Nancy to COA: Release audit reports on controversial gov’t funds
Christina Mendez (The Philippine Star) - August 25, 2014 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Sen. Nancy Binay yesterday reiterated her call for the Commission on Audit (COA) to immediately release the full audit reports of several controversial government funds linked to questionable transactions under the present administration.

More than a year since the probe on Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) scam and the expose on alleged illegal releases of the Malampaya Fund, Binay said the COA has not given the public even a summary of its audit report covering the years 2010 to 2013.

Binay said the COA should also release its findings on the projects from 2011 to 2013 implemented under the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) of Malacañang that was later declared illegal by the Supreme Court.

Based on records, the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) continued to release funds from PDAF, DAP and Malampaya from 2010 to 2013 even after state auditors questioned their qualifications or the way the budget department, legislators and implementing agencies handled the funds.

Binay said the Supreme Court has already declared PDAF and parts of the DAP as unconstitutional, while much of the P900-million Malampaya Fund allegedly went to bogus non-government organizations linked to some administration lawmakers and suspected pork barrel fund scam operator Janet Lim-Napoles.

While the PDAF and DAP have been in the news for some time, Binay said the only time people hear about the Malampaya Fund is through occasional reports while there has been no disclosure about the PDAF from 2010 to 2013.

Binay also urged the state auditing body to be fair and objective in the release of the reports and not use it to discredit some individuals.

“I just hope COA will not be partial coming from the PDAF and DAP hearings,” she said.

Binay issued the challenge after the COA said that it will be conducting a special audit on the alleged overpricing of the Makati City Hall Building Two, which city officials maintain is not overpriced.

Good faith defense weakened

Militant party-list groups, on the other hand, urged the Supreme Court to affirm its decision last month over the DAP.

In a 16-page comment, the Bayan Muna, Kabataan and Gabriela urged the high court to deny the motion for reconsideration filed by Malacañang.

Petitioners said the arguments of the Office of Solicitor General in the motion for reconsideration lack merit.

The petitioners rebutted government’s claim of good faith in justifying the DAP in its motion for reconsideration filed last month.

The groups also debunked the argument of Malacañang that previous administrations used the same DAP-like realignment of the budget.

They said this reason has only weakened the defense of good faith.

Petitioners cited Senate Bill No. 3121 filed by President Aquino himself when he was still a senator during the 14th Congress, where he faulted then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo “for misusing and abusing the presidential prerogative to suspend or otherwise stop further expenditure of funds allotted for any agency resulting to the emasculation of Congress.”

They also cited the alleged lack of transparency by the executive branch in the handling of DAP, saying administration allies admitted they were not aware of the program.

“For a supposedly very important program to pump prime the economy, the lack of transparency is not just appalling but even dubious, and contravenes the checks and balances enshrined in the Constitution,” they pointed out.

The petitioners also rebutted Malacañang on its claims that withdrawn unobligated allotments are savings.

“Funds realigned from projects which were not yet completed or abandoned with finality, or withdrawn from personnel services before the end of the year cannot be deemed as savings, and cannot therefore be realigned. By realigning funds or transferring appropriations, Respondents clearly violate the Constitution which only allows the realignment of savings,” they argued.

In the same comment, the groups warned the high court of the possibility that DAP could be implemented in other ways.

“This early, the 2015 national budget proposal clearly showed attempts to undermine this Court’s ruling as they have proposed a redefinition of ‘savings’ and ‘augmentation’,” they said.

Malacañang insisted the economic stimulus program designed to accelerate public spending did not violate the Constitution.

“The President and his alter egos, in implementing a decidedly successful program, deserve to be afforded the traditional constitutional presumptions that apply to most other forms of public actions, especially the presumption of good faith,” read the appeal filed by the government.

In justifying good faith behind DAP, Malacañang urged the high court to consider institutional competence and value of bureaucratic practices in understanding the constitutional role of the executive in managing the economy, the authority of Congress to define savings, the shared role of the political departments in preparing the budget and the limited role of the SC on these matters.

It also argued that the high court erred in applying the doctrine of operative fact, which recognizes the validity of the assailed law or action prior to the determination of its unconstitutionality as an operative fact that produced consequences that cannot always be erased, ignored or disregarded.

Malacañang insisted the DAP was not done in bad faith. – With Edu Punay


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