Saving the Executive

12

I am writing this column an hour before the President delivers his State of the DAP speech.

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For three weeks now, the public has been in an uproar over the unanimous (with one abstention) Supreme Court decision on the Disbursement Acceleration Program of the administration which was released the other Tuesday. All other national issues were swept aside as newspaper headlines, radio commentaries, television talk shows, and social media analyzed and debated the decision line by line. When the individual comments of some justices were made public, these were publicly subjected to examination in all forms of media, as well as in law schools and coffee shops and even in private conversation.

The intense interest was partly due to the five-month wait which gave rise to many speculations and guesses about the reason for the delay–the feverish campaign for yes and no votes, the retirement of one justice, the appointment of a new one, and the need to protect the President and the Department of Budget and Management Secretary.

Since then, the level of debate has escalated from how much is DAP fund; where did it go; who were the recipients and beneficiaries; should the money be refunded, to should the DBM secretary resign and should the President be impeached?

Why the state of the DAP speech?
From day one after the SC decision, the possibilities of impeachment were debated publicly. The reaction of the supporters of the Executive was laughter and mockery. Such an effort will never prosper, according to them. Impeachment is essentially a numbers game. With all the resources at the disposal of the President, congressmen and senators who want to be reelected will easily be persuaded to vote against it, they said.

By the way, it is reported that pork which will be lodged in the agencies has been raised from P70 million per congressman to P90 million. The congressmen will identify the projects for the “enhanced pork barrel.”

Still, talks about impeachment persisted. The topic continued to be debated. In the meantime, more information surfaced. At least two groups of congressmen and women expressed their intention to start impeachment proceedings.

Groups which were still consulting their membership stated that those who already declared their intentions should not be mocked and derided and that the process must be allowed to continue. To them, what is important is that at this time when the Constitution has been subjected to attack, there are those who acted and came to its defense.

On the other hand, those committed to saving the Executive (including the DBM secretary) shifted their tactics from silence and scorn to aggressive defense of the Executive. Personalities close to the administration started writing in columns and appearing on television talk shows. This weekend was particularly loaded with statements and write-ups.

What are the arguments presented in the campaign to save the Executive?

1. The Executive (the President and the DBM ) are honest, upright men. The president has stated time and again that “hindi siya magnanakaw …” The honesty of the President has never been questioned, although it cannot be said of all the recipients of DAP largesse, including Napoles. The issue here is culpable violation of the Constitution.

The Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices act specifies that even if an official did not benefit financially from an illegal transaction, he is nonetheless liable.

The much-discussed doctrine of “operative fact” which is cited in the Supreme Court decision clearly states that it can apply to projects which no longer be undone but does not apply to the authors, proponents and implementors.

Good faith? While very convenient, this is difficult to prove. If allowed, we will be providing officials with convenient excuses for violating not only the fundamental law of the land, but also other laws.

2. The DAP benefited the economy. During the oral arguments, the Solicitor General and the DBM secretary cited a World Bank report on how the DAP increased the GDP. It turned out that the World Bank report was taken out of context. The report even noted that the contributions of the DAP were not enough to attain the GDP targets.

An examination of samples of DAP transactions cited in the Supreme Court decision showed that large allocations cannot be claimed to have immediate impact on the GDP, such as P1.5 billion for the Cordillera People’s Liberation Army, P1.8

billion for the Moro National Liberation Front, P8.6 billion for the ARMM, and P30 billion to increase the capitalization of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas.

And what about the unconstitutional cross-border “aid” to other branches of government, e.g. P 43 million to finish the E-library of Congress, P143.700 million for the Commission on Audit, and additional aid to the Comelec?

For sure, the President’s speech will be loaded with information about projects which directly affected the economy. How about those which are not mentioned at all like the allocations cited above? We should look for what is not in the President’s speech.

3. Accepting the resignation of the DBM secretary will destroy all the budget reform initiatives initiated by him. I have pointed out repeatedly that GAA-AS-RELEASED applies only to agency budgets and projects which contain details. These cannot apply to lump sum appropriations. Considering the fact that one half of the national expenditure program is in automatic appropriations and lump sum appropriations, these wonderful reforms can only affect one-half of expenditures.

The much praised reforms, incomplete as they are, are already in place. These were implemented with the full assistance of the World Bank. The DBM is replete with undersecretaries, assistant secretaries and bureau directors who can carry on the work of implementing the national budget.

4. Certain provisions of the Administrative Code can be cited in the defense of the Executive. One journalist whose article was widely circulated, noted hopefully that this Code which was produced during the late President Aquino’s time, can save the President.

The Administrative Code is a compilation of laws and presidential decrees governing administrative matters. It includes P.D. 1177 which is all about the budget and was included in the Administrative Code. It did not originate from the present president’s mother.

Besides, this item has been thoroughly discussed in the Supreme Court decision. In the case of Demetria v. Alba, the provision cited in the article has been struck down for violating the 1973 Constitution.

Finally, whatever processes will be initiated by the relevant institutions, these will result in more information about the sources and utilization of DAP funds. These will be beneficial to the public and will help them decide who to vote for in 2016.

