AQUINO WARNED OF STATE OF PARALYSIS FOLLOWING SC RULING OF DAP 

JULY 16 --President Aquino yesterday warned that the country’s robust economic development might be placed in a “state of paralysis” following the “deeply unsettling” Supreme Court (SC) decision against the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP). However, the President’s allies and critics alike as well the clergy called on the Chief Executive to follow the SC ruling. Addressing a good governance forum in Malacañang, the President made clear that he has “no grudge or ill will” against the SC but cautioned that its ruling that declared parts of DAP as unconstitutional has a “chilling effect” on the economy and on Filipinos. Aquino said it was a “shame” that the SC ruling on DAP could derail economic growth, especially when the nation has come so far. ONSTITUTIONAL CRISIS FEARED But the President’s allies in the House of Representatives joined critics and the clergy in urging the Chief Executive to respect and follow the SC decision. Congressman-allies urged the President to “move on” and focus its energies in addressing poverty and rising cost of basic commodities and electricity as well as the rehabilitation of typhoon-stricken areas.

Rep. Sherwin Gatchalian (NPC, Valenzuela City), a congressional ally of the Aquino administration, warned of a possible constitutional crisis if President Aquino will continue to accuse the 13 SC magistrates, including all his own appointees, of committing a severe legal blunder in declaring the DAP unconstitutional. Gatchalian said Aquino’s warning of a possible clash between the executive and the judiciary over DAP and the subsequent mediation of the legislative has been taken as a “veiled threat.” “What if the Supreme Court denies Malacañang’s motion for reconsideration, will the executive branch accept it or will the President continue to challenge the high tribunal and insist on the legality of DAP, which was based on the Administrative Code of 1987, particularly Section 39. Should this happen, I see here a possible constitutional crisis,” said Gatchalian, a stalwart of the Nationalist Peoples Coalition (NPC). But staunch Malacañang ally Rep. Elpidio Barzaga Jr. (NUP, Cavite) allayed fears of a constitutional crisis over Aquino’s stand on the DAP. “The President is not defying the Supreme Court’s decision on DAP. As a matter of fact, the President’s statement that he would be filing a motion for reconsideration with the Supreme Court is an express admission that he is recognizing its authority,” Barzaga said. * READ MORE....

(ALSO) SC on Noy: No comment

JUKY 17 --The Supreme Court (SC) has decided not to respond to President Aquino’s tirade over its unanimous ruling declaring the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) illegal. “The SC has no comment on the President’s speech,” Theodore Te, spokesman for the high court, said in a statement issued after the regular session of justices yesterday. Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno has also not accepted the challenge of her ousted predecessor Renato Corona to answer the remarks made by the President against the judiciary. Corona, who was removed from office in May 2012 for which the Palace allegedly rewarded senators with the DAP, said it is Sereno’s duty to “personally defend the institution she represents.”  On his Twitter account, Associate Justice Marvic Leonen, one of the President’s handful of appointees to the SC, posted: “Supreme Court decisions are published so they can be read and understood carefully.”

It was seen as a response to the President’s statement that the decision of the high court on the DAP was “difficult to understand.”  An insider said the SC justices would not want to venture into political issues involving the economic stimulus program. “The Court speaks through its decisions. It is not part of the political arena,” the member of the SC, who commented on condition of anonymity amid threats of impeachment, told The STAR. Te said the SC has also deferred comment on the Commission on Audit (COA) report questioning the high court’s P3.19-billion savings in 2012. “The Court is still studying the COA report,” he said. * READ MORE...

ALSO: DAP violation graver; unlike PDAF projects, DAP’s not covered by nat’l budget—Puno

JULY 17 --RETIRED Chief Justice Reynato Puno (photo) said Wednesday that the constitutional violation under the Disbursement Acceleration Program was more serious than that of the Priority Development Assistance Fund or pork barrel. In the wake of President Benigno Aquino III’s televised address Monday defending the DAP, Puno said the Supreme Court’s 13-0 decision against the program was expected, and not difficult to understand, contrary to the President’s claim.
The former chief magistrate said after the Supreme Court struck down PDAF allocations of lawmakers last year, a similar ruling on DAP—also a discretionary fund contrary to the Constitution—was no surprise. “After the PDAF decision, it was easy to anticipate the SC would not have a different ruling on the DAP,” Puno said in a TV interview. “I would say that the issues raised by the petitioners in the DAP cases were more serious issues of constitutionality,” he added. He said the Constitution clearly provides that “no public money shall be spent except on the basis of appropriation passed by Congress.”

At least under the pork barrel system, projects of lawmakers are covered by the General Appropriations Act (GAA) - unlike in DAP, Puno said. Puno also disputed the President’s persistent claim of good faith in justifying the economic stimulus program. The former chief magistrate said this issue of good faith, as specifically laid down in the Supreme Cout ruling last July 1, was a “difficult subject matter.”  Puno also pointed out that the authors, proponents and implementers of DAP cannot be automatically absolved of any liability merely because the program yielded some positive results on the country’s economy. The retired chief justice said the Supreme Court rulings on DAP and PDAF provided “starting points” for budgetary reforms--especially because such funds might be revived in other forms. “The people should be on the lookout, should be vigilant that the budget that will come from Congress will follow the decisions of the high court,” he said. * READ MORE...

