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Abad: DAP spells trouble

Admits adverse SC ruling may lead to PNoy impeach case
A Palace official admitted on Monday that President Benigno Aquino III could face impeachment proceedings if the Supreme Court rules that the Disbursement Acceleration Program is unconstitutional.

Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, a longtime ally of Aquino, was apparently referring to a statement made by lawmakers belonging to the Makabayan bloc in Congress, which said that they are studying the possibility of filing an impeachment case against the president if the Court rules that it is unconstitutional.

In a press conference held last month, Rep. Neri Colmenares said that the impeachment is “a serious matter, not only legally but also politically,” that is why they still need to study the possibility of filing the case against the president.

Colmenares added that Aquino may have committed impeachable offenses of culpable violation of the constitution and betrayal of public trust over DAP, which seeks to realign savings into government projects.

He, however, added that they would have to study the issue and its “legal and political grounds,” especially if an impeachment complaint is filed by the people.

“DAP has no legal leg to stand on. The Constitutional provision on the realignment of savings within the office of the president and the impoundment provision of the GAA on the condition of uncontrolled budgetary deficits are not applicable,” the Makabayan bloc said in a statement.

Aside from Colmenares, the other members of the Makabayan Bloc are fellow Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate, Gabriela Women’s Party Rep. Luz Ilagan and Emmi de Jesus, ACT Teachers Rep. Antonio Tinio, Anakpawis Rep. Fernando Hicap and Kabataan Rep. Terry Ridon.

Abad, however, explained that the controversial funding mechanism was created to pump prime the economy in 2011 and 2012. He said that of the P137.3 billion DAP, nine percent or about P12.357 billion was released to projects identified by legislators.

“That (impeachment complaint against Aquino) is a possibility but I hope it does not get to that point,” Abad said.

“After all, we did not hide our intention that DAP was necessary because of the drastic slowdown in spending in the past years,” he added.

Abad added that a favorable ruling from the High Court would “affirm our position that DAP was a good and innovative measure to get our economy moving.”

But in so far as pump priming the economy, the DAP is no longer needed, Abad said.

“At this stage, the DAP has already achieved its purpose - spending has dramatically increased and the economy has expanded. For 2013, we practically did not resort to it anymore,” he said.

“We don’t need the DAP anymore,” Abad added.

A Court insider earlier said that the SC justices who voted unanimously to bar legislative pork barrel remained divided over the legality of the DAP.

But because most justices agreed that the Priority Development Assistance Fund or pork barrel constituted lump sum funds, there is a strong possibility that they will strike down the DAP as well, the source said over the weekend.

“Since there is already a ruling [that] lump sum appropriations are illegal, then it is not a remote possibility that the Court will also declare DAP as unconstitutional,” the source said.

In his concurring opinion on the PDAF, Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio took the position that all lump-sum appropriations in the budget are illegal.

Carpio said Sections 35 and 23 of the Administrative Code do not authorize lump-sum appropriations in the General Appropriations Act.

“The President has a constitutional duty to submit to Congress only a line-item NEP (National Expenditure Program) without lump-sum expenditures, while Congress has a constitutional duty to enact only a line-item GAA without lump-sum appropriations,” Carpio said.

Associate Justices Teresita Leonardo-De Castro and Roberto Abad concurred.

But Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno, who was appointed to the top post by Aquino, took an opposing view in her separate concurring opinion.

She said the Administrative Code itself speaks of how to deal with lump-sum appropriations, which implies that there are legal forms of these kinds of funds.

 

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