A PARTY-LIST lawmaker and youth groups filed a plunder complaint before the Office of the Ombudsman Tuesday against Budget Secretary Florencio Abad for creating the Disbursement Acceleration Program, calling it a “systemic plundering of government resources.”
Abad, in connivance with other government officials, systemically misappropriated, converted and misused public funds through the DAP, the complaint filed by Kabataan Rep. Terry Ridon charged, citing the Supreme Court’s recent ruling that acts committed under the program were unconstitutional.
Ridon and his co-petitioners said the Supreme Court explicitly excluded Abad and others responsible for DAP from the “doctrine of operative fact,” which voids a law but sustains its effects.
“By leaving the ‘authors, proponents, and implementers’ of the DAP open for investigation for their criminal, civil, and administrative liabilities, the justices of the Supreme Court are in fact telling the Filipino people that the Aquino administration, especially the Department of Budget and Management and Secretary Abad, should be held liable,” the complaint said.
Amid mounting calls that Abad resign, a Palace spokesman said the President would leave it up to officials who were responsible for the DAP to decide whether they would submit their courtesy resignations.
“That call is for the respective individuals to decide on,” Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma said.
Abad has been evading media requests for comment on the Supreme Court decision and a full disclosure of projects funded by the DAP.
But Coloma said Tuesday that Abad was simply too busy with his work, and said he was also part of the team studying the government’s legal options following the Supreme Court ruling.
In a separate opinion, Supreme Court Associate Justice Arturo Brion said Abad was aware that the DAP was unconstitutional right from the start.
“The DBM secretary might have established the DAP knowingly that it is tainted with unconstitutionality,” Brion said, noting that Abad was a lawyer who had been a congressman for 12 years, and even a chairman of the House appropriations committee.
Brion said it was “inconceivable” that Abad did not know the illegality or unconstitutionality “that tainted his brainchild.”
Coloma said Tuesday there was no guarantee that President Benigno Aquino III would accept any resignations, however.
“That is up to the decision of the President, as and when the eventuality arises,” he said.
Coloma asked the public to give the Executive branch more time before it can give a full accounting of where the DAP funds went.
The secrecy over the list of 116 projects funded by the DAP has created confusion as to how much was really allocated for the program.
Based on the termination memo submitted to the President in December, DAP funds amounted to P140.8 billion. But in separate press releases from the DBM, Abad’s office cited different figures -- P136.75 billion and P142.3 billion, respectively. The militant group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan said based on the documents they have secured, DAP funds amounted to P177.2 billion.
Coloma himself could not say the total amount of DAP funds spent, but insisted that the government could not yet disclose the details of the projects until it decided whether or not to file a motion for reconsideration with the Supreme Court, which had voted 13-0 against the administration’s program.
“The Office of the Solicitor General received the decision on July 4 and under the rules of the court, the government as respondent is given 15 days from the receipt of the decision within which to file a motion for reconsideration. So there’s a continuing study of the decision, including the legal options that may be taken,” Coloma said.
“(The full list of DAP-funded projects) is part of the ongoing study and will form part of what will be the government’s legal response to the Supreme Court decision. So maybe it is not yet time to disclose all the DAP projects for scrutiny,” Coloma said.
Joining Ridon in the plunder complaint were Victor Villanueva of Youth Act Now; Dyan Francisco of Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU)-Matanglawin; Jerome Flores of Youth Act Now-ADMU; Mary Joy Capistrano of the University of the Philippines’ Philippine Collegian; Neill John Macuha of UP-Student Regent; Eduardo Gabral of Katipunan Kontra Korupsyon composed of UP, Miriam College and ADMU; Elizabeth Danielle Fodulla of UP’s Manila Collegian, April Joy Camacho of the Polytechnic University of the Philippines-Catalyst, Michelle Lado of Youth Act Now-UP Open University, Vencer Mari Crisostomo of Anakbayan, Einstein Recedes of the Student Christian Movement of the Philippines, Charlotte Velasco of the League of Filipino Students, Marc Lino Abila of the College Editors Guild of the Philippines and Sarah Jane Elago of the National Union of Students of the Philippines.
The petitioners said Abad cannot claim “good faith” or “ignorance of the law” when he implemented DAP, citing Brion’s separate opinion that Abad could “run circles around the budget and its processes, and did, in fact, purposely use this knowledge for the administration’s objective of gathering the very sizable funds collected under the DAP.”
Even Janet Lim Napoles, the alleged mastermind of the P10-billion pork barrel fund scam, implicated Abad as her mentor to divert funds to non-government organizations, the complaint said.
“Despite Secretary Abad’s clear violation of the Constitution and other relevant laws, the Aquino administration continues to coddle Secretary Abad, even going to extreme lengths to defend him. That is why youth groups decided to again take the initiative and file charges against the Budget secretary to hold him accountable,” Ridon said in a statement.
“The very fact that Aquino is coddling a criminal, like Abad, only proves that the two of them have connived to execute this multi-billion monstrosity known as DAP. Filing criminal charges against Abad is just the first half of the legal actions that we’ll pursue. We will be filing an impeachment complaint against Aquino next,” he added.
He appealed to Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales to expedite the probe of Abad’s case.
“The public deserves to know the truth. The esteemed Ombudsman should not give in to pressure by the Aquino administration. We challenge the Ombudsman to act swiftly and judiciously on our complaint and make Abad accountable for his crimes against the Filipino people,” Ridon said
“A bad secretary must go to jail.”
Also on Tuesday, Senator Grace Poe challenged President Aquino and her fellow senators to prove that the lump sum allocations were properly used.
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