(ALSO) Coloma on SC ruling vs DAP: We respect rule of law

JULY 16 --Malacañang on Wednesday rejected accusations that it was not following the rule of law after no less than President Benigno Aquino heavily criticized the Supreme Court decision against his Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) and insisted that he was “right.” Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma said the Palace was “respecting the rule of law by seeking a reconsideration of the decision.” The executive branch has until July 19 to file a motion for reconsideration. “The Rules of Court allow filing of a motion forreconsideration. We are complying with the rules,” Coloma told reporters in a text message. Two weeks after the high court declared the DAP unconstitutional, Aquino went all-out against the magistrates in a move reminiscent of his campaign to oust then Chief Justice Renato Corona in 2011 and 2012. Also in 2011, he defied the high court’s decision allowing former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to seek medical treatment abroad for fear that she might escape. On Monday, Aquino served notice to the justices that he was not accepting their latest ruling, warning of a possible “collision” with the executive branch.* READ MORE...

ALSO Manila Standard commentary: The President as a bully 

JULY 16 --I could not believe my ears. There he was- the President of the Republic—acting like the head of the Sputnik gang, with apologies to the gang. Sure, no one likes to lose. But when you want to reconsider a loss, you should argue on the basis of law and reasons- at least if its the highest court that you need to convince. But no, the President threw both reason and law and instead acted like a bully telling the members of the Court that if they do not reverse themselves on the DAP, he will ask the Legislature to remove them from office. He even taunted them to a fight, as if the Justices, because of their sheer physical age, could stand up to him. And why did he think the Court was wrong on the DAP? He identified at least two points, both of which do not hold water. One, the administrative code purportedly empowers him to realign funds even on a cross-border basis. The problem with this submission is the elementary principle of hierarchy of laws. Even assuming that the administrative code authorizes him to resort the DAP, all laws must still conform to the Constitution, the latter being the supreme law of the land. Those that do not are declared by the courts as null and void ab initio, or without legal effect from the beginning. Second, he argued that at most, the DAP is akin to parking at a no parking zone in order to bring a dying patient to a hospital. Really? Since when did a culpable breach of the Constitution become akin to a breach of a minor local ordinance? * READ MORE...


READ FULL REPORT HERE:
 
Aquino warned of state of paralysis following SC ruling on DAP
 
PNoy: DAP ruling a shame; both allies, critics urge President to follow SC
 

SHARING A LAUGH – President Aquino and Budget Secretary Florencio Abad (left) share a laugh during the ‘Daylight Dialogue: The Good Governance Challenge’ at the Rizal Hall in Malacañang yesterday. (Richard V. Viñas)

MANILA, JULY 21, 2014 (MANILA BULLETIN) by Genalyn Kabiling - President Aquino yesterday warned that the country’s robust economic development might be placed in a “state of paralysis” following the “deeply unsettling” Supreme Court (SC) decision against the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).

However, the President’s allies and critics alike as well the clergy called on the Chief Executive to follow the SC ruling.

Addressing a good governance forum in Malacañang, the President made clear that he has “no grudge or ill will” against the SC but cautioned that its ruling that declared parts of DAP as unconstitutional has a “chilling effect” on the economy and on Filipinos.

Aquino said it was a “shame” that the SC ruling on DAP could derail economic growth, especially when the nation has come so far.

CONSTITUTIONAL CRISIS FEARED

But the President’s allies in the House of Representatives joined critics and the clergy in urging the Chief Executive to respect and follow the SC decision.

Congressman-allies urged the President to “move on” and focus its energies in addressing poverty and rising cost of basic commodities and electricity as well as the rehabilitation of typhoon-stricken areas.

Rep. Sherwin Gatchalian (NPC, Valenzuela City), a congressional ally of the Aquino administration, warned of a possible constitutional crisis if President Aquino will continue to accuse the 13 SC magistrates, including all his own appointees, of committing a severe legal blunder in declaring the DAP unconstitutional.

Gatchalian said Aquino’s warning of a possible clash between the executive and the judiciary over DAP and the subsequent mediation of the legislative has been taken as a “veiled threat.”

“What if the Supreme Court denies Malacañang’s motion for reconsideration, will the executive branch accept it or will the President continue to challenge the high tribunal and insist on the legality of DAP, which was based on the Administrative Code of 1987, particularly Section 39. Should this happen, I see here a possible constitutional crisis,” said Gatchalian, a stalwart of the Nationalist Peoples Coalition (NPC).

But staunch Malacañang ally Rep. Elpidio Barzaga Jr. (NUP, Cavite) allayed fears of a constitutional crisis over Aquino’s stand on the DAP.

“The President is not defying the Supreme Court’s decision on DAP. As a matter of fact, the President’s statement that he would be filing a motion for reconsideration with the Supreme Court is an express admission that he is recognizing its authority,” Barzaga said.

