MANILA -- Still not contented with the two-month break, Malacañang asked the Supreme Court (SC) on Thursday to move the second round of oral argument on the legality of the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) from January 28 to March 25.
The Palace, through the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), said it is not yet prepared to defend the DAP since collaborating counsel, retired SC Justice Vicente Mendoza, needs more time to review the documents to be submitted by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) for the debate.
But the OSG clarified in its motion that the government has no intention to delay the hearing, saying it will use the additional time to come up with a “coherent, verified and diligently prepared set of evidence packets” for the justices to consider.
Government lawyers also asked the SC to give them until March 18 instead of January 21 to submit the DBM documents regarding the sources of funds or savings and their usage under the DAP.
“Given the amount and scope of information involved in the present cases, it is not possible for the DBM to collate and verify the ‘uses of the funds pursuant to DAP per project or activity, and the legal thereof’ within the time given by the Honorable Court,” the OSG said, noting the Budget department was pre-occupied with hearings on the 2014 national budget and relief and rehabilitation efforts in areas ravaged by Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) last November.
DAP has been under fire for allegedly using taxpayers’ money without a law that sanctions its disbursements and for passing off as savings the funds coming from slow-moving projects.
The OSG, however, said DAP had been used to accelerate public spending, push economic growth, and promote prudent fiscal management, especially when the economy took a downturn in 2011 due to state underspending.
“This is a plain executive policy-making, nothing more,” the government said in its comment on the petitions.
It said the President has the power to realign savings under the Constitution, General Appropriations Act, the Administrative Code and Section 44 of Presidential Decree 1177 or the Budget Reform Decree of 1977.
The Court started hearing the consolidated petitions against the DAP last November 19.
Another round was set for December 10 but the justices decided to transfer it to January 28 after granting the motions filed by Malacañang and Congress, where some members were given a chance to lobby for infrastructure projects under the DAP.
Administration critics say the DAP may had been used to clinch the nod of senators and congressmen in connection with the successful ouster of then Chief Justice Renato Corona in May 2012.
The OSG found the claim irrelevant as there is no law that stops legislators from advising the President on how he may use savings.
“A Cabinet member, a friend of the President, a civic organization, or any other citizen for that matter can recommend to the President any project, program or activity,” it said. (Sunnex)