PRESIDENT Benigno Aquino III issued a thinly disguised threat Monday against the Supreme Court as he urged the magistrates in a nationally televised address to reconsider their 13-0 ruling against his administration’s Disbursement Acceleration Program, which he insisted was legal.
“This is my message to the Supreme Court: we do not want to reach that point where two co-equal branches of government will go head to head, and that the third branch must intervene,” Aquino said Monday night.
“To the Supreme Court, our message: Do not bar us from doing what we swore to do. Shouldn’t you be siding with us in pushing for reform? Let us, therefore, end this vicious cycle that has taken our people hostage.”
The entire Cabinet and allied lawmakers served as his audience--a show of force in favor of the discredited DAP, several acts of which were declared as unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.
“It is very difficult to understand your decision. You had done something similar in the past, and you tried to do it again; there are even those of the opinion that what you attempted to commit was far graver,” Aquino said, without elaborating.
“Abiding by the principle of presumption of regularity, we assumed that you did the right thing; after all, you are the ones who should ostensibly have a better understanding of the law. And now, when we use the same mechanism—which, you yourselves have admitted, benefitted our countrymen—why is it then that we are wrong?”
The President said the government will file a motion for reconsideration to overturn the Supreme Court’s unanimous decision on the DAP.
And for the DAP projects that have not been implemented fully, Aquino said the Executive branch will ask Congress for a supplemental project.
Aquino said the decision of the Supreme Court will not redound to the benefit of the people.
“The Supreme Court’s decision questions our use of savings, and raises concerns on when we can use unprogrammed funds. They want savings declared only at the 31st of December of each year. If that were the case, when would the government be free to utilize these funds? Following their logic on savings, projects that could have been funded in the middle of the current year would have to be delayed until the following year,” he said.
“With the Supreme Court’s decision, benefits would be delayed, because it would take until March of the following year to fulfill all the requirements regarding these funds; on top of this, it would all then have to go through another four to six months of bidding and procurement. If you file a report in March, it would be September of the following year by the time all of these processes are done. All in all, almost two years would have passed before the benefits of funds would redound to the people,” the President added.
Aquino questioned how the Supreme Court arrived at the decision to declare several acts under the DAP as unconstitutional when it did not discuss the legal basis of the DAP—Book VI, Chapter 5, Section 39 of the 1987 Administrative Code of the Philippines—in its ruling.
“We were surprised to find that the Supreme Court decision did not take into account our legal basis for DAP. How can they say that our spending methods are unconstitutional when they did not look into our basis? Even until now, Section 39 of the Administrative Code is in effect, along with its other sections,” the President said.
“We did not transgress the law when we implemented DAP. The Constitution and the Administrative Code are not at odds with each other,” he added, without saying that the Constitution always takes precedence over ordinary laws or the Administrative Code.
Aquino said what makes the Supreme Court’s decision “more worrisome” is that while it acknowledged the doctrine of operative fact, the magistrates assumed the absence of good faith in the implementation of the DAP projects.
“This doctrine also recognizes that implementors do not have to be held accountable as long as the edict was carried out in good faith. But in their decision, the judges immediately presume the absence of good faith, which would then have to be proven through trial. What happened to the principle of innocent until proven guilty?”
The President also insisted that the DAP should not be compared with the Priority Development Assistance Fund or pork barrel funds of lawmakers.
“Excuse me. DAP is different from PDAF. With PDAF, the corrupt funneled government funds into fake NGOs, money then allegedly divided among themselves. It’s clear that with DAP the people’s money was never stolen—the funds were used for the benefit of Filipinos,” he said.
Still, Aquino could not give an accounting of how much in public funds were really spent for the DAP, saying full disclosure will come “in the coming days.”
“DAP is good. Our intentions, our processes, and the results were correct,” he insisted.
Aquino expressed hope that the Supreme Court magistrates would see the wisdom in his motion for reconsideration to be filed by the Office of the Solicitor General.
“We believe that the majority of you, like us, want only the best for the Filipino people. To the honorable justices of the Supreme Court: Help us help our countrymen. We ask that you review your decision, this time taking into consideration the points I have raised tonight,” he said.
“The nation hopes for your careful deliberation and response. And I hope that once you’ve examined the arguments I will submit, regarding the law and about our economy, solidarity will ensue,” the President added.
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