REVERSAL DOUBTED

“I have doubts whether the SC will reverse the ruling, (almost no chance of reversal), considering its 13-0 voting and one inhibited, and how the SC decided on DAP, it was too legalistic and narrow-minded,” Iloilo Rep. Niel Tupas Jr., chairman of the House Committee on Justice, said.

Magdalo party-list Rep. Francisco Ashley Acedillo, another ally, agreed with Tupas, saying the executive branch cannot get what it wants from the SC.

He asked instead the Aquino government to move on and find solutions to the country’s socio-economic problems.

The House independent minority bloc asked President Aquino to stop dividing the people and refrain from issuing “totally irresponsible” threat to a co-equal branch of government.

SUPREME LAW OF THE LAND

Leyte Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez, who leads the group, said Aquino was ill-advised when he threatened the SC with a possible clash with the executive branch for declaring unconstitutional the key provisions of the DAP.

“He tried to justify the legality of DAP with a provision in the Administrative Code, But even non-lawyers are aware that the Constitution is the supreme law of the land,” he said in a statement.

“That is why the threat to the SC was totally irresponsible. The President should not forget that he does not have any power over the High Tribunal, and that it is the final arbiter or interpreter of anything about the law He, himself, described the SC as a co-equal branch of the executive,” Romualdez pointed out.

Parañaque Rep. Gus Tambunting agreed with Romualdez, calling on the President to “follow the SC decision and not to challenge it.”

“He should move on and try to do what he can with whatever funds are still available and that he can use legally to improve the country in his last two years. He should no longer engage in partisan politics and try to unify the country. He should think of his legacy and place in history,” he said.

‘RESPECT THE SC’

Like the congressmen, the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) urged government leaders, including President Aquino, to practice humility and to also respect democratic institutions

“We must respect the Supreme Court. Where there was error, there must be humble admission and immediate rectification,” Lingayen Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas, the CBCP president, said.

“The CBCP prays that our nation will tread the path of peace, and that our national leaders may truly be humble and respectful of our democratic institutions so that our most sacred freedoms and liberties are always upheld,” Villegas said in a CBCP News post.

Villegas called on Filipinos to “hold fast to the basic tenets of the democratic way of life enshrined in our Constitution” and to be always reminded of the judiciary’s mandate “to interpret the law with definitiveness in the process of resolving justiciable issues.”

The CBCP president also reminded the public that the rule of law must always be safeguarded for it is a “fundamental requirement” and an “objective condition” of the common good.

“That the rule of law is at all times safeguarded is therefore a moral concern. When the rule of law is compromised, the common good becomes its victim,” Villegas said.

Still, the prelate asked the public to respect President Aquino’s opinion on the DAP.

“He should obey the unanimous decision of the Supreme Court,” Antipolo Auxiliary Bishop Francisco de Leon said in an interview over Church-run Radyo Veritas yesterday.

“His intention might be good but his means is unconstitutional,” he added.

Cubao Bishop Honesto Ongtioco echoed what De Leon said.

“Our President should think twice in considering the SC decision which was unanimous, 13-0.We should not belittle the wisdom of our magistrates,” he said.

Baguio Bishop Carlito Cenzon asked the public to show their support for the SC.

“I hope the SC will also be firm in their decision,” added Cenzon.

Senator Jinggoy Estrada, who is facing a P184-million plunder charge before the Sandiganbayan, said the President should just accept the SC ruling.

His brother, Sen. Joseph Victor “JV” Ejercito, said he finds it unfortunate that the President is now challenging the SC decision.

“DAP is a culpable violation of the Constitution. It is unfortunate that President Aquino is now challenging the Supreme Court’s unanimous decision against DAP,” said Ejercito.

“Instead of justifying technical malversation, it would be better for PNoy to uphold the Constitution and respect the Supreme Court decision,” Ejercito pointed out.

“It seems he does not know how to accept he made a mistake, an innocent mistake, a mistake without a criminal intent but a mistake anyway because the SC ruled 13-0 (on the DAP). So it’s disappointing to get that kind of reaction from him,” Sen. Sergio Osmeña III said.

“Well, true to form, the President was hard-headed, tigas ulo,” Osmeña said.

PROJECTS SUSPENDED

As a result of the SC decision on DAP, Aquino said he has ordered a suspension of programs and projects funded under DAP “out of prudence.”

“Unfortunately, the effects of the Supreme Court decision run the risk of putting our country’s development in a state of paralysis – or worse, reversing the massive progress we have already made. This is not acceptable,” the President said during the “Daylight Dialogue: Good Governance Challenge” attended by top World Bank officials, cabinet members, businessmen, and civil society representatives at the Palace.

Aquino highlighted that the country’s average economic growth has soared to 6.3 percent under his watch, from the average of 2.8 percent from 1990 to 1999 as well as 4.5 percent from 2000 to 2009.

A growth rate of 7 percent or more would enable a country to lift itself out of poverty, Aquino pointed out.

STINGING REBUKE OF SC

The President made another stinging rebuke of the SC decision against DAP a day after his televised national address in defense of the controversial stimulus funding program.

