PRESIDENT Benigno Aquino 3rd on Wednesday dared his critics to file an impeachment complaint against him if they believe the controversial Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) fund releases that he authorized were illegal.
Aquino particularly lashed out at former Senator Joker Arroyo and Sen. Miriam
Defensor-Santiago, who considered the disbursements made through DAP, including the millions released to senators after the conviction of former chief justice Renato Corona, were “illegal” and “unconstitutional.”
“Isulong nila kung sa palagay nila nasa tama pero kakabasa ko lang sa Constitution, merong authority sa savings to put to other uses basta nandun sa ating budget [They can pursue it if they are convinced what I did was wrong but I just read the Constitution and it says I have authority to direct savings to other uses as long as it is included in the budget],” he said.
The two senators, who voted to acquit Corona, said the Aquino administration’s DAP was neither provided for under the General Appropriations Act or in any of the country’s laws.
The President said it is within his powers to realign savings.
His spokesman earlier cited Article 6, Section 25 paragraph 5 which states that “No law shall be passed authorizing any transfer of appropriations; however, the President, the President of the Senate, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, and the heads of Constitutional Commissions may, by law, be authorized to augment any item in the general appropriations law for their respective offices from savings in other items of their respective appropriations.”
Not a bribe
According to the President, the DAP funds were used for projects that Congress had already authorized.
”Since they are both senators, one would assume that they were either supportive of the budget or they were not successful in thwarting the budget,” he said.
He argued that DAP was meant for the efficient departments whose projects should be finished in a short period of time.
“So we found the funds for them,” Aquino added. The President insisted that the DAP funds given to lawmakers can never be considered as bribes for the conviction of Corona since those were released in October, months after the impeachment trial.
“How can there be a bribe after the fact?” he pointed out.
The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) earlier said millions of pesos from the DAP were released to lawmakers to ramp up government spending and help fire up the economy.
Budget Secretary Florencio Abad said the DAP releases were sourced from the savings of the national government, which includes unprogrammed funds generated from windfall revenue collections, unreleased appropriations from slow-moving projects, and terminated programs.
Ignoring the fact that the President is immune from suit, a peasant group filed a case of plunder and other graft-related complaints against Aquino and two senior Cabinet officials for their alleged failure to delist the bogus nongovernment organizations (NGO) that Janet Lim Napoles used to rake in hundreds of millions of pesos from the P10 billion Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).
Aside from the President, the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) also named as respondents Abad, Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala, Agriculture Undersecretary Antonio Fleta, Alcala’s executive assistant Arnulfo Mañalac, Salvador Salacup, Budget Undersecretary Mario Relampagos, Napoles, her brother John Lim and scam informant Merlina Suñas.
In its complaint before the Office of the Ombudsman, the KMP said the Department of Agriculture accredited three foundations in 2013—Kabuhayan at Kalusugan Alay sa Masa Foundation Inc. (KKAMFI), Gabay at Pag-Asa ng Masa Foundation Inc.
(GPMFI) and Kaupdanan Para sa mga Mangunguma Foundation Inc. (KPMFI)—even after the Commission on Audit (COA) discovered that they were being run by Napoles.
Accredited NGOs get to be the implementing agencies of the PDAF-funded projects of lawmakers.
Based on the COA Special Audit on PDAF spending from 2007 to 2009, at least P526.679 million was funneled to the KKAMFI, with the National Agribusiness Corp. (Nabcor), the Technology Resource Center, and the National Livelihood Development Corp. acting as implementing agencies.
The COA audit showed that P108.15 million went to the GPMFI while the KPMFI obtained P83 million in pork barrel funds from the DA in 2012.
In a statement, the KMP said that under the Doctrine of Qualified Political Agency, “The acts committed by the department secretaries under the Executive Department are deemed acts of the President. Moreover, since there was no reprobation or disapproval coming from President Aquino regarding their actions, it can be easily inferred that the President acquiesced to such acts.”
The DA, through Fleta and Agawin, “accredited the NGOs with the approval of the Secretary Alcala. The fact that the transactions of the bogus NGOs have already started as early as 2007 should have been enough reason not to continue their accreditation,” it said.
Yet the DA “did not lift a finger to delist and file criminal cases against the said NGOs.
As such, it could be reasonably concluded that the respondents-officials of DA have conspired and benefited from the scam,” the group said.
The complainants include KMP vice-chairperson and Alyansa ng mga Magbubukid sa Gitnang Luzon (AMGL) chairman Jose Canlas, Katipunan ng mga Samahang Magbubukid sa Timog Katagalugan (Kasama-TK) spokesman Nestor Villanueva, KMP secretary general Antonio Flores and his deputy secretary, Wilfredo Marbella.
“Alcala and his gang’s schematic plunder of agricultural funds and their pig-headed refusal to resign are the biggest roadblocks to food security and self-sufficiency,” Flores said in a separate statement.
He said the plunder charge against Aquino and his top cabinet officials is an “acid test” for the Ombudsman.
“The Ombudsman has the power to investigate even a sitting President and the Filipino people have every right to know his participation in the pork barrel scam.
Aquino cannot hide under the mantle of presidential immunity,” Flores said.
Probe Aquino, DAP
At the House of Representatives, Kabataan Rep. Terry Ridon on Wednesday filed a resolution urging the Committees on Appropriation and Good Government and Public Accountability to investigate Aquino.
“We have repeatedly said in the past that discretionary funds that are under the sole control of the President are highly vulnerable to corruption and misuse. Now, we’re witnessing what such funds can do concretely—it can make or unmake even the highest officials of the land—just as what happened to former Chief Justice Corona,” Ridon said in a statement.
Controversy shrouded DAP after Sen. Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada revealed in a privilege speech last week that several legislators received millions of pesos from the DAP as incentives for convicting Corona.
“Though not all senators have admitted that DAP was used as a form of incentive for the successful impeachment of Corona, no one has denied receiving the said funds.
Even Senate President Franklin Drilon himself said that he received P100 million,” Ridon said.