MALACAÑANG lashed out at the Supreme Court Thursday for singling out the Aquino administration in ascribing criminal liability for the acts under the Disbursement Acceleration Program.
Because of the unanimous 13-0 decision of the Supreme Court against the DAP, “good men” in the Cabinet have been put on the defensive and must show they did not misuse public funds, presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said.
“There have been several acts and issuances issued by the national government in the past that have been declared unconstitutional but were never ascribed criminal liability,” Lacierda said.
“Perhaps [the Supreme Court] should explain why their decision on the DAP is different,” he added.
Lacierda said aside from Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, other Cabinet officials are now being dragged into the DAP issue.
“Because of this decision, good men, good Cabinet secretaries like Rogelio Singson and Education Secretary Armin Luistro are now being accused of having criminal liability,” he said.
“It’s not just Secretary Abad who is being dragged in here, although there is no direct accusation that they stole public funds or they misused public funds. This is why we are wondering why the decision extended all the way to that point,” Lacierda said.
He said the Palace legal team is still studying the possibility of filing a motion for reconsideration to question the Court’s unanimous ruling.
In his opinion, Supreme Court Associate Justice Arturo Brion said Abad was aware that the DAP was unconstitutional from the start.
Given Abad’s background as a lawyer and a congressman for 12 years, including stints as the chairman of the House appropriations committee, “it is inconceivable that he did not know the illegality or unconstitutionality that tainted his brainchiled,” Brion wrote.
Abad has yet to make a full disclosure on the DAP funds that were allocated by the Aquino administration, creating confusion over the more than 100 projects covered by the program.
Based on the termination memo submitted to the President in December, DAP funds amounted to P140.8 billion, but other estimates go as high as P177.2 billion.
Opposition lawmakers slammed the Palace for absolving Abad without conducting an investigation, saying this would also exonerate President Benigno Aquino III and other key players in the illegal diversion of funds through the DAP.
United Nationalist Alliance secretary general and Navotas Rep. Toby Tiangco said Lacierda’s sweeping exoneration of Abad Wednesday contradicted Aquino’s vow that “no one will be spared, not even allies.”
“Does being with the administration guarantee total absolution from any misdeed?” Tiangco said.
Bagong Alyansang Makabayan secretary general Renato Reyes Jr. said Abad could not be cleared without making a full and detailed accounting of projects funded by the DAP, which the Supreme Court ruled as unconstitutional.
He also accused Abad of knowingly violating the Constitution.
Tiangco dismissed the Palace statement that they acted in good faith.
“It’s very clear that Malacañang is trying to hide something by immediately clearing those behind the DAP without an investigation,” he said. “A cover-up is never done in good faith.”
Tiangco also bristled at Lacierda’s insistence that Abad did not personnaly gain from the DAP.
“The P170 billion [under the program] was not loose change,” Tiangco said. “Abad has to explain what he did with the public’s money.
Tiangco said Abad skirted the legal process and exercised the power of appropriation exclusively reserved to Congress.
He said the Justice Department and the Office of the Ombudsman must investigate the misdeeds of the Budget Department with the same vigor it did the pork barrel scam.
Kabataan Rep. Terry Ridon urged Lacierda to “stop pretending and stop his bad acting” in covering up for the administration’s wrongdoing.
“DAP was created and executed by none other than the Executive department. The Aquino administration cannot claim that it is sure that 91 percent of the DAP funds were spent properly while leaving the remaining 9 percent in a cloud of doubt just because it was allocated for projects identified by members of Congress,” Ridon said.
Lacierda earlier claimed that 91 percent of DAP funds, which is estimated to be anywhere between P140 billion and P177 billion, were “spent properly” by the Executive branch, while emphasizing that the same cannot be said for the estimated P13 billion allocated to both chambers of Congress.
Lacierda also said the Justice Department investigation on the DAP is now focused on the 9 percent allocated to legislators.
Buhay Rep. Lito Atienza said the Palace could not invoke plans to appeal the Supreme Court’s DAP ruling to justify its refusal to make a full disclosure of the P147 billion spent on various projects.
He added that Abad should not wait for Congress to summon him to an inquiry, or ask the President to explain the discredited program on his behalf.
Atienza also expressed concern that President Aquino approved a memorandum granting “omnibus authority” to consolidate savings or unused balances and to realign these funds on June 25, 2012, based on Abad’s recommendation.
Atienza also cited Abad’s order, which confirmed that Aquino had already approved his request for authority to pool savings to fund the Disbursement Acceleration Plan on Oct. 12, 2011 and his request for omnibus authority to pool savings and unused balances for FY 2011 in December.
“This [shows] that DAP wasn’t crafted overnight, but those behind it wanted the President to approve it, even if there was talk that it would be unconstitutional,” Atienza said.
He added that if all the Palace wanted to do was speed up the allocation of funds for development projects, it could have asked Congress for a supplemental budget.
Tiangco recalled that the Palace also defended Abad without an investigation when the alleged pork barrel queen Janet Lim Napoles claimed that he was her mentor in diverting funds to bogus non-government organizations.
“What cards does Abad have up his sleeves that the President is so scared of him? Is Aquino worried that Abad will take him down with him and tell all he knows?” Tiangco said.
Tiangco also wanted Abad to explain to the public how channeling funds to lawmakers who impeached and convicted the President’s political nemesis qualified as a “high-impact project” that would benefit the economy.
Also on Thursday, Senator Sergio Osmeña III said it is the Budget Department and not lawmakers who must explain what happened to their DAP allocations.
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