Legislators question DAP before SC-A A +A
Thursday, October 17, 2013
MANILA -- Several lawmakers and members of the #Abolishpork Movement on Thursday asked the Supreme Court (SC) to declare void and without effect the controversial Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) for being illegal and unconstitutional.
In their 29-page petition for certiorari, they argued that funds used for DAP officially embodied in National Budget Circular No. 541 of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) cannot be considered as savings "since there could not be savings in the middle of a fiscal year, especially if the projects or programs for which these funds were allocated by law, have not been completed, discontinued or abandoned."
“The appropriations law becomes the law of the land, a product of the collective effort of the representatives of the people and the different government agencies. Not even Congress who passed it can alter the same, without undergoing the same tedious process of enacting a law. Such is the wisdom of our Constitution,” the petition stated.
DAP was created in October 2011 to ramp up spending after slow disbursements—which the government traced to efforts to plug fund leakages and policy loopholes—caused the country’s economy to slow down to 3.6 percent that year.
DAP releases, which reached P137.3 billion as of October 1 this year, were culled from so called “savings.”
"These funds that the DAP and the DBM 541 call as 'savings' – the unreleased appropriations and unobligated allotments – are not actually savings following the strict formulation of the General Appropriation Laws passed by Congress through the years," the petitioners said.
The petition also stated savings could only be possible when the project for which the fund was appropriated was actually implemented, whether it was completed, discontinued or abandoned later on.
“In the case of unreleased appropriations and unobligated allotments, the projects for which the funds was appropriated was never executed or was deferred, making it impossible for the department or agency to realize savings through that project,” it said.
The petitioners from the #Abolishpork Movement, included Dr. Carol Araullo and Renato Reyes of Bayan, UP Professor Judy Taguiwalo of Pagbabago, Henri Kahn of Concerned Citizens Movement, Manuel Dayrit of Ang Kapatiran Party, Vencer Crisostomo of Anakbayan and Victor Villanueva of Youth Act Now. The petitioners from among legislators were party-list representatives Luz Ilagan (Gabriela), Carlos Zarate (Bayan Muna) and Terry Ridon (Kabataan).
President Benigno Aquino III, Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa and Budget Secretary Florencio Abad were named as respondents.
The petitioners also asked the SC for a temporary restraining order on the DAP while their petition is pending.
DAP became controversial when Senator Jinggoy Estrada, under fire for allegedly pocketing his priority development assistance fund (PDAF), revealed last September 25 that senators who voted for the ouster of then Chief Justice Renato Corona were given at least P50 million months after the trial.
Malacañang denied it was an incentive for granting President Benigno Aquino III’s wish to kick Corona out of the High Court but critics still could not accept why DAP releases were made to fund infrastructure project requests from legislators.
Petitioners said that DAP funds can be considered part of President Aquino's own pork barrel, the more popular name for the priority development assistance funds (PDAF) appropriated to members of Congress. Presidential pork barrel are funds exercised with the sole discretion of the president.
"It is very apparent that the DAP was used for patronage politics, if not graft and corruption. A concrete example of this is how P50 million or more was given as 'incentive' to senators who voted to impeach Corona, while the rest did not receive any," they said.
Last Wednesday, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) filed the fifth petition against DAP as it asked the SC to also order the Commission on Audit (COA) to conduct an immediate audit of the program and disallow all public money spent into and through DAP.
Previous petitions were lodged by former Iloilo Representative Augusto Syjuco, Manuelito Luna, Jose Malvar Villegas and the Philippine Constitution Association (Philconsa).
The SC has earlier scheduled the oral arguments on DAP on October 22. (Sunnex)