Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Aranal-Sereno is trying to influence Supreme Court (SC) justices into deciding in favor of the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), the source of the funds given to lawmakers after the Senate impeachment court handed a guilty verdict to former Chief Justice Renato Corona.
According to a magistrate of the Court who talked with The Manila Times on condition of anonymity, Sereno has been visiting her fellow justices to discuss the DAP petitions pending before the tribunal.
The source bewailed Sereno’s “improper” method of persuading her fellow justices on the DAP petition.
The justice said Sereno had been seen in the chambers of several justices.
“She’s been making the rounds of the chambers. She wants to retain the powers of President Aquino on the lump sum budget,” the source said.
While the Supreme Court issued a unanimous decision declaring the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or the lawmaker’s pork barrel unconstitutional, sources at the Court said the Chief Justice is pushing her peers not to issue a similar ruling on the President’s lump sum budget.
Before the Court issued its landmark ruling against PDAF, Sereno wanted justices to vote on issues in the draft ponencia of Associate Justice Estela Perlas-Bernabe.
“Sereno was manipulating it [PDAF ruling] by asking the court to vote on
many side issues, not directly on ponencia,” the source told The Times.
He said that allies and appointees of the President are trying to delay the Court from acting on the DAP petitions to buy time.
“Without a TRO [temporary restraining order]within the month and if the case is deferred until February of 2014, the prayer for TRO will become moot and academic.
What good is a TRO on the 2013 budget when it’s been approved?” the source said.
The Court en banc postponed the oral arguments on DAP scheduled on December 10 following the appeal of the Senate and House of Representatives which had to tackle the budget bill and other measures.
The Office of the Solicitor General, representing the Aquino administration, had asked the Court to junk all the petitions questioning the DAP for lack of merit.
The OSG maintained that DAP is not a fund but a program to accelerate government spending.
“As is obvious from its name, it is a program for accelerating disbursements. What is only unstated in the title of the program—DAP—is that the sources of funds are from, first, the legitimately-generated savings of the government, and second, the
Unprogrammed Fund authorized in any relevant GAA [General Appropriations Act],” the OSG said in its comment.
Several petitioners questioned fund releases under DAP, especially since the DAP fund came from various government agencies and allocations for particular programs. They claimed that the President diverted funds, which is illegal.
Sen. Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada had revealed that millions of pesos given to selected senators and congressmen after the Senate convicted Corona came from DAP, prompting Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago to say that the fund releases were really bribes.