BEFORE concluding that the fight over the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) is over and won, because the solicitor general says it’s extinct, the public should be on guard that this seeming retreat could be just a trick, calculated to disarm the public’s implacable fury and determination to end DAP once and for all via a verdict by the Supreme Court.
At the high court’s hearing of arguments on the DAP last Tuesday, the Administration actually spoke through both sides of its mouth. On the one hand, Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza argued for the dismissal of the petition questioning the legality of the DAP on the grounds that the fund no longer exists, thereby rendering the petition as “moot and academic.”
On the other hand, on the same occasion, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad told the Court that the DAP was perfectly regular, and that its funds were not misused to bribe senators to convict former chief Justice Renato Corona at his impeachment trial. He took questioning by one justice as the culprit behind the DAP’s illegitimate birth. He should have been asked whether the administration embarked on the policy of underspending in 2010-2011 in order to make imperative the creation of the Disbursement Acceleration Program.
Jardeleza, who gained immortality for petitioning that Meralco lawyers be allowed to represent the government in the power rate hike case, continued to argue for the DAP’s constitutionality even while retreating from combat. Abad tried to attest to the fund’s legitimacy and beneficence by parading dubious statistics. They tried to entice the petitioners to pick and choose which DAP program they would like to eliminate, a ploy which was deservedly ignored.
The seeming retreat is indubitably a maneuver to prevent the Supreme Court from ruling with finality on the DAP’s unconstitutionality, rendering all releases under the program as null and void. They want to avert the same empathic ruling by the high court that effectively ended the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) last year.
It is as tricky a maneuver as the earlier request of the Solicitor General that the hearing of arguments be postponed up to March, which would have bought time for the Administration to pull strings behind the scenes. Fortunately, the high court rejected the request.
A ruling against DAP would mean a definitive defeat for President Aquino and the administration, and its allies in both houses of Congress, who are still praying up to now that through the DAP they can still secure the equivalent of their now missing pork barrel. Such a ruling will start the ball rolling for the recovery of public funds, including the return or restitution by senators of all funds used to bribe them.
An empathic ruling declaring the DAP as unconstitutional is what the nation needs to bring closure to this issue and to start the healing of our tattered treasury.
A failure to rule by the SC would mean that the DAP is still breathing, ready to spring back into action when the public is not looking, perhaps even brazenly seeking to expand its size.
No one should be in doubt about the great stakes involved. The DAP debate has reached this make-or-break point because the public and advocates for its removal have been clear in their opposition to it, unapologetic about its abolition and their willingness to break some china to achieve that goal. The very integrity of our Constitution and the basic principle of limited government is on the line.
The opportunity to end DAP once and for all is here, with the Supreme Court saying it is unconstitutional, null and void. The time to end it is now – when the public is frustrated and angry about the way public money is being wasted and stolen by the administration and the politicians.
By driving a stake through DAP, the high court will allow the nation to sleep secure. No money will be drawn from the Treasury unless appropriated by law.
The administration has tried to break through the public’s opposition by every stratagem it could think of. It resorted to lying about the DAP’s benefits. It tried to threaten justices with impeachment. It used the conscript media shamelessly. All to no avail, because these arguments could not stand before the stark reality of public money being illegally used, of bribery being committed, and unconstitutional acts being perpetrated through the fund.
Lies, tactics, strategems and threats against members of the Supreme Court will not work as long as the public does not lower its guard.
Now, it is the turn of the Supreme Court to do its part—by ruling with finality on the illegality of the DAP and declaring that it unequivocally stands with, by, and for the people.