With the adverse SC ruling on DAP, the President acknowledged that no government official could be confident in bidding out programs and projects “when the threat of a lawsuit hangs over their heads.”

“Thus: the infrastructure projects, essential social services, and other programs funded under DAP had to be suspended,” he said.

Citing an example, Aquino said Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Governor Mujiv Hatama decided to suspend the projects under DAP, that includes health centers, agricultural facilities, and other social services.

“Governor Hataman was exercising prudence, which is only right. At the same time, the situation in ARMM reflects the potentially devastating effect that the Supreme Court decision will have across the Philippines,” Aquino said.

Lanao del Sur Gov. Mamintal Alonto-Adiong Jr. and the office of Hataman shared the President’s contention, asserting that DAP funds reportedly amounting to P8.6 billion have helped poor Muslim communities to catch up developing regions in the country.

In striking down the DAP, the Supreme Court earlier ruled that the authors, proponents and implementors of DAP may be held liable if they cannot prove good faith.

Aquino however said he finds it difficult to accept the SC decision on DAP “when I know that we are right more importantly, that doing nothing means depriving so many Filipinos of opportunities to grow and prosper.”

He maintained that DAP, which involved the realignment of savings for projects to boost economic growth, is “perfectly legal.”

He lamented that the SC magistrates did not take into consideration the administration’s legal bases for DAP, particularly the Administrative Code of 1987.

Aquino affirmed that he cannot support any ruling that “severely limits government’s capacity to serve its people in the quickest manner possible.”

“Ensuring that essential services reach our countrymen is not just part of the mandate of the executive branch; it is part of the mandate of every branch of government,” he said.

‘STATE OF WAR’

Former senator Joker Arroyo, the executive secretary of then President Corazon C. Aquino, said President Aquino practically declared a “state of war” with the Supreme Court when he sought to defend his administration’s fiscal policy and the DAP.

Arroyo said the way the current administration is carrying out its policies clearly shows it wants to discredit the judiciary and render it impotent, subjugate Congress, and make the power of the President supreme.

The President’s stance on the DAP undermines the power of the High Court, Arroyo said.

“What if the Supreme Court does not reconsider its 13-0 unanimous decision on DAP? What will the President do? That is the overriding question. After all, he had practically declared a state of war with the High Court in a conflict of high and emotional drama beamed nationwide,” Arroyo said in a statement.

“Is the President saying that if the High Court turns down the government’s motion for reconsideration, the government will not comply with the original decision?” he asked.

Should the President carry out his threats against the SC, Arroyo warned it would “dismantle the balance of power under the Constitution” which is anchored on the co-equality of the three branches of government – the executive, the legislative, and the judiciary.

“The potent weapon of the SC is its assigned duty vested by the Constitution to adjudge, among others, the constitutionality of acts or measures, including those of the President,” he said.

“The President does not question that power of the Supreme Court, but questions the Justices’ collective capacity and integrity to exercise that power,” he added.

WHO’LL HAVE FAITH IN SC?

“If the President expresses lack of faith in the Supreme Court, who will? It has no armed forces to protect itself, or the police to enforce its judgment,” Arroyo further explained.

Arroyo pointed out that what cannot be overlooked is that when a President speaks, he makes a policy statement.

SC TIGHT-LIPPED

Despite the apparent attack on the SC, Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes P. A. Sereno and the other justices refused to comment on the President’s speech.

“The SC has no comment on the President’s speech,” Spokesman Theodore O. Te said.

Earlier, former Chief Justice Renato C. Corona said Sereno should react and defend the institution she represents.

“It’s her duty to do so. She should answer personally and not through the SC spokesman,” Corona said. (With reports from Charissa M. Luci, Hannah L. Torregoza, Rey G. Panaligan, and Ali G. Macabalang)

FROM PHILSTAR

SC on Noy: No comment By Edu Punay (The Philippine Star) | Updated July 16, 2014 - 12:00am 1 0 googleplus0 0


President Benigno Aquino III addresses the nation during on Monday. Ryan Lim/Malacañang Photo Bureau

MANILA, Philippines - The Supreme Court (SC) has decided not to respond to President Aquino’s tirade over its unanimous ruling declaring the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) illegal.

“The SC has no comment on the President’s speech,” Theodore Te, spokesman for the high court, said in a statement issued after the regular session of justices yesterday.

Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno has also not accepted the challenge of her ousted predecessor Renato Corona to answer the remarks made by the President against the judiciary.

Corona, who was removed from office in May 2012 for which the Palace allegedly rewarded senators with the DAP, said it is Sereno’s duty to “personally defend the institution she represents.”

On his Twitter account, Associate Justice Marvic Leonen, one of the President’s handful of appointees to the SC, posted: “Supreme Court decisions are published so they can be read and understood carefully.”

It was seen as a response to the President’s statement that the decision of the high court on the DAP was “difficult to understand.”

An insider said the SC justices would not want to venture into political issues involving the economic stimulus program.

“The Court speaks through its decisions. It is not part of the political arena,” the member of the SC, who commented on condition of anonymity amid threats of impeachment, told The STAR.

