Funny how Oriental Mindoro Rep. Rey Umali is now reportedly leading a House bid to raise an impeachment complaint against the Philippine Supreme Court (SC). According to Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN) Secretary-General Renato Reyes, this impeachment bid “could be an attempt to stop the High Court from declaring the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) as unconstitutional.”
Having recently ruled the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), also referred to as congressional pork unconstitutional, the SC is now deliberating the constitutionality of the DAP, also referred to as presidential pork, and was preparing to hear oral arguments on it. However, motions reportedly filed by Budget Secretary Butch Abad as well as both chambers of Congress, the SC has since ordered the hearing to be postponed the 28th of January next year.
The DAP is a presidential fund cobbled together supposedly from “savings” on funds appropriated to various projects and activities in the national budget. But what is really noteworthy is the whole reason behind why there was so much “government savings” to begin with in 2011 and why the disbursement of these excess funds needed to be “accelerated”. It is because following his ascent to power, one of the things President Benigno Simeon “BS” Aquino III did was to dismantle many projects started during the term of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Interestingly, the way BS Aquino described the budget he supposedly inherited from Arroyo in his first State of the Nation Address in 2010 was that it was “depleted”.
Indeed, the key pillar in the complaint against the DAP being deliberated by the SC is the question on whether or not the funds that comprise this fund are “savings” in the real sense.
Senior Associate Justice Antonio T. Carpio said the sources of the stimulus funds do not fall under the definition of “savings” in the 2013 General Appropriations Act (GAA).
DAP funds were sourced from “realigned savings” from slow-moving projects to spur economic growth.
Its sources mostly came from dividends from Government-Owned and -Controlled Corporations (GOCCs), unprogrammed funds, and unobligated allotments.
“But they did not qualify under the definition of savings,” Mr. Carpio said.
Mr. Carpio said unprogrammed funds, “by definition,” cannot be considered as savings. GOCC dividends, on the other hand, are revenues and not savings.
Suffice to say, with the PDAF essentially abolished, only the DAP remains as the only source of slush funds for the Philippines’ cash-hungry legislators, many of whom saw these porky pots of gold as the whole point of seeking a seat in Congress. So it is quite easy to imagine the growing desperation amongst members of Congress as moves to abolish the DAP mount. Yet Umali denies any “correlation” between the impeachment bid he is leading and the fate of the DAP…
“Not true. If there is such a perception, then it does not speak well of the court and people who think that way, have no respect for the Supreme Court because they admit that the court can be swayed or threatened,” he said
Umali, if we are to recall, was party to a conspiracy to present illegally-obtained evidence against former Chief Justice Renato Corona during his impeachment trial in 2012. Five dollar accounts along with the five peso accounts allegedly maintained by Corona in the Philippine Savings Bank (PSBank) were within the scope of a controversial subpoena issued by the Senate impeachment court. The subpoena was controversial because, under Philippine law, dollar accounts are confidential and can be accessed only via a court order.
But the subpoena of the PSBank accounts traced its roots to an “anonymous source” described by Umali as a “small lady” who handed to him an envelope allegedly containing Corona’s bank documents. The revelation made by former lead prosecutor Niel Tupas Jr the previous day (the 7th Feb) highlighted yet another instance of the prosecution team pre-empting any authorisation from the Senate impeachment court to mount such actions.
During questioning, PSBank president Pascua Garcia III revealed details of Corona’s five peso accounts with PSBank but declined to present (and presumably refrained from bringing with him) documents associated with five dollar accounts allegedly kept by Corona with the bank. Garcia’s consistent position on that matter was widely-lauded by the public at the time.
The more notable insight that could be gleaned from that episode was how quickly political allies of President Benigno Simeon “BS” Aquino III like Tupas and Umali can so readily compromise all semblance of decency for the sake of that porky reward. Specially now that it has come out that it is very likely that President BS Aquino used pork (in the millions, as alleged) to “motivate” both chambers of Congress to progress his political vendetta versus Corona, Tupas and Umali, who seemingly were BS Aquino’s chief impeachment architects, are likely to have been amongst the biggest beneficiaries of this heavenly manna from Malacañang.
The thing with history is that the inconsistencies in what politicians say and do over its course that dot it eventually get connected.
Umali, just the same, carries on…
“I do believe that these justices of the Supreme Court betrayed pubic trust when they did flip-flopping decisions. They should have looked at the impeachment against Chief Justice Corona when we raised the issue in one of articles. I don’t think they learned their lesson, they continued to flip-flop,” [Umali added].
But of course “honourable” Congressman Umali. Keep talking. We’ll be busy connecting the dots.
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