President Benigno Simeon “BS” Aquino III in his usual form again tried to play down the absolute impropriety with which his government is managing the funds associated with his Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) by reportedly pointing out that those who had brought attention to its use were motivated by the flak they’ve been getting as a result of the scandal that originated from traditional pork barrel — the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF)…
At the Presidential Forum of the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (FOCAP), Aquino noted: “Since I am in a room full of journalists, perhaps I can leave it to you to connect the dots: All of these attacks came after plunder cases, among others, that were filed before the Office of the Ombudsman against a few well-known politicians.”
He also noted criticisms then also followed against changes in the Bureau of Customs and the bonuses of the officials of the Social Security System.
In many words, President BS Aquino is implying that the focus of everyone’s attention ought to be on the PDAF scandal mainly and that Malacanang’s use of the DAP should not be made an issue.
But it’s simple, Mister President. If there is a whiff of misuse of the DAP, then that whiff should be investigated as well. Why does it have to be one or the other? Why can’t two investigations — the on-going one on the PDAF plus a new one for the DAP — be run simultaneously? But it is unlikely that an investigation such as that being conducted around the PDAF will be initiated by the Department of Justice considering how adamant President BS Aquino is with regard to its legality…
Aquino, who until recently defended PDAF, said he is perplexed that people equate it with the DAP.
“Simply, it was a program that strategically allocated funds to agencies that had already proven the capacity to implement projects and programs rapidly and efficiently,” he said.
He also defended the legality of the DAP, saying: “The legality of such a process has never been in question. As clearly stated in Executive Order 292, or the Administrative Code of 1987 amongst other laws. It is difficult to fathom how one could equate this program with PDAF.”
But of course. The question President BS Aquino would like to emphasize now is the question of the “legality” of the DAP. Indeed, and to be fair, the “legality” of the DAP remains debatable even though as Dean Tony La Viña observes, “the weight of legal opinion seems to be for its unconstitutionality.”
Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago has pointed out that the Constitution “allows fund transfers, only if there are savings, meaning that the project was completed, and yet the appropriation was not exhausted; but there are no savings if a project was merely deferred.” She observed that it appeared that DAP funds were taken from alleged slow-moving projects. “If so, no savings were generated, and therefore DAP is illegal.”
Disagreeing with Santiago, Ateneo Law Professor Mel Sta. Maria, in an opinion piece for the TV5 website, argues that the DAP is nothing else but the disbursement of funds sourced from savings of a particular item to fund a deficit in another item for the purpose of immediately accomplishing a priority activity. This makes the DAP legal and constitutional.
The fact that there is debate about the constitutionality of the DAP means that the matter should be investigated and subject to legal scrutiny regardless of what the President’s amateur legal opinion on that matter might be.
The important irony to note here is that back in 2012, when it came to investigating and prosecuting former Chief Justice Renato Corona, legalities took a back seat to what was touted as the political aspect of the exercise — that his being tried by a Senate court rather than a judicial court justifies political influence on the outcome regardless of the legal soundness of its approach.
Well now, Mr President, it is just as clear today that the fate of the DAP is as political an issue as you made Corona’s fate out to be back in 2012, wouldn’t you think?
Indeed, it is interesting that President BS Aquino now seems to be a stickler for “legalities” now that he is on the other side of the equation — no longer the plaintif, now the accused. Evidently the political aspect of the DAP — and the broader issue of pork — has become more relevant than whether or not it is legal.
Amazing how fast tables turn in Philippine politics.
[Photo courtesy Spin Busters.]
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