Te said the SC has also deferred comment on the Commission on Audit (COA) report questioning the high court’s P3.19-billion savings in 2012.

“The Court is still studying the COA report,” he said.

* The COA said the SC had declared savings of P3.19 billion in 2012 even when it had several unpaid obligations during the year. The report said the SC used its budget for 2013 to pay for the expenses.

Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. and other leaders of the House of Representatives said the President was not picking a fight with the SC justices with his speech.

Belmonte also debunked claims Aquino was threatening the SC justices in his speech.

He described the speech as “well-reasoned and sincere, direct to the point, and based on law, and on the realities on the ground.”

“He (Aquino) was courteous to the SC,” he added.

Iloilo Rep. Jerry Treñas said Aquino has “all the right to fight for what he thinks is right for the country and for the people.”

He said Aquino simply explained his side on the issue.

Section 39

Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez said Section 39 of Chapter 5, Book 6 of Administrative Code of 1987 clearly empowers the President to realign savings from one department to another.

“Clearly, both (Budget) Secretary (Florencio) Abad and President Aquino had legal basis to implement DAP. Furthermore, under the rules of constitutional and statutory interpretation, the uniform executive interpretation by the past presidents of the Constitution and the statutes that they have the power to realign savings has persuasive effect on the litigation of the issue,” he said.

Cavite Rep. Elpidio Barzaga said critics “are way out of line” when they warned of constitutional crisis over the DAP ruling.

“The President is not defying the Supreme Court’s decision on DAP. As a matter of fact, the President’s statement that he would be filing a motion for reconsideration with the Supreme Court is an express admission that he is recognizing its authority,” he said.

He added Aquino stopped the DAP when petitions against it were filed and even if the SC at the time did not issue any temporary restraining order.

Barzaga urged the SC to take a second look at the issue and consider the principle of presumption of innocence and good faith and regularity as well as the provisions of the Administration Code before handing out a final ruling.

SC to sustain ruling

Iloilo Rep. Niel Tupas Jr. said he believes the SC will not reverse its decision, considering that the vote was unanimous.

However, he said he respects the President’s decision for the administration to file a motion asking the high court to reconsider its ruling.

“He wants to exhaust all legal remedies. He was very honest about his feelings,” he said.

Tupas, who chairs the committee on justice of the House of Representatives, the panel that screens impeachment cases, said he did not consider as an impeachment threat Aquino’s warning that he does not want the executive and judicial branches of government to collide.

Stop dividing the nation

Several other lawmakers asked the President to “stop dividing the nation” and just respect the SC ruling.

Leyte Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez, leader of the independent bloc, told Aquino to “just let the law take its course,” and described as futile his defense of the DAP.

He said whoever advised Aquino to threaten the SC should be fired, adding he failed to refute the grounds cited by the SC in declaring the DAP as illegal.

“Too bad, the President’s address was only about his insistence on the legality of DAP due to the good faith and good intention behind it, blaming the Arroyo administration again and he threatened the SC,” Romualdez said.

Parañaque City Rep. Gustavo Tambunting said Aquino “should move on and try to do what he can with whatever funds are still available and that he can use legally to improve the country in his last two years.”

Valenzuela City Rep. Sherwin Gatchalian said the President’s speech was a veiled threat against the SC.

“What if the Supreme Court denies Malacañang’s motion for reconsideration, will the executive branch accept it or will the President continue to challenge the high tribunal and insist on the legality of DAP?” he asked.

He maintained the power of the purse, including realignment of funds, belongs solely to Congress.

‘Pork barrel king’

Anakpawis party-list Rep. Fernando Hicap said Aquino’s declaration that he will challenge the SC ruling is “proof that he wants sole discretion and decision over billions of public funds.”

“He is, therefore, the one and only pork barrel king,” he said.

Kabataan party-list Rep. Terry Ridon said Aquino failed to disclose any new details on DAP and instead rehashed the same arguments that his spokespersons have been saying in the past days.

Lawmakers from the Gabriela party-list group said the speech was not only a declaration of war against the SC but also “against a people demanding transparency and accountability.”

Clash

Senator Jinggoy Estrada urged Malacañang to respect the SC decision to avoid a clash between the executive and the judiciary.

In an interview with reporters after the hearing on his petition for bail at the Sandiganbayan where he is facing plunder and graft charges for his alleged role in the pork barrel fund scam, he said he was the one who exposed the DAP.

“Some are saying that I should be placed under the WPP (Witness Protection Program) because I was the whistle-blower,” he joked, referring to his privilege speech regarding the PDAF, during which he questioned where the funds distributed to senators after the impeachment of Corona came from.

Estrada said even the COA should be held liable for being a recipient of the DAP and failing to audit it.

Reached by The STAR, COA Chairman Grace Pulido-Tan denied that DAP funds are not being audited.

“Some findings have been reported out, please check our website. We will issue a consolidated report once audit is complete,” she said.

‘Mere misunderstanding’

A mere “misunderstanding” – and not a constitutional crisis – was how Senator Paolo Benigno Aquino IV described the President’s reaction to the SC ruling.

