PRESIDENT Benigno Aquino III resumed his attack on the Supreme Court Wednesday, accusing the justices of changing the rules on “good faith” when they ruled that some acts committed under the Disbursement Acceleration Program were unconstitutional.
The President said that although the Court has ruled against his program, those who carried it out under the Executive branch should not be punished.
“The Supreme Court appears to have changed the rules and our understanding of the concept of in good faith, and this will have wide-ranging implications on our work in government. If you did your work based on existing laws, we should have nothing to fear. But with this decision of the Supreme Court, a public servant will now have to prove that he innocent every time his decision is questioned,” he said.
“If what you did has basis in law, then you acted in good faith. Even if in the future, the law from which you based you actions was declared void, you cannot be accused on acting in bad faith,” Aquino added.
The President said this interpretation would have a “chilling effect” on public servants.
“Let me stress: a retroactive effect will really result in [an] extreme chilling effect,” Aquino said.
“Take the case of our bidding process. If losers try to look for loopholes, the poor public servant who made a decision will face a lawsuit and must defend himself. How can you work if you have to deal with lawsuits?” he added.
The President cited three DAP projects which he said benefited the people.
He said P1.6 billion in DAP funds were used to train 223,615 graduates of the Technical Education Skills Development Authority.
Aquino said DAP was also used to finance projects under Project NOAH to ensure that six hours before a natural disaster strikes, local government units are forewarned.
DAP also benefited the tourism sector, Aquino said, with the construction of 66 roads leading to priority tourist destinations across the country.
In a speech marking the 150th birth anniversary of Apolinario Mabini, hailed as the brains behind the 1896 revolution against Spain, Aquino used Mabini’s teachings to defend his discredited program.
Mabini, Aquino said, emphasized the importance of the people’s mandate as the foundation of any government.
He said Mabini also brought to the mainstream the concept of public service, that power comes from the people, and power must be used to benefit the people.
“The third lesson: public institutions were built for the welfare of the people. And it should not be the case that government systems prevent the delivery of benefits to our people,” Aquino said.
“In front of the Malolos Congress, Mabini stressed the need for an executive that can respond quickly to the needs of our people. Mabini called on the legislators at that time: let us help each other instead of tying up the hands of the executive branch so that we do not let the chance to help our people pass us by,” the President said.
Aquino said Mabini’s teachings are still relevant today, especially with the Supreme Court’s ruling on DAP.
“This past week, there have been heated discussions on the decision of the Supreme Court on our DAP. Let me stress again: DAP delivered benefits to our people in the fastest and correct way. We maximized our budget to quickly ease the burden of the Filipino people,” he said.
“The truth is: we did not arrive at the decision to implement DAP on a whim. DAP was not an invention or a product of our imagination: we based it on existing laws, foremost of which is the Administrative Code of 1987, which we believe is in accordance with the 1987 Constitution,” the President added.
Even though the Office of the Solicitor General has filed a motion for reconsideration with the Supreme Court, which ruled against the DAP 13-0, the President continued to defend the program.
In a nationally televised address on Monday last week, Aquino warned the Supreme Court against going head-to-head with the Executive branch, which might prompt Congress to intervene.
The tone and content of his speech drew widespread criticism from allies and critics alike.
Retired Chief Justice Reynato Puno said the constitutional violation under the DAP was more serious than that of the Priority Development Assistance Fund or pork barrel.
Puno said contrary to the President’s claim, the Supreme Court’s ruling was not difficult to understand because the Constitution clearly provides that “no public money shall be spent except on the basis of appropriation passed by Congress.”
Senator Sergio Osmeña III, an administration ally, warned of a constitutional crisis if the President, whom he described as hard-headed, would continue to defy the Court’s ruling on the DAP.
Former Senator Joker Arroyo described Aquino’s national address last week as a virtual declaration of a war against the Supreme Court.
“Such a presidential stance undermines the SC. If the President expresses a lack of faith in the Supreme Court, who will? It has no armed forces to protect itself, or police to enforce its judgment,” Arroyo said.
A spokesman for the Court, Theodore Te, said the justices will address all the issues raised by Aquino in his speech Wednesday.
“As the President himself has said in his speech, the matters he discussed are all in the MR filed by the government; the SC will address all matters raised in the various MRs when it renders its resolution on the MRs,” Te said, in a text message.
Last week, Mr. Aquino insisted that the DAP was legal, saying the Court failed to consider the legal basis for DAP, which was the Administrative Code. But the Supreme Court used the Constitution – the highest law of the country – as the basis for striking down the program.
In the motion for reconsideration filed July 18, the Palace accused the Supreme Court of transferring funds across departments in 2012, the same act that it found unconstitutional in the DAP. – With Rey E. Requejo
COMMENT DISCLAIMER: Reader comments posted on this Web site are not in any way endorsed by Manila Standard. Comments are views by manilastandard.net readers who exercise their right to free expression and they do not necessarily represent or reflect the position or viewpoint of manilastandard.net. While reserving this publication’s right to delete comments that are deemed offensive, indecent or inconsistent with Manila Standard editorial standards, Manila Standard may not be held liable for any false information posted by readers in this comments section.