Arguments to justify President Aquino’s hijacking of taxpayers’ money through his unconstitutional Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) have become stupider and sillier.
Those espousing these recent arguments are caught up in their own crackpot’s world in which they seem to believe that former president Cory Aquino’s ghost had gifted them with such esoteric legal insight that would prevent her son from going to jail. It is the height of megalomania, though, for them to believe they can outthink the 14 Supreme Court justices and a phalanx of lawyers involved in the case.
The dingbats’ argument is that Section 49* of the Administrative Code issued by Cory in 1987 as Executive Order No. 292 gives her son the power to use the budget as he wants, or at least for certain purposes listed in that section. That would be practically anything under the sun, as the ninth purpose listed is for “priority activities that will promote the economic well-being of the nation.”
Aquino apologist Elfren Cruz, Cory’s Presidential Management Staff head from 1986 to 1991, made this argument in the Philippine Star recently: “The President, under Section 49 of the Administrative Code, has the authority to use savings in the appropriations for 13 specific purposes.”
Together with Aquino’s spokesman Edwin Lacierda and other yellow loonies, they are claiming that under Section 49 therefore, Aquino’s DAP complies with the laws.
In their delirium, their eyes read “funds” instead of “savings.”
Section 49, indeed, gives a president much flexibility in spending state funds, but not just any government fund, but only savings that are generated after assiduously implementing each year’s budget laws.
The Supreme Court pointed out in much detail that there were no such savings to speak of that Aquino could have used. This isn’t really unusual. What government agency wouldn’t use up all its funds, which it always complains are so little? The last time I’d bet there were really government savings from the annual budget was during the Commonwealth period.
Aquino didn’t use savings to put into his DAP kitty, the High Court concluded. He, instead, hijacked allocations ordered by the budget laws of 2011 to 2013.
That is not just unconstitutional but downright illegal, involving very serious cases of malversation of funds or falsification of public documents. That could be 117 criminal cases, or the number of projects Aquino and Abad claimed were funded by their DAP. (Article 217 of the Revised Penal Code imposes a penalty of reclusion perpetua if the amount involved is over P250,000 plus the return of the funds illegally appropriated. Multiply those penalties by 117, and that’s what Aquino’s and Abad’s jail time would be if they were found guilty.)
Cruz, in the sentence I quoted above, shows he didn’t even read the Supreme Court decision and its five concurring opinions. “The President … has the authority to use savings….” But Cruz doesn’t seem to know the meaning of the word – it is vastly different from just “government funds.”
Probably half of the 44,000-word Supreme Court decision penned by Justice Lucas Bersamin and the five separate opinions actually dealt with the issue of whether there were savings or not, which Abad claimed were put into the DAP pool.
They all concluded: There were actually no savings that Aquino could use to set up his P144 billion DAP. Abad pretended – or lied – that there were.
The Administrative Code itself and the annual budget laws were very strict in defining what “savings” are in order to guard against unscrupulous budget secretaries and presidents who would abuse that provision to throw to the dustbin the annual budget laws.
The definition of “savings” in these laws hews to only one of the ordinary usages of the term, as the “left-over” money: Savings are those funds authorized by the budget laws but which are unused after such projects and programs are implemented.
Funds for a program authorized by the budget law that are aborted or delayed beyond the fiscal year are not savings. They are either used within the next two years or reverted back to the national treasury.
Bad faith by Abad and Aquino was evident in the fact that they declared as savings the funds which did not qualify as savings as defined by law, just so they could play around with the people’s money.
Abad, for instance, decreed that funds unused by end-June of 2011 and 2012 were savings, contrary to even common sense that budgets are programmed to be used in 12 months, not six months.
He declared as savings certain funds allocated by the budget laws which weren’t yet used and obligated, never mind if the government entity didn’t yet need to actually release the money, but had programs for their use.
No analysis, no criteria
Abad decreed that certain projects were “slow moving,” without any actual analysis of the projects or even criteria to determine which of these were slow moving and which were fast.
“Unprogrammed Funds” were declared as savings, even if these were funds to be used for certain projects, especially priority infrastructure determined in the budget laws, only when total government revenues exceeded targets – which these never did.
Department secretaries in the next administration will most probably expose how Abad and Aquino aborted crucial programs approved by Congress – for health, education, and infrastructure – so that the “savings” generated were put into DAP kitty to bribe the Congress to remove Corona, or to build up support among local politicians for the 2016 elections.
It is hilarious how Lacierda and other yellow apologists are trying to evoke an air of mysterious revelation over Section 49. Lacierda says Cory issued the administrative code just two days before Congress convened, and therefore, was a law.
Wow, Tita Cory reaches out through space and time to prevent his son from going to jail. Or maybe her spirit traveled to the future and saw that her son would be jailed after his term, so she went back to her present to issue the Code that would save her son?
The Supreme Court ruling that DAP was unconstitutional was based on three pillars, most important being its conclusion there were no “savings” that Aquino could use for his DAP.
The other two pillars were that Abad transferred funds of the Executive Branch to the other two branches of government, and that funds were used for projects not authorized by the budget laws. But these two points border on being superfluous since there were no funds – no savings – that could be transferred or used.
That crackpot ideas challenging the Supreme Court would be even disseminated in media highlights our nation’s lack of respect for institutions.
We have a Constitution that must be respected by all. We also have a Supreme Court, which as the Constitution specifies, is the final interpreter of that basic law of the land.
But no, in this yellow cult, any mad-hatter can insist on his or her own interpretation of the law, and Palace media operators would disseminate such views.
Disrespect for institutions
President Aquino is leading the way for this disrespect of our country’s cherished institutions. He bribes Congress to assault the Supreme Court by taking out its chief justice, even mobilizing the (previously independent) Commission on Audit and the Ombudsman for such a vile project.
Now, he has unleashed his lapdogs in media to denigrate the Supreme Court’s adverse decision on his DAP, which even his appointees Chief Justice Lourdes Sereno, as well as justices Bienvenido Reyes and Marivic Leonen had agreed with.
He is the first Philippine President in memory who has refused to publicly accept the decision of the Supreme Court.
A respectable, principled president would have declared: “We bow to the decision of the Supreme Court, and more than any other person in this land, I have the sacred duty to defend the Constitution, which the Court is the only entity that interprets what it means.”
Instead, what he practically has been saying is: “Screw the Court, especially you ingrates Sereno, Reyes, and Leonen. I won’t give up Abad. And just try impeaching me.”
(*The provision reads: “Savings in the appropriations provided in the General Appropriations Act may be used for the settlement of the following obligations incurred during a current fiscal year or previous fiscal years as may be approved by the Secretary in accordance with rules and procedures as may be approved by the President.)
FB: Rigoberto D. Tiglao