“It’s a constitutional crisis if something is still happening, if there is an ongoing act and another branch (of government) is saying it should stop. And the DAP has stopped,” he said. “What happened was just a misunderstanding.”

He also belied observations that the President was combative against the SC in his speech, noting the Chief Executive was “sober” and “in good spirits.”

Senator Juan Edgardo Angara said he also does not see the President as picking a fight with the SC.

He noted that the President has always been passionate about certain things that he really believes in, which may appear as being combative to some people.

“I support the President in the sense that when he was executing the DAP and releasing funds before the SC decision, it was done in good faith,” he said.

Senator Cynthia Villar said that she also understood the President’s position on the DAP.

“As a senator whose background is business, I can understand the President’s explanation that he implemented the Disbursement Acceleration Program to spur economic activities, since government spending is really needed to spur economic activities,” she said.

Constitutional crisis

Former President and now Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada raised fears the President’s speech on the DAP might trigger a constitutional crisis.

In a telephone interview with The STAR, he said it appears Aquino is challenging the SC justices.

“I pray that it will not happen,” he said.

Meanwhile, United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) secretary general and Navotas Rep. Toby Tiangco said the President’s scathing words against the SC are a “blatant breach of respect for a coequal branch of government, a manifest disregard of law, and a dangerous precedent.”

He reminded Aquino that the SC is a coequal branch of the executive department.

Tiangco said the President has declared an open war against the SC and even went further by calling Congress to step into the fray.

“This is dangerous. We can already see a specter of constitutional crisis. P-Noy wants Congress to intervene and if the Supreme Court does not reconsider its decision on DAP, the impeachment against the justices will push through,” Tiangco said.

Tiangco said Malacañang may have wrongly expected a favorable decision from the SC headed by Sereno, whom the President appointed.

Respect democratic institutions

On his Facebook account, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines president Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas said the CBCP prays that the country will “tread the path of peace, and that our national leaders may truly be humble and respectful of our democratic institutions so that our most sacred freedoms and liberties are always upheld.”

He acknowledged the President’s views on the DAP is important and must be respected, but noted that it is “equally important for the people to hold fast to the basic tenets of the democratic way of life enshrined in our Constitution.”

“It is for the judiciary to interpret the law with definitiveness in the process of resolving justiciable issues. We must respect the Supreme Court. Where there was error, there must be humble admission and immediate rectification,” he added. – With Jose Rodel Clapano, Paolo Romero, Michael Punongbayan, Marvin Sy, Jess Diaz, Reinir Padua, Eva Visperas

FROM THE MANILA STANDARD

DAP violation graver; unlike PDAF projects, DAP’s not covered by nat’l budget—Puno By Rey E. Requejo, Christine F. Herrera | Jul. 17, 2014 at 12:01am
 

RETIRED Chief Justice Reynato Puno (photo) said Wednesday that the constitutional violation under the Disbursement Acceleration Program was more serious than that of the Priority Development Assistance Fund or pork barrel.

In the wake of President Benigno Aquino III’s televised address Monday defending the DAP, Puno said the Supreme Court’s 13-0 decision against the program was expected, and not difficult to understand, contrary to the President’s claim.

The former chief magistrate said after the Supreme Court struck down PDAF allocations of lawmakers last year, a similar ruling on DAP—also a discretionary fund contrary to the Constitution—was no surprise.

“After the PDAF decision, it was easy to anticipate the SC would not have a different ruling on the DAP,” Puno said in a TV interview.

“I would say that the issues raised by the petitioners in the DAP cases were more serious issues of constitutionality,” he added.

He said the Constitution clearly provides that “no public money shall be spent except on the basis of appropriation passed by Congress.”

At least under the pork barrel system, projects of lawmakers are covered by the General Appropriations Act (GAA) - unlike in DAP, Puno said.

Puno also disputed the President’s persistent claim of good faith in justifying the economic stimulus program.

The former chief magistrate said this issue of good faith, as specifically laid down in the Supreme Cout ruling last July 1, was a “difficult subject matter.”

Puno also pointed out that the authors, proponents and implementers of DAP cannot be automatically absolved of any liability merely because the program yielded some positive results on the country’s economy.

The retired chief justice said the Supreme Court rulings on DAP and PDAF provided “starting points” for budgetary reforms--especially

because such funds might be revived in other forms.

“The people should be on the lookout, should be vigilant that the budget that will come from Congress will follow the decisions of the high court,” he said.

* Puno earlier proposed a people’s initiate to abolish all forms of pork barrel in government, saying genuine budgetary reforms were needed.

In his address Monday evening, President Aquino insisted the DAP was legal and pressed the Supreme Court to overturn its decision after he filed a motion of reconsideration.

He warned: “We do not want two equal branches of government to go head to head, needing a third branch to step in to intervene.”

The President’s warning came almost simultaneously with the release of a Commission on Audit report questioning the Supreme Court’s P3.19 billion in savings in 2012.

The COA said the Court had declared savings of P3.19 billion in 2012 even when it had several unpaid obligations during the year. The report said the Court used its budget for 2013 to pay for the those expenses.

