THE proposal to extend the term of President Benigno Aquino 3rd, the continuing attacks on the Supreme Court and the measure seeking to virtually legalize the controversial Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) are all part of the “safety net” being crafted by Malacanang to protect officials from criminal prosecution once the President steps down in 2016, former senator Joker Arroyo said on Sunday.
The Supreme Court (SC) decision declaring parts of the DAP unconstitutional, according to Arroyo, exposed some officials of the Aquino administration to possible lawsuits that may be filed against them in case the next President is not their ally.
He, however, said while he is confident that Aquino would not be among those who may be charged, the other officials responsible for coming up with the controversial government spending mechanism may face charges.
“If PNoy’s (President Aquino) term will not be extended and his anointed one will not succeed him, they (Malacanang officials) might face charges in relation to the DAP,” the former senator said in an interview aired over radio dzBB.
He added that since Malacanang is not sure if the SC will reverse its DAP ruling, allies of the administration have introduced some fallback positions, which include constitutional amendments
Arroyo did not identify who among the Aquino officials are likely to be charged but he noted that they are the ones who are advising the President on the issue of term extension and judicial overreach.
The High Court, in its ruling issued on July 1, 2014, ruled as illegal the declaration of the withdrawn unobligated allotments and unreleased appropriations as savings before the end of the fiscal year and the cross-border transfer of savings of the executive department to augment the appropriations of other offices outside the executive.
Arroyo said Aquino should comply with his promises and accept the fact that his term will end in 2016.
He added that it is not fair for the President to insist that he is not finished with his reform agenda and that the he must choose the leader who would continue his daang matuwid [straight path]advocacy.
“That is his (Aquino) program, so he should live with it. That is not fair, no matter what road his parents went to, Noynoy [the President’s nickname]is on his own,” Arroyo said.
The incumbent leader is the eldest child of late former senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr. and late former President Corazon “Cory” Aquino.
Arroyo expressed concern over an ongoing confrontation between the executive and the judiciary, particularly the proposal to amend the 1987 Constitution to clip the powers of the SC and the move of the House of Representatives to investigate the Judiciary Development Fund (JDF).
He believes that this “offensive” against the high tribunal is part of the executive’s attempt to “tame” the judiciary.
“When you are the President, you are supposed to unite the people, that is the objective,” Arroyo said.
The former senator cited a pending measure at the House of Representatives that seeks to virtually legalize the DAP.
Arroyo could be referring to House Bill 4770 filed by Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Everdone, an ally of Aquino.
Under the measure, the President, Senate President, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Chief Justice and all heads of constitutional commissions will be authorized “to use their respective savings on a quarterly basis or at any time within six months from the time it arises or declared as such within the current year of appropriation.”
The bill also allows realignment of funds to augment deficiencies in any item of their respective appropriations in accordance with provisions of the appropriations act for the current year.
“So, these are the steps they [administration]are taking now and it all revolves around the DAP,” Arroyo said.