Miriam: Noy can be impeached on bribery grounds

Marvin Sy - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago believes President Aquino can be impeached on grounds of culpable violation of the Constitution or bribery over the release of funds to lawmakers under the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP). 

However, Manila Auxiliary Bishop Pabillo believes an impeachment case against    Aquino would be futile at this time when many of his allies are in the Senate and House of Representatives.

“The impeachment is a political exercise and it would not search for the truth,” he said. “It would all be just politics.”

The chairman of the National Secretariat for Social Action, Justice and Peace (NASSA) of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) said Aquino has a hold over many of the lawmakers because he has control over the distribution of the pork barrel.

“It would be difficult to file a case against the sitting President,” he said. “Maybe later a case can be filed against him once he steps down from Malacañang.”

Santiago agreed with Pabillo that the exercise would not succeed as Aquino controls  Congress.

“He cannot be impeached in practice because he controls the House and the Senate,” she said.

“We don’t need another catastrophic or at least extremely divisive scandal in our country, which also happened when they also impeached and convicted the chief justice.” 

On the other hand, former senator Joker Arroyo does not want to trivialize the process of impeachment against  Aquino.

“Impeach the President?” he asked. “Let us not trivialize the process of impeachment. When overused, it is drained of its cathartic value and it becomes terribly stale. I have always maintained that not every misstep of an impeachable officer is impeachable.”

Santiago said Aquino’s advisers, particularly Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, should resign out of propriety for giving bad advice to him on this matter.

“We all want President Aquino to succeed, we just don’t want him to listen to wrong advice,” she said.

Santiago questioned   Malacañang’s claim that the DAP funds were sourced from savings as savings could only come from unused funds for certain projects that were already completed.

“But if you look at history of DAP, it shows there was no completion of any project,” she said.

Santiago said Aquino had realigned funds in the national budget to items that are not found in the General Appropriations Act.

“President Aquino reacted by ordering the budget secretary to get money from slow moving projects, some of which had not even been started yet, and give it away to certain projects, including giving it away to certain members of the Senate and the House,” she said.

“If we do that and the project has not been accomplished at all, you merely deferred the project and in the meantime you decided to use the money for some other project.

“That becomes unconstitutional because in effect, it is a realignment. Realignment is not allowed, only augmentation. That is the flaw in their argument.” 

She believes the DAP is unconstitutional, but that it would be best for the Supreme Court to determine this with finality, she added.

Santiago said bribery can be charged because the timing of the releases was highly questionable as these came either before, during or after the impeachment trial of   chief justice Renato Corona.

“The issue there is that the DAP, which is now being admitted by Malacañang, that DAP was allegedly distributed way after the impeachment,” she said.

“The argument is that the interval between the crime of knowingly rendering unjust judgment was so long that you cannot connect the two, that is also erroneous reading of our Penal Code which defines bribery as the receipt, but also the mere promise, of a reward for the criminal action is already grounds for bribery under the Penal Code.

“So it is not acceptable to say money was given several months after the conviction of the impeachment trial.”

Santiago said Aquino knew that such a problem could come up when he was a senator in the 14th Congress when he filed a bill that was meant to prevent the President from having vast and unbridled control over the national budget.

“When he was a senator, President Aquino already foresaw this problem and he filed this budget control impoundment act providing that you cannot rescind an appropriation made by Congress in the executive branch alone,” she said. “You have to go back to Congress who has the power over the purse.”

Pabillo called on the government to stop implementing the DAP, which is a source of Aquino’s pork barrel.

Pabillo said that he had always advocated for an investigation and for the truth on an issue to come out.

“The people are always looking for the truth. If a mistake was made, the person should admit that mistake so changes could be made,” he said. “Those who are in government should use their conscience.”

It is during these times that the Filipino people should demand from their leaders to pass the Freedom on Information bill, Pabillo said.–  With Evelyn Macairan, Jose Rodel Clapano, Christina Mendez









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