MANILA, Philippines– A week after former President Benigno Aquino III stepped down from office, progressive groups filed a case against him and his Budget Secretary Florencio Abad over the implementation of the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), parts of which were earlier declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.
Aquino and Abad are facing charges of technical malversation, usurpation of legislative powers, and graft and corruption before the Office of the Ombudsman.
“The DAP was nothing but presidential pork taken from forced savings, then realigned for pet projects of the President. It was not a stimulus program, as many of the projects approved by Aquino has nothing to do with stimulating the economy,” said Bayan Muna Representative Carlos Zarate, who was present during the filing on Friday, July 8.
Aquino’s representative, former Malacañang Deputy Spokesperson Abigail Valte, said the former President has not received a copy of the complaint and cannot comment on the matter.
She said, however that the complaint was expected from these groups.
“As soon as PNoy stepped down, they mobilized to rally at his Times Street home, unwilling to extend to him a peaceful homecoming. Unsatisfied, they mobilized again the next day, deliberately provoking the policemen assigned there in the hope of manufacturing violence to boost media coverage of their shenanigans. It is clearly part of their continuing harassment of a president who refused to be cowed by their chest-beating during his entire term,” she said in a statement.
The DAP story
DAP was an expenditure scheme crafted and implement by Malacañang, supposedly to boost public spending to help improve economic growth. Before the end of the fiscal year in 2011, the Department of Budget and Management realigned the “savings” of various departments, including funds for unfinished projects, and allocated them for the projects of other departments. The move was seen as usurpation of Congress’ exclusive powers to allocate funds.
It drew criticism when Senator Jinggoy Estrada revealed in a privilege speech that some senators received millions of additional lump sum money in their pork barrel after the late Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona’s conviction.
Abad denied that the DAP allocated to the 20 senators served as bribes to vote for Corona’s impeachment.
In July 2014, the Supreme Court ruled that some parts of the program were unconstitutional: the creation of savings before the end of the fiscal year, the withdrawal of these funds and their transfer from one department to another, and the allocation of funds in programs not detailed in the General Appropriations Act.
Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales said in September 2015 that her office had initiated its own investigation into Aquino and Abad’s liabilities.
The office cleared Aquino just a month after, but found sufficient basis to pursue the investigation against Abad and his Undersecretary Mario Relampagos.
“Noong mga panahon na ‘yun, si Presidente Aquino naman ay may immunity pa at ‘di tahasang sinasabi na walang pananagutan si Pangulong Aquino. Ngayong wala na siyang immunity, sa tingin namin napakalaki ng pananagutan ni Presidente Aquino sa DAP,” Zarate said.
(During that time, President Aquino was immune from suit [but] it was not directly stated that he has no accountability. Now that he is not immune, we think, he has a huge accountability for DAP.)
“Sa mga dokumentong naka-attach sa aming complaint, kitang-kita, klarung-klaro na may consent si Mr Aquino sa DAP. In fact, siya mismo ang pumipili anong proyekto ang papayagan sa DAP,” Zarate added.
(It is very clear in the documents attached to our complaint that the DAP has Mr Aquino’s consent. In fact, he himself chose the projects for DAP.)
The groups that filed the complaint were Bayan Muna; Alliance of Concerned Teachers; Confederation for Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees; Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption; Juana Change Movement; Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas; Gabriela; and Kalipunan ng Damagang Mahihirap./Rappler.com/Patty Pasion