Apologists of the now-criminalised Malacanang slush fund, the notorious Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) are regrouping and striking back. The arguments they present are two-phased:
(1) Proposing that the Supreme Court may have been “wrong” in their ruling the DAP unconstitutional; and,
(2) Citing a certain Chapter 5, Section 49 of the Administrative Code of 1987 that provides for justification to “Use Savings [in appropriations made under the General Appropriations Act for a given fiscal year] for Certain Purposes”.
Section of the Administrative Code stipulates that authority to execute said use of savings described in Item 2 above are entirely within the power of the President and the Budget Secretary if they are able to justify that these will be used for (a) “activities that will promote the economic well-being of the nation, including food production, agrarian reform, energy development, disaster relief, and rehabilitation,” and (b) “repair, improvement and renovation of government buildings and infrastructure and other capital assets damaged by natural calamities”.
This angle in defense of the legality of the DAP was first proposed by journalist Raissa Robles in the blog post President Aquino’s dead mom, President Cory, may yet save her son from jail over DAP published the 8th July 2014 and was echoed by Philippine Star columnist Yoly Ong in her article So the public may know…and decide published on Rappler.
It is interesting to note that Ong is the chairperson of the advertising agency Campaigns & Grey which was responsible for the disastrous 2010 “Pilipinas Kay Ganda” ad campaign of the Department of Tourism which critics slammed as having plagiarised a logo used by the tourism promotion campaign of Poland.
Ong was also embroiled in a legal battle in 2013 with then Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile over an article she published in the Star that allegedly made libelous insinuations about Enrile.
Those interesting bits of trivia aside, Ong adds nothing to the “debate” over what happens now that the DAP has been criminalised. But to be fair to the other, Robles merely cites in her blog post that the Law actually does provide the Executive branch “vast powers for fund juggling and for other things as well,” and that it may be high time that Congress “look at the Code and review the awesome powers it gives the President.”
If there is anyone guilty of journalistic omission here, it is Yoly Ong who turns Robles’s research on the details of the Supreme Court ruling (and omissions in this ruling) on the DAP into bald apologism in favour of President Benigno Simeon ‘BS’ Aquino III and his henchman Secretary Butch Abad. Rather than propose a sound argument on the matter, Ong, instead, profiles the “usual suspects” and “the most rabid attackers” of the Aquino government, naming not only various left-leaning groups who, she says, are hopping mad because their senatorial bets lost in 2010 but also…
[…] the unhappy politicians as represented by the devilishly striking spokesperson, who changed allegiance early on; the supporters of the 3 senators and the former president currently in jail for the non-bailable crime of plunder; the former budget secretary and national treasurer who tirelessly speak out on TV to point out the flaws of this government. (One was accused of involvement in a multimillion textbook scam; the other was said to be after an elusive post.)
There are the disgruntled elements in the Supreme Court who got bypassed, the mordant joker who actually authored the Administrative Code of 1987, and finally the “jukebox media” who play up whatever angle was paid for.
Hardly surprising that Rappler would give air time to such drivel.
While Robles says that the clause (Section 49 of Chapter 5 of the Administrative Code) missed in the SC rulings may potentially be used to save the hides of Aquino and Abad, she does point out reason to be skeptical about whether, indeed, good faith was applied in the way it was invoked by the Aquino administration in this instance…
How did Butch Abad and PNoy know about Section 49?
PNoy’s mom enacted the Code. Abad was once her Agrarian Reform secretary. My guess is, his department had benefited from the pooling of such savings since agrarian reform is one of the authorized activities to use such savings.
If PNoy can convince the court that his mom’s Administrative Code is what makes DAP legal and constitutional, then he can thank his mom for saving him from jail and the people’s wrath.
In short, the kernel of the argument remains the same: good faith. Was the DAP executed in its spirit or not? Part of the answer to that lies in regarding the question of why Philippine Senators needed to be in the loop in the decision-making process of where to spend it considering that, as Robles points out, the power is entirely within the jurisdiction of Malacanang to decide so.
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