Budget and Management Secretary Florencio “Butch” Abad has offered to resign amid the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) controversy but President Benigno S. Aquino III said on Friday he has turned it down.
The President made the announcement at the start of the 2015 budget presentation in Malacanang attended by almost all of the Cabinet secretaries, including Abad.
“Yesterday, Secretary Abad gave me a letter tendering his resignation from the Cabinet and I have considered the same and I have decided not to accept his resignation,” Aquino said.
He said “the notion in the current atmosphere is DAP was bad for our people. Even our most vociferous critics grant that DAP has benefited our people. To accept his resignation is to assign to him a wrong and I cannot accept the notion that doing right by our people is a wrong.”
“Therefore, I have decided not to accept his resignation and I think the whole Cabinet should be made aware of this,” the President said, drawing applause from those at the meeting.
Abad’s offer to resign drew a mix of reactions.
Ramon Casiple, a respected analyst, said he was not surprised by the President’s rejection of Abad’s resignation because Malacañang has been vocal in contesting the Supreme Court decision last week that parts of the DAP were unconstitutional.
“[It was] expected since the administration decided to fight it out in the DAP issue,” Casiple said in a text message.
To University of the Philippines public administration professor Prospero de Vera, Abad’s offer of resignation was a welcome development. But he said its rejection by the President has the opposite effect.
“Abad’s offer to resign is good news for a nation demanding accountability in the aftermath of the SC [Supreme Court] decision on the DAP. Now the nation grieves because the President rejected it,” De Vera told The Manila Times in an interview.
But he said Abad can still prove his worth by releasing the complete list of projects that were funded by DAP.
“All is not lost. If Abad will be true to the spirit of his resignation he can make the county believe in him by immediately releasing the list of all projects funded by DAP. Then we can determine if indeed these projects benefited the country and are not riddled with corruption,” De Vera said.
Another UP professor and former Budget secretary, Benjamin Diokno, said the President’s action was “so predictable” and that Abad should have instead resigned “irrevocably.”
Vice President Jejomar Binay said he respects the decision of the President to reject Abad’s resignation.
Renato Reyes Jr., secretary general of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan), said the continued stay of the Budget chief in the Cabinet is meant for Aquino’s own protection.
“President Aquino’s rejection of DBM Secretary Butch Abad’s resignation shows that the President is still in a state of denial regarding the illegality of the DAP. He is protecting Abad and in turn protecting himself,” Reyes, one of the petitioners against the DAP in the Supreme Court, said.
“Let us all remember that Aquino and Abad are in the same boat as both signed the memos ordering the DAP releases. The President’s retention of Abad is a stubborn defense of DAP and everything wrong with it, in the face of a clear, unanimous SC ruling,” he added.
Activist lawyer Argee Guevarra of the Scrap Pork Network said he plans to file an impeachment complaint against the President next week.
“Aside from the televised mockery by the President and the budget secretary of the Supreme Court decision declaring DAP unconstitutional, the contemptuous sight of Sec. Leila De Lima vigorously applauding PNoy’s non-acceptance of the Abad resignation should provoke public outrage. De Lima purports herself to be at the legal forefront of the fight against the pork barrel scam. But the gusto with which she applauded the President’s rejection of the Abad resignation indicated her covert role as an accessory-after-the-fact with respect to the DAP scam,” Guevarra said.
The Global alliance of OFWs said Abad’s offer to resigna is “insincere” and part of a “Palace’s spin” to evade accountability for the DAP.
In his briefing on Thursday, Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said Palace legal experts will contest the ruling because no past cases involving the budget provided for criminal liability for implementers. There have been cases where provisions in the General Appropriations Act were found to be unconstitutional.
Lacierda said the Supreme Court decision has put officials such as Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson and Education Secretary Armin Luistro, who were never implicated in any wrongdoing, in a bad light.
He said the Palace legal team reviewing the decision would seek to expunge “criminal liability” of the Cabinet officials, including Abad.
‘Season of disquiet’
Before the President made the announcement, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Secretary Teresita “Ging” Deles, who delivered the opening prayer at the meeting, invoked divine wisdom on the DAP and other issues confronting the government.
“Today we [are]gathered together at a time more challenging than most. Several issues threatened to engulf the ship of state and thus derail our ‘tuwid na daan.’ The constitutionality of the DAP, the work in progress that is the Bangsamoro Basic Law, the recovery of Yolanda-affected and other devastated areas, CARPER or Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program Extension with Reforms and so on and so forth,” Deles said.
“The season of disquiet and turmoil has so sorely tested our souls. Legal cases have been filed against our fellow Cabinet members ascribing bad faith and more, where there is none,” she continued.
JOEL M. SY EGCO, BERNICE CAMILLE V. BAUZON