THE Supreme Court (SC) is set to declare the controversial Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) as unconstitutional.
According to an unimpeachable source of The Manila Times, an overwhelming majority of SC justices are inclined to rule that President Benigno Aquino 3rd and Budget Secretary Florencio “Butch” Abad violated the Constitution when they created and implemented the DAP, which was touted as the President’s own “pork barrel.”
The magistrates held a “soft voting” on the issue on Tuesday last week and the en banc agreed in principle that DAP is unconstitutional because funds were transferred from one branch of government to another.
The Times source said at least nine out of the 13 justices manifested their intention to declare DAP illegal.
“A consensus was already made by the justice—DAP is unconstitutional. Two violations were committed by [the President]and Abad: first, there are no savings to begin with and second, if there are such savings, [the]cross-border of money savings is not allowed,” the source at the High Court said.
The source noted that a draft of the tribunal’s decision written by Associate Justice Lucas Bersamin has been circulated among the justices, as well as the separate concurring and dissenting opinions of the other magistrates.
The SC, however, will officially hand down its ruling on DAP in the first week of July since the justices have until June 25 to submit the final draft of their separate opinions. These opinions shall be considered and deliberated upon during their final voting on July 1.
According to The Times source, the separate opinions of Justices Antonio Carpio, Arturo Brion, Mariano del Castillo, Marvic Leonen and Estela Perlas-Bernabe have been circulated among the other justices.
One justice was of the opinion that DAP is “not unconstitutional” while another maintained that the program’s creation was legal for it is within the powers of the President as head of government and not just the executive branch.
Carpio circulated his draft opinion in April when the court held its summer session in Baguio City. Brion also circulated his draft opinion on the contending issues.
Carpio, Brion and Bersamin are known in the bench and the Bar as the “bright lights” in the High Court because of their brilliant minds.
Only 13 justices will vote on the DAP case during final deliberations next month because Associate Justice Teresita Leonardo-de Castro inhibited herself while Associate Justice Roberto Abad retired on May 22.
During their deliberations last week, The Times source said the SC magistrates upheld the “fiscal autonomy” powers of the President in using the savings of various government agencies but they noted that such funds can only be used within the executive branch.
The justices pinpointed the twin violations committed by Aquino and Abad when they implemented the DAP—the illegal use of the savings of government agencies and the “cross-border” scheme under which such funds were transferred to another branch of government.
The DAP first came to light last year when Sen. Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada disclosed that senators who voted to convict former Chief Justice Renato Corona in 2012 were each given an additional P50 million incentive. The money reportedly came from DAP.
Estrada admitted receiving the incentive but he maintained that the money was not a bribe.
The SC justices said the transfer of funds from the executive to the legislative department violates the doctrine of separation of powers.
The 1987 Constitution empowers the heads of each department to use their savings under their “fiscal autonomy” power. Those given such fiscal autonomy powers are the President, Senate President and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Chief Justice and the chairmen of the Constitutional Commissions.
Malacañang had claimed that DAP was launched as a stimulus program, and that funds from slow moving projects were transferred to other projects to propel economic growth. It noted that the case is moot because DAP is no longer being implemented.