Is DAP legal? High Court ruling sought

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THE Supreme Court will determine the legality and constitutionality of the Discretionary Acceleration Program (DAP) after a petition for certiorari was filed by a former Manila councilor.

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In his petition, Greco Belgica argued that the P1.107-billion DAP released by Malacañang to senators violated Section 25 (5) Article VI of the Constitution.

He said 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.”

“The DAP directly violates this constitutional prohibition. The transfer of the DAP funds from the executive branch to the legislative branch is simply a prohibited transfer of appropriations,” Belgica said.

“If Congress cannot pass a law transferring appropriations, it follows that the President cannot by Executive Order transfer appropriations. What Congress cannot do directly the President of the Philippines cannot do indirectly,” he pointed out.

He cited jurisprudence that lays down the requirements for the transfer of funds between two branches.

In Sanchez v. Commission on Audit, the High Court ruled that the funds to be realigned or transferred should be actual savings in the items of expenditures from which the same are to be taken and that the transfer is for the purpose of augmenting the items of expenditure to which the transfer or realignment is to be made.

But in this case, Belgica said there is no showing that the DAP funds were declared as savings and that the transfer was for augmenting an item of expenditure.

“The transfer of DAP funds to the legislative branch fails to meet the requisites laid down in Sanchez v. COA,” he said.
The Supreme Court is due to hear oral arguments on the alleged misuse of lawmakers’ pork barrel and the misuse of Malampaya funds next week.

New evil
For two Catholic bishops, the DAP is a new form of evil and the President must punish or remove officials who released the funds and those who misused it.

Novaliches Bishop Emeritus Teodoro Bacani, one of the members of the 1986 Constitutional Convention that drafted the 1987 Constitution, said on Thursday that DAP is illegal and unconstitutional. He said that the Executive department needs congressional authorization before it can release or allot the savings of government agencies for various projects.

Bacani bewailed that the money was not even used for government projects but to bribe lawmakers who convicted chief justice Renato Corona.

“There should be decisive action,” he said. Anyone who is at fault, even Cabinet officials, should be held liable, Bacani said in a radio interview.

He said that he doubts if only the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) is behind the disbursement of the DAP since the agency would not release such huge amounts without the approval of the President.

Bacani urged the Commission on Audit (COA) to investigate the senators who received DAP funds.

Antipolo Auxiliary Bishop Francisco de Leon, also the diocese administrator, said that the misuse of the lawmakers’ Priority Development Assistance Fund and the DAP violated the Constitution and divine law.

He asked Aquino to remove the officials implicated in the pork barrel scam and those who misused the DAP.

Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) Permanent Council member Digos Bishop Guillermo Afable also urged the President to make meaningful reforms in government. He said a good official does not hide irregularities, but exposes them.

Can’t abolish it
But Palace spokesman Edwin Lacierda maintained that the Constitution gives the President leeway to realign government savings.

”You’re going to take out realigned savings? DAP is another realigned savings, are you asking us to take out realigned savings? It’s in the Constitution,” Lacierda said.

Lacierda said Aquino has the power to use the savings for programs that are aligned with the administration’s priorities.

”We have constitutional, statutory, legal basis to defend re-aligned savings. DAP is none other than re-aligned savings. If you say it is unconstitutional, then you’re saying that re-aligned savings is unconstitutional,” he said.

He said that among the programs funded by DAP were housing units for members of the Bureau of Fire Protection and the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology, modernization of higher education facilities in state universities and colleges, infrastructure projects, and medical assistance to indigent patients.

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