The entire machinery of government has been mobilized to save the Executive. It is well known that a big PR firm has been engaged to create the appropriate spins. Who will save the Constitution for unending attacks? And most important, who will save the Filipino people who continue to pay taxes, and are continually cheated of the very services they deserve and have paid for?

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12 Comments

  1. Never mind not following the Constitution. Wala naman WANG-WANG eh.

    He never found the simple privilege of using the siren important because he is in no hurry to get anything done. After all, what’s so important? He is just the President of the Philippines.

  2. Alejo Rosete on

    My prediction – The President will declare “Martial Law”. He is creating all these troubles/scenarioS to justify the declaration of martial law to save the country.

    No – to save himself. But he cannot succeed because the “People will go again to EDSA with the help of all religious groups (Priest, Nuns, etc). If this happens – THE MILITARY WILL STEP IN. THERE YOU GO, WORSE THAN THE MARTIAL LAW OF MARCOS.

    “Martial Law of President BS AQUINO”.

    America and the Western Democracies frown at Martial Law.

    In the end The President will step down and join Gloria. Gloria meets him at the door and say, “WELCOME – STUDENT”.

    Binay will be the President – will immediately pardon Ex-President BS Aquino, since he is a Cory man.

  3. Jake Crisologo on

    I believe in relation to this, there are movements right now to “fix” the Constitution and justify PNoy and Abad’s actions. Though Constitutional reform is a valid debate, I don’t see how it ethically plays into the issue of the DAP. I find it strange that rather influential individuals, like Prof. Winnie Monsod and Carlos Celdran, are on the side of the Administration. DAP supporters say that the issues are from a “felt” need and “good faith” and an “honest” president. But these are immaterial in the context of principle and constitutionality.

  4. It seems with good faith I can do anything: shoot drug lords and corrupt gov’t officials, hang child molesters, rob banks to feed the poor, etc! As long as I have the people’s welfare in mind, everything will be ok. It doesn’t matter how you do it. Just believe in your heart and mind that you are right. Come everyone, enjoy the party. What a country this will be!

    Is Robin Hood the idol of the President?

  5. prof. Briones, hindi ko po alam kung may pagasa pa si mr Penot na
    maayos ang pangUNAWA niya sa Tama at Mali, dahil para sa
    kaniya, lahat ng aprobahan niya ay Tama at di magkakamali, at ganun
    din ang panananaw niya sa mga ALAGAD niya.
    Si Gloria Macapagal Arroyo at ang Ateneo ang dapat
    sisihin talaga kung bakit pinalusot nila at pina graduate si
    Penoy na Kenkoy ang kina hinatnan. Dapat siguro baka
    pwede mag kaisa ang buong Bansa na mag demand na
    Bumuo ng Fast Track special Class ng K12 si DEPED
    Sec Luistro at ienroll si Penoy, Abad at iba pang mga
    alagad nito para matuto na bakit dapat sumunod sa Constitution
    at dapat bigyan proteksyon ang Saligang Batas, lalo na
    ng Presidente na nanumpa at naatasang walang pasubaling
    susunod at magbibigay proteksyon dito. Dagdagan
    ng special class conducted ninyo Prof briones para
    maisik sik ninyo sa utak ng mga yan bakit Korte Suprema
    ang tangging arbiter kung may kustiyon sa constitution, at
    bakit illegal ang DAP ayon sa constitution, SOBRA pong
    Kulit kasi, parang mga retarded lang.

  6. chic justice on

    He is the Congress. He is the Administration. He is the victim. He is the arbiter. He is the Constitution. He is the law.

  7. Charles G. Belgica on

    The President is supposed to uphold the constitution. He is doing exactly the opposite. God save this country.

  8. Edgar G. Festin on

    Prof. Briones, you will see more than what you have written in this column why the Executive must be saved. President Aquino will declare martial law or emergency rule, get overhwelming approval of Congress as required by the Constitution, make the Judiciary as cooperative with the Executive as it was during the Marcis Martial Law regime. But this time, unlike Marcos, strong government will serve the goal of uplifting the poor and making agrarian reform work through the Hacienda Luisita Formula of turning haciendas into successful agricultural corporations without the foolishness of communist and National Democratic Front organizations.
    Then will the Philippines be as prosperous and better governed as South Korea, Taiwan and Singapore are now.

    • I agree, we need to save the Executive Branch from further harm but not PNoy to head it. This man hurt the Executive Branch so much that it will take a long time saving it from its integrity and the suspicions that the same branch is the architect of several types of corruption mechanism in place which were never done by those administrations ahead of him. We need somebody in the Executive who is smart, experienced, with leadership qualities and impeccable honesty. Better still change the system of government where it can respond more to the needs of the common man, the citizen not the needs of the rich and oligarchs.

    • in your dreams… you are underestimating the resolve of filipino people. never again a dictator!

  9. SALVACION CAHAYAG on

    In this country we have laws but this president refuses to follow and obey it. What
    do you expect from the ordinary Filipino when this president who was sworn
    to respect, obey and defend the constitution has no respect for the Supreme
    Court and these who are supposed to advise him continues to coddle him for
    their own benefit.