Ousted Chief Justice Renato Corona earlier called on Aquino-appointed Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno to answer the attacks made by the President on the judiciary.

Sereno has remained silent, however, and Court spokesman Theodore Te said the justices had “no comment” on the President’s tirade.

An insider attributed this move to the anticipated appeal to be filed by the Palace. Since the ruling is not yet final and the filing of appeal would make it pending again, justices are not allowed to publicly discuss the merits of the case under the sub judice rule.

In a decision penned by Associate Justice Lucas Bersamin, the Supreme Court held that the acts and practices under the DAP violated the constitutional doctrine of separation of powers and the provision prohibiting inter-branch transfer of appropriations.

Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio and Associate Justice Arturo Brion cited possible liabilities of the President and Secretary Florencio Abad in their separate opinions.

In his concurring opinion, Carpio said it was President Aquino who violated the constitutional doctrine of separation of powers of the three equal branches of government in approving the DAP releases that amounted to over P149 billion from October 2011 to September 2013.

He cited the admission of Abad before the high court that the DAP, National Budget Circular No. 541 and related executive issuances were approved by the President.

Brion, for his part, detailed the possible culpabilities of Abad. He cited in his opinion “indicators showing that the DBM secretary might have established the DAP knowingly aware that it is tainted with unconstitutionality.”

Brion said that Abad cannot invoke good faith in justifying the DAP that he created considering his being a lawyer and experiences both in executive and legislative branches.

Also on Wednesday, two legal experts and three opposition lawmakers rejected President Aquino’s defense of the DAP.

Ranhilio Aquino, dean of the San Beda Graduate School of Law and constitutionalist Joaquin Bernas, also said that the President erred in citing Section 49 of the Administrative Code to justify the creation of the DAP.

San Beda’s Aquino even laughed off the President’s statement that the decision was “difficult to understand,” saying the Chief Executive knows well the concept of separation of powers, even though “he was only a ‘C’ student at the Ateneo.”

The law dean made the statement after the President warned the Supreme Court against going head-to-head with the Executive department.

“President Aquino claims that the DAP is authorized by the Administrative Code of 1987. (But) The Supreme Court has ruled that the acts complained about violate the Constitution. For a statesman, that would (have) settled things,” San Beda’s Aquino pointed out.

“The law means what the Supreme Court says it means. If we don’t like this order of things, then amend the Constitution, but until it is amended, that is the way things go, under the rule of law.

“So, why should Aquino challenge the Supreme Court, issuing a not-too-thinly veiled threat against it? Simple. He has always thought of himself as above the law, above criticism and above fault because he has always been able to count on the adulation of the multitudes,” Aquino noted.

The law dean said the President tried to appeal to public sympathy by declaring that the DAP was used for worthwhile projects.

“But even in ‘misappropriation of public funds’ (technical malversation), public monies are expended on public projects – but illegally. This does not make the unauthorized expenditure of funds legal,” he said.

San Beda’s Aquino also rejected the President’s analogy—parking a vehicle at a no-parking zone to rush an emergency case to the hospital—as “limp and crippled.”

“There is no emergency here. DAP is a disbursement allocation —an attempt to increase public spending that had almost ground to a halt because of his own policies. He should not portray himself as savior of an ailing nation, because he got it ailing in the first place! And what emergency can there be in distributing DAP to senators as a reward for voting for the impeachment of the chief justice?” he said.

Bernas, for his part, said the government cannot invoke Section 49 of the Administrative Code to justify the DAP.

“I believe it is safe to assume that the Supreme Court is aware of the existence of Section 49. The Supreme Court is also aware that the Code where Section 49 is found is an Executive Order of the late President Corazon Aquino issued while she still had legislative power before Congress became operative,” said Bernas, a member of the Constitutional Commission that drafted the 1987 Constitution.

“(The Administrative Code) antedates the 1987 Constitution. Statutory provisions and executive orders antedating the Constitution and incompatible with the Constitution no longer have effect.”

Bernas explained that there is no authorization under the Constitution for the “cross border transfer” of funds from one branch of the government to another.

“Thus savings in the President’s budget may not be moved to other departments or offices such as to Congress, to the judiciary, or to a constitutional commission,” he said.

FROM THE INQUIRER

 Coloma on SC ruling vs DAP: We respect rule of law By Christian V. Esguerra |Philippine Daily Inquirer2:38 am | Thursday, July 17th, 2014
 


