Palace may appeal SC decision on DAP
Delon Porcalla, Aurea Calica (The Philippine Star) - July 9, 2014 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - The government may file a motion for reconsideration of the Supreme Court (SC) decision declaring key portions of the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) unconstitutional, a Palace official said yesterday.

At the same time, Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. of the Presidential Communications Operations Office said public office is a public trust and it is up to those being criticized for the DAP to resign. He did not identify any particular official.

Coloma said the executive branch would not at this time publicly account for the billions of pesos it released through the DAP until it exhausts all legal options.

He said the government has 15 days to file an appeal.

The Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) received the SC decision on July 4.

“Under the rules of the court, the government as respondent is given 15 days from receipt of the decision within which to file a motion for reconsideration,” he said.

“The government still has the opportunity to avail itself of legal remedies with respect to the decision of the court,” he added.

Coloma said the government, through the OSG, would like to frame first its legal position on the SC ruling declaring key provisions of the DAP unconstitutional before accounting for the funds that went to the program.

Described by critics as the “presidential pork barrel,” the DAP has triggered calls to impeach President Aquino.

Coloma said Malacañang will make a full disclosure of the 116 DAP-funded projects at the appropriate time.

“We want to frame first our legal position so it might be better to wait for that,” he said.

“We are still studying our legal options. So maybe it is not yet time to disclose all the DAP projects for scrutiny,” he added.


Up to Abad to quit

It is up to Budget Secretary Florencio Abad and other proponents of the controversial DAP to decide whether to resign or not, according to Coloma.

“It is a decision left for the individuals mentioned to make,” he told reporters when asked if someone should be axed over the DAP, which was earlier described by Abad as a stimulus fund to boost the economy.

Asked if President Aquino would accept any resignation, Coloma replied: “It will be up to the President to decide when that happens.”

Coloma said government officials should be aware of their moral obligation to the people that “public office is a public trust.”

“We are firm on that stand,” he said.

The Palace official said the administration remains committed to transparency and accountability.

Coloma said they are continuously trying to gauge public perception about the President and his leadership of the nation as a whole.

“We continue to monitor these issues on social media and other media platforms because at all times, we believe in accountability to the people as our bosses,” he said.

He said the executive branch is open to any investigation to be conducted by the Commission on Audit, for example, to prove that the projects funded by DAP were aboveboard.

Coloma said that the SC justices themselves have acknowledged the positive effects of DAP-funded projects to the economy.


Impeachment won’t prosper

In the House of Representatives, lawmakers will not sabotage moves to impeach President Aquino by filing a weak impeachment complaint that will prevent the filing of a stronger case against him.

Cavite Rep. Elpidio Barzaga Jr. of the majority bloc said the OSG has not recognized the separate impeachment complaints filed against the President.

Earlier, lawyer Oliver Lozano and former Iloilo congressman Augusto Syjuco filed impeachment complaints against Aquino for allegedly authorizing the utilization of billions of public funds under the DAP.

No lawmaker has so far endorsed the impeachment complaints.

The Constitution bans the filing of more than one impeachment complaint in a year against the same impeachable officer.

“I will not be filing an impeachment complaint against the President in order to prevent others who are serious of filing impeachment complaints against him,” Barzaga said.

“If I would be the one filing it, nobody will believe that I am sincere insofar as my advocacy for impeachment is concerned and you will say that I’ve been set loose by the administration,” he added.

Kabataan party-list Rep. Terry Ridon said he would endorse the impeachment complaint to be filed by youth organizations against the President.

Barzaga, however, said that any impeachment complaint against Aquino will die a natural death because the President is backed by the majority of lawmakers who believe DAP was legal.

“This is just a simple case of a fiscal policy being challenged before the high court. The President’s detractors should stop salivating at the prospect of impeachment,” he said.


‘Charge Noy in 2016’

Meanwhile, a law professor at the University of the Philippines is not supporting impeachment proceedings against Aquino, but said criminal charges must be filed against him after his term expires in 2016.

“In two years, I hope that there would be no more hospital arrests. I want to see this President behind bars,” human rights lawyer Harry Roque said.

He said an impeachment complaint will just be a waste of taxpayer’s money.

According to him, the unconstitutionality of the DAP could be a basis for the filing of a criminal complaint against the President and other proponents of the stimulus fund.

“(The) mere breach of the Constitution is a violation of their oath of office, which is criminal under the existing anti-graft and corrupt practices act,” Roque said.

He urged the high tribunal to rule on the unconstitutionality of the Malampaya Fund to ensure that no pork barrel exists in the government.

For its part, the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) yesterday slammed Malacañang’s defense that the implementation of DAP-funded projects was done in good faith.

“The executive branch had created the conditions for government under-spending so that it could justify a so-called stimulus program where funds will be pooled and placed at the discretion of the President,” Bayan secretary-general Renato Reyes said.

“The administration wanted to control billions of pesos of funds all along. They created the conditions for under-spending as early as 2010, five months into Aquino’s presidency. Then in 2011, when the GDP slowdown was being felt, they launched the DAP, which centralized savings and allowed the President to utilize the funds as presidential pork,” he added. – With Paolo Romero, Janvic Mateo, Rhodina Villanueva

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