THE Supreme Court (SC) on Tuesday junked the plea of Malacañang to defer for the next two months the hearings on the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) as a former lawmaker feared that any more delays asked by the palace could be converted into lobby votes with the justices favoring its constitutionality.
The high court, en banc, on Tuesday denied the plea of Executive Department to move the oral arguments on March 25 and gave the palace until January 28 to present its arguments in defense of DAP.
Malacañang was also ordered to comply with the order to submit the pertinent documents on DAP within a period of 15 days.
The SC has also set another schedule for oral arguments on February 18 for the legislative department to present its case after tapping retired SC Justice Vicente Mendoza as their private counsel.
It will be recalled that Rep. Augusto Syjuco of Iloilo warned that any delay sought by Malacañang in the hearing of the petitions against DAP would give room for “walkers” for DAP.
Malacañang sought the suspension of the hearings firstly because its collaborating counsel, retired SC Justice Vicente Mendoza, still has to study the case and the Department of Budget and Management said it has yet to collate all DAP-related documents as it had been preoccupied with the 2014 budget and the rehabilitation plans for the calamity-stricken areas in 2013.
But Syjuco rebuffed this saying that Mendoza has made his entry of appearance as early as December or a month earlier than the scheduled oral arguments. He argued that a month of preparation is more than enough for Mendoza to defend the palace.
As for the second reason, Syjuco said that Budget Secretary Florencio Abad himself guaranteed the SC en banc last November 19 that he will submit those documents before the December 10 scheduled debate, which was later on reset.
The Manila Times has just exposed recently that Chief Justice MariaLourdes Aranal-Sereno is doing a “chamber to chamber” practice to lobby with fellow justices to declare DAP as constitutional.
Sereno was seen inside the chambers of fellow justices to discuss the DAP case.
The source said, Sereno is doing an improper way of swaying her fellow justices on how to rule on the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) and DAP cases by going into their offices.
Meantime House leaders remain optimistic that the Supreme Court will rule in favor of the legality of the DAP—a mechanism wherein the President realigns government savings and windfall state revenues to priority programs of the administration.
Deputy Speaker Giorgidi Aggabao of Isabela, House Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales 2nd of Mandaluyong and House Committee on Games and Amusements Chair Elpidio Barzaga of Cavite expressed such sentiments in light of the move of Solicitor General Francis Jardaleza on January 16 asking the High Court to move the oral arguments on DAP to March 25 from January 28.
Jardaleza’s move marked the second time that he requested the High Court to defer the oral arguments on DAP. The oral arguments on DAP has been earlier moved from December 2013 to January 28 this year.
“I would not draw any adverse conclusion about the request of the Solicitor General. The case is complex and requires a thorough examination of voluminous evidence,” Aggabao, a lawyer and a certified public accountant, said in a text message.
DAP drew attention when Sen. Jinggoy Estrada, who is facing a plunder complaint before the Office of the Ombudsman over the P10-billion PDAF, revealed in a privilege speech that the President realigned savings to the priority projects of the lawmakers thru DAP after the conviction of then Chief Justice Renato Corona of betrayal of public trust because of undeclared wealth.
DAP’s legality was eventually questioned before the High Court.
“It was named as DAP, so the dispute came there. As for the [Presidential] realignment of savings [to priority projects], it is done and it is legal. The budget’s validity was just reduced to one year from two years and agencies were suddenly required to outline their savings,” Gonzales pointed out in a separate talk.
Also, Barzaga does not think that Jardaleza’s move is an admission that the government is yet to secure enough votes yet from the High Court justices favoring DAP’s legality.
“The OSG would need time to fully equip them for the oral arguments before the Supreme Court From what I read, the High Court asked for the receipts of the disbursements made thru DAP, so the OSG and the DBM would have to prepare documents,” Barzaga said in a separate interview, referring to the Department of Budget and Management.
“Having said that, I don’t think the government doesn’t have the numbers. I’m sure the Supreme Court justices are yet to make a decision on the issue because the oral arguments are yet to resume,” Barzaga added in closing.