More Aquino allies face charges over DAP

Alexis Romero - The Philippine Star
More Aquino allies face charges over DAP
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque Jr. said President Duterte has documents to prove that the ombudsman sat on some of the complaints against officials believed to have benefited from the controversial program.
Philstar.com / File Photo

MANILA, Philippines — More allies of former President Benigno Aquino III should face charges over the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), Malacañang said yesterday as it assailed the ombudsman for allegedly favoring personalities tied to the previous administration.  

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque Jr. said President Duterte has documents to prove that the ombudsman sat on some of the complaints against officials believed to have benefited from the controversial program. 

“The complaint – and this did not just come from the President – is that those who were charged over the DAP are from the opposition during the Aquino administration. Many are complaining about selective justice,” Roque said at a press briefing.

“So I am sure many people who should have been charged have yet to be charged, and that was what the President meant when he said he has documents. These are allies of the previous administration who have not been charged,” he added. 

Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales has recommended the filing of charges against Aquino and former budget secretary Florencio Abad over the DAP, which was allegedly used to bribe senators into convicting the late chief justice Renato Corona in 2012.

The ombudsman has found probable cause to charge Aquino with usurpation of legislative powers, which is punishable by six months and one day up to six years in prison.

The budget department under Abad had allowed the withdrawal of P72 billion worth of unobligated funds of government agencies under the executive department. Officials of the previous administration claimed the disbursement was meant to spur economic activity. 

Roque welcomed Aquino’s indictment but questioned why it took over four years.

Morales, an appointee of Aquino, is set to retire on July 26. 

Roque said some quarters questioned why the ombudsman only recommended usurpation of legislative powers. 

“The original complaint was for malversation (of public funds),” he said. 

Asked whether he thinks the case against Aquino is weak, Roque replied, “I could only surmise there was no personal benefit so they filed usurpation of legislative powers.” 

“But perhaps they should have considered the fact that personal benefit may not just refer to funds that went to one’s personal pocket. It may also refer to, as claimed by former senator Jinggoy Estrada, funds used to buy votes for the impeachment. For me, that aspect should have been considered. But it’s the call of the ombudsman as we all know,” he added. 

DOJ pursues DAP probe

The Department of Justice (DOJ) has pursued its fact-finding investigation on the DAP program, parts of which were declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court (SC).

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said he has ordered the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to proceed with the probe to determine the criminal liabilities of former officials, including Aquino and Abad, over the economic stimulus program.

“The DAP investigation will proceed. The NBI will proceed with the case buildup,” Guevarra told reporters.

Guevarra made the statement after the ombudsman dismissed the technical malversation charges against them.

The DOJ, under former secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II, started the probe on DAP in September last year.

Former Manila councilor and now Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission commissioner Greco Belgica, who petitioned the SC over the DAP, submitted records that allegedly showed a conspiracy between the Aquino administration and some lawmakers for alleged misuse of DAP.

Among the documents submitted by Belgica’s group to the DOJ were a memorandum signed by Abad and an official transcript of the Senate committee on finance hearing on Oct.12, 2011.  They also submitted evidence supposedly showing a discrepancy of P2.6 billion from the DAP spending and a P6.5-billion funding allocated to various local projects that were not itemized in the budget. –  With Edu Punay, Elizabeth Marcelo, Marvin Sy

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