as it may augur the PARDON of a convicted dynasty member, if ever. Pinoys wake up!!

    2. That is exactly the point, since binay is somehow indebted to the aquinos. IN fact, he hasn’t opined strongly against the DAP nor Pinoy’s use of the DAP. Meaning, he is treading his path carefully and that is not good. Pinoy was a vengeful person whose main aim when he swore in as president was to put 2 people in jail, arroyo and corona. corona was not put in jail but he was removed from office. Someone has to do the same thing to him so he will learn to realized the fact that instead of improving the country by good governance, he spent the money to back up his revenge. Behaving like a brat who was used to having everything he wanted or else, he would jump up and down and wail until he gets it. is he really our president? wow! and maybe NO to binay this coming election.

    3. Di namin iboboto si Binay kapag siya ang naging standard bearer ni Pnoy. Wala tayong patutunguhan. If possible mg coup nalang ang miltary kasama ang Simbahan. Nakakaawa na tayo sa mga taong ang layunin ay pansarili lamang.Wala silang Diyos.

    4. Melchor Vergara on

      Karen Davila may as well be an “honorary LP senator” for always allowing the yellow scumbags to use her and her program to spread their lies

    5. jason bourne on

      We can only make this right through a Revolution or a Coup de Etat.
      But I would not hold my breath that either one of these will soon materialize in the near future as long as the U.S. of A is still backing this group of Thieves.

    6. Johnny Ramos on

      Drillon is a forever alley of Pnoy. Someone has to look on the law practice of Drillon during Marcos years where he made millions lawyering for the cronies. Being friend of kris and sharon, Karen will always defend and justify the Dap of Pnoy.

    7. Very nice article. it only affirms that if the people needs justice to prevail after the Thief Execuitve PNoys term ends, we must not vote for Binay as well as other yellows in a cloak of being oppositionists.

    8. P. Akialamiro on

      First, Davila is not an ‘able’ person to interview for lack of indepth knowledge of the law as against Drilon who manipulated technically the meaning of the law. Second, Davila is not a good interviewer, at all, She often dominates the talking and shows excitement in anticipation to a follow-up question to an answer. Unlike other interviewers, she is usually led instead of leading the interview.

      • Bonifacio Claudio on

        In most of her interviews, she has exposed her lack of knowledge on the subject matter… She should do her “homework” professionally before reporting to work… Will she ever learn to respect the intelligence of the viewers?