THE president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines on Monday urged those in power “to make a moral decision” over the Disbursement Acceleration Program, after the group called on the government “to let go of the corrupt in its own ranks.”
CBCP president Archbishop Socrates Villegas was responding to questions about whether the CBCP would support calls to impeach President Benigno Aquino III over the DAP, parts of which the Supreme Court declared unconstitutional.
“Will the impeachment of President Benigno Aquino III promote the common good? If so, then it is up to those in power to “make a moral decision,” Villegas said.
Earlier, the CBCP called for accountability over the DAP, adding that any investigation on the matter “cannot and must not be selective.”
The statement echoed criticism that the President prosecuted only his political opponents while shielding his allies from investigation.
“A government that professes to tread the straight path must remain true to that profession and must be willing to let go of the corrupt in its own ranks! We in the Church will do the same,” the bishops said, calling on the Commission on Audit and the Ombudsman to be transparent with the public about where the DAP funds went.
On Monday, former congressman Augusto Syjuco said he, not lawyer Oliver Lozano, had filed the first impeachment complaint against President Aquino.
In a press statement, Syjuco said he filed the complaint at the records management service of the House of Representatives since Congress was in recess, while Lozano filed his case before the Office of the Ombudsman and merely gave a copy of his complaint to Kabataan party-list Rep. Terry Ridon, who did not endorse it.
“(President Aquino) should make an accounting of all his crimes. This is the biggest plunder in Philippine history,” Syjuco told reporters.
He cited three impeachable grounds against President Aquino: bribery, betrayal of public trust and culpable violation of the Constitution.
Syjuco said President Aquino “violated the law and his own oath of office” when he authorized the massive transfer of funds from various sources to the previously unknown DAP, which the President allegedly created in 2011 without the knowledge and consent of Congress.
He also accused Aquino of using DAP funds to bribe congressmen and senators into impeaching and convicting his political nemesis, then Chief Justice Renato Corona.
But the opposition United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) said it would not support an impeachment complaint against the President, since the group’s leader, Vice President Jejomar Binay, is the second highest official in the land.
UNA spokesman and Navotas Rep. Toby Tiangco said if Aquino were impeached, Binay would be the main beneficiary.
Tiangco added, however, that UNA would ot block any impeachment complaint either.
Makati Rep. Mar-Len Abigail Binay, daughter of the vice president, said she would abstain from voting on any impeachment case.
She added, however, that public officials such as Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, who created the DAP, were not off the hook for any illegal acts done under the DAP.
Among the actions questioned was the purchase of P135 million worth of spy equipment by the Presidential Security Group using DAP funds, purportedly to spy on opposition leaders and their families during the height of the Corona impeachment trial.
“How did the public benefit from the DAP being used by the Palace to convict Corona? What benefit did the public get from the purchase of P135 million spy gadgets for PSG?” Tiangco asked.
Tiangco said Abad should explain why spy gadgets were purchased at the time Corona was being ousted for being an “enemy of the President.”
Tiangco said the DAP’s role in the impeachment of Corona was to influence congressmen to endorse the impeachment complaint and for senator-judges to convict him.
The House impeached Corona on Dec. 11, 2011 and three months later, the chief justice was convicted by 20 senators who were recipients of P50 million to P100 million each in DAP funds.
Senate President Franklin Drilon, who was then chairman of the Senate committee on finance that deliberates on the national budget, received the highest allocation at P100 million.
On Monday, Tiangco also demanded that the Budget Department publicly release a full list of projects funded by DAP.
He dared Abad to make public all the supposed “priority projects” identified by the Executive branch that received billions of pesos in funding through the DAP.
“Abad has always claimed that DAP had positive results and helped sustain the country’s economic gains. If this is so, in the name of good faith, it is only proper that he publishes the list of all high-impact projects and programs that DAP financed. Full disclosure is what the people want,” Tiangco said.
The Office of the Solicitor General submitted to the Supreme Court a list of DAP-funded projects and programs from 2011-2013 amounting to P170 billion or 17 times bigger than the P10 billion irregularities tied to the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), he said.
Tiangco said Abad has a lot of explaining to do with questionable releases to the Senate, the House of Representatives, the Department of Agrarian Reform, and the PSG, to name a few.
Malacanang justified the allotments given to lawmakers during the Corona trial as part of the Executive’s efforts to realign supposed “savings” to accelerate slow-moving projects, which were identified as “urgent and necessary.”
But Tiangco dismissed this explanation.
“If it was urgent, then why did it pass through the legislators? It would have been implemented much faster if it went directly to the line agencies. Plain and simple—it was a bribe since only those who voted for the impeachment got DAP. And simple logic and common sense would say that a bribe is always done in bad faith,” Tiangco said.
Tiangco said that Abad skirted the legal process in moving public funds, and exercised the power of appropriation exclusively reserved to Congress.
“He acted in bad faith. He knew DAP was unconstitutional but he still went on with it and even justifying that the program was intended to stimulate the economy. [But] the administration’s goal is a fiscal dictatorship and the DAP was a means to achieve it. Again, an act of bad faith,” Tiangco said.
Observers say an impeachment complaint against the President will not succeed because he controls both the House and the Senate.
But the former dean of the University of the East College of Law, Amado Valdez, said Aquino should allow himself to be impeached to show there is accountability in his government.
Speaking on ANC’s Headstart, Valdez said the President is just as liable as Abad because he approved the DAP.
“Impeachment does not necessarily mean conviction. To impeach is to indict him. If only for purposes of creating a precedent as far as creating accountability, he should allow himself to be open to this and defend himself before the Senate,” he said.
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