IBP backs probe on DAP

Edu Punay - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - The Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) has expressed support for the plan of incoming justice secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II to look into the liabilities of officials of the outgoing administration for alleged unconstitutional acts under the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).

Former IBP national president Vicente Joyas said the move to investigate the DAP and the possible liabilities of its authors as prescribed in the Supreme Court ruling in 2014 “has long been delayed.”

“In behalf of the IBP, we appreciate very much and support the initiative of the incoming Department of Justice secretary to investigate DAP and look at the possible liabilities of outgoing officials. The IBP was one of the principal petitioners in the case before the Supreme Court,” he told The STAR.

Joyas explained that the SC ruling, which became final in February last year, was very clear that creators of the DAP could be held liable.

“As the Court held, authors of the DAP are not covered by the doctrine of operative fact,” he stressed.

Apart from the IBP, another petitioner in the SC case – former Manila councilor and losing senatorial candidate Greco Belgica – has supported Aguirre’s plan to pursue a probe on DAP.

“The SC already ruled that DAP was illegal and those behind it could be held liable. It’s just a matter of implementation. They cannot get away with it any more,” stressed Belgica, who said he personally discussed the DAP issue with incoming president Rodrigo Duterte.

Belgica said he plans to work with the IBP in pooling together a group of volunteer lawyers and accountants to help in the investigation and prosecution of DAP cases.

“We will audit all the DAP (cases) and pursue them to the hilt. We will apply the law and teach the nation, especially the politicians, to obey the law, not to steal people’s money and work in government not for personal gain but for service to make a better future for our children,” he vowed.

He believes there is still time for outgoing officials to come clean as he suggested to them to just admit their wrongdoing.

“I call on the senators, congressmen and secretaries, even outgoing President Aquino, to lead the steps toward repentance. Return what they need to return and admit what they have done wrong,” Belgica told The STAR.

In its ruling, the SC applied the doctrine of operative fact, which recognizes the validity of the assailed law or action prior to the determination of its unconstitutionality.

The Court also ruled that recipients cannot be held liable for benefitting from programs, activities and projects (PAPs) under the DAP in good faith.

But it held that authors of DAP could be held liable “unless there are concrete findings of good faith in their favor by the proper tribunals determining their criminal, civil, administrative and other liabilities.”

In their separate opinions, Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio and Associate Justice Arturo Brion have pointed to President Aquino and Budget Secretary Florencio Abad as the “authors” of DAP who could be held liable over the illegal acts.

The two senior magistrates stressed that Aquino and Abad are not covered by the doctrine of operative fact and cannot invoke good faith in evading liability for unconstitutional acts, particularly the withdrawal of unobligated allotments from implementing agencies and their use as savings prior to the end of the fiscal year, as well as the cross-border transfers of savings of the executive to augment funds of agencies outside the department.

The Palace had released some P144.38 billion in DAP funds from 2011 to 2013. Detained Sen. Jinggoy Estrada, who is facing plunder over pork barrel scam, had claimed that the Palace used DAP to secure the conviction of the late former chief justice Renato Corona in the impeachment trial in the Senate in 2012.

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