Malacañang photos

Malacañang on Wednesday rejected accusations that it was not following the rule of law after no less than President Benigno Aquino heavily criticized the Supreme Court decision against his Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) and insisted that he was “right.”
Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma said the Palace was “respecting the rule of law by seeking a reconsideration of the decision.”
The executive branch has until July 19 to file a motion for reconsideration.
“The Rules of Court allow filing of a motion for reconsideration. We are complying with the rules,” Coloma told reporters in a text message.
Two weeks after the high court declared the DAP unconstitutional, Aquino went all-out against the magistrates in a move reminiscent of his campaign to oust then Chief Justice Renato Corona in 2011 and 2012.
Also in 2011, he defied the high court’s decision allowing former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to seek medical treatment abroad for fear that she might escape.
On Monday, Aquino served notice to the justices that he was not accepting their latest ruling, warning of a possible “collision” with the executive branch.
He claimed he did not want to reach that point when the legislature, apparently controlled by his administration, would have to “intervene” between the two other coequal branches.
The following day, he focused his speech at the Daylight Dialogue in Malacañang on the ruling, insisting that he was “right” and that the court, voting 13-0 against the DAP, was wrong.
“I find it difficult to accept their decision when I know that we are right, and, more importantly, that doing nothing means depriving so many Filipinos of opportunities to grow and prosper,” he told his audience that included visiting World Bank president Jim Yong Kim.
In his televised address on Monday, Aquino dropped hints that he had the goods on the magistrates.
“There was something that you did in the past, which you tried to do again, and there are those who are saying that this is worse,” he claimed without elaborating.
The Commission on Audit earlier questioned the Supreme Court’s decision to set aside P3.2 billion of its funds as savings even if it still had obligations in 2012.

MANILA STANDARD COMMENTARY

The President as a bully By Atty. Harry Roque Jr. | Jul. 17, 2014 at 12:01am

I could not believe my ears. There he was- the President of the Republic—acting like the head of the Sputnik gang, with apologies to the gang.

Sure, no one likes to lose. But when you want to reconsider a loss, you should argue on the basis of law and reasons- at least if its the highest court that you need to convince. But no, the President threw both reason and law and instead acted like a bully telling the members of the Court that if they do not reverse themselves on the DAP, he will ask the Legislature to remove them from office. He even taunted them to a fight, as if the Justices, because of their sheer physical age, could stand up to him.

And why did he think the Court was wrong on the DAP? He identified at least two points, both of which do not hold water. One, the administrative code purportedly empowers him to realign funds even on a cross-border basis. The problem with this submission is the elementary principle of hierarchy of laws. Even assuming that the administrative code authorizes him to resort the DAP, all laws must still conform to the Constitution, the latter being the supreme law of the land. Those that do not are declared by the courts as null and void ab initio, or without legal effect from the beginning.

Second, he argued that at most, the DAP is akin to parking at a no parking zone in order to bring a dying patient to a hospital. Really? Since when did a culpable breach of the Constitution become akin to a breach of a minor local ordinance? *  Moreover, the Court identified a major breach of the Constitution as basis for invalidating the DAP; that is, that it usurped the exclusive power of Congress over the purse. The DAP involved more than a violation of an ordinance that could result in a parking ticket. The DAP was about the very essence of representative democracy: that there will be no taxation without representation and its corollary, that there can be no spending of public funds without the consent of the people acting through their representatives. That was the full impact of the ruling of the Supreme Court when it reiterated the doctrine in Demetria vs. Alba that the Executive could only realign savings to augment an existing line item and only within the executive or that branch of government that incurred the saving. To sanction what the DAP purported to do, which was to replace projects identified by Congress with other projects identified by the Executive would infringe on the power of Congress to pass the appropriations law which incidentally, is also an important part of the system of checks and balances institutionalized by the Constitution by having three co-equal branches of government.

Well, we ourselves will file a partial motion for reconsideration but find no need in bullying the Court to accede to our arguments. We will rely on the tried and tested formula of arguing through law and reason.

What are our grounds for reconsideration?

Two points.

First, the Court was not clear how much the executive could augment for existing line appropriation items using savings. On the basis of the Court decision itself, we identified at least three projects that were augmented by at least doubling the amount originally appropriated and even up to 51 times of the appropriated amount.

Take for instance the national highway project for the President’s home province of Tarlac. The original budget was P1 billion. This was augmented by P900 million, or almost double the initial amount., This, we will argue, is no longer augmentation but a new budget allocation which again, infringes on the power of the purse that properly pertains to Congress.

Similar “augmentations” mentioned in the Court’s decision include a P6 million budget for research and development of the DOST which was augmented 51 times with 300M and the billions and billions by way of augmentation to 'senatoriables' Ging Deles and peace bond queen alias “when we hold on together” Dinky Soliman’s departments.

A second ground for reconsideration is that the lump sump for contingencies and natural calamities should also be declared unconstitutional. This is pursuant to the earlier Belgica decision on PDAF which declared all lumps sums, except for these two items, as being unconstitutional.

We will argue that even these two should be declared unconstitutional since the remedy for the executive in case of extraordinary expense is to go to Congress for a supplemental budget. This was done for Yolanda. Why shouldn’t it be done anew for similar unexpected expenses?

In any case, what appeared more troublesome with the President’s desperate effort to defend the patently constitutional infirmed program that is the DAP is the reality that while he has the Constitutional mandate to enforce the Constitution and the laws of the land, he is the first to breach both the Constitution and the laws of the land.

And in so breaching his constitutional oath, he resorts to bullying the Judicial branch of government into sustaining his unconstitutional acts.

This is troubling because this would have been unthinkable in the administration of both my idols, Ninoy and Cory. The parents must now be turning in their graves with the acts of their unico hijo.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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