PALACE WAY OF APPEAL TO SC: 'WE DID IT IN GOOD FAITH AND YOU'VE DONE IT TOO, NOT ONCE BUT TWICE' 

JULY 18 --This, in a nutshell, was how Malacañang appealed the Supreme Court’s ruling that struck down the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), laying down in a 52-page motion for reconsideration what President Benigno Aquino III essentially spelled out to the public in his defiant speech on Monday. Filed late afternoon on Friday, the reversal plea sought to dismiss for lack of merit nine petitions that the court favored in its July 1 decision, which found that President Aquino had usurped Congress’ exclusive power of the purse and that Budget Secretary Florencio Abad may have knowingly circumvented the country’s appropriations rules in designing and enforcing the DAP. Voting 13-0, the Supreme Court ruled that Malacañang violated the Constitution in undertaking cross-border transfers, or realigning savings into projects outside the executive branch and allocating savings to projects outside the approved national budget without certification from the national treasury. But the Palace argued that the DAP, was implemented without malice. “The President and his alter egos, in implementing a decidedly successful program, deserve to be afforded the traditional constitutional presumptions that apply to most other forms of public actions, especially the presumption of good faith,” Malacañang said in its motion for reconsideration. “Respondents strongly object to any suggestion that bad faith attended the formulation of the DAP, made years before the Court’s unprecedented decision in these cases. With all due respect, the Honorable Court’s decision redefines existing administrative practice and potentially assigns malice post facto (after the fact),” the Palace said. * READ MORE...

(ALSO) Silent Protest: Court workers to wear black, red in protest

JULY 18 --Some show a yellow streak. Some show courage. Red and black are the colors of choice for the country’s court employees as they stage a silent protest Monday amid President Benigno Aquino III’s warning of a “clash” between the executive and the judiciary over the Supreme Court’s ruling striking down Malacañang’s Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) as unconstitutional. Joel Guerrero, president of the Supreme Court Employees’ Association, on Friday said employees of the high court, the Court of Appeals, the Court of Tax Appeals and the Sandiganbayan have agreed to wear red or black at the start of the new work week as a symbol of indignation to attacks against the judiciary and threats to scrap the Judiciary Development Fund (JDF). The action, expected to go nationwide through lower courts, is the court employees’ answer to President Aquino’s speech Monday questioning the Supreme Court’s July 1 ruling on DAP, which found the presidential discretionary fund unconstitutional for encroaching into Congress’ exclusive power of the purse, among others. Getting personal? The decision was unanimous among 13 judges who took part in the vote (one magistrate inhibited from the voting). “We are wondering why he is saying it’s getting personal. But 13-0, is that personal? That’s all the justices. And we are talking about the Constitution. We have one law, one country. Maybe it’s better that we help each other out,” Guerrero said. * READ MORE...

(ALSO) Coloma downplays President's call to yellow supporters: Don’t take yellow ribbon call too seriously 

JULY 18 --Presidential Communications Operations Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. stressed this yesterday as he tried to downplay the President’s appeal for people to wear yellow ribbons to show support for the administration. The call came at the heels of the President’s speech explaining the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), key provisions of which were recently declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. “We can take it seriously but not too seriously,” the Palace official added. Coloma said there is no deliberate attempt to start a contest of political colors and further sow division. “It was a light moment in the dialogue. Wala namang layunin na magsimula ng kompetisyon ng kulay [There is no plan to start a competition of colors],” Coloma said in a Palace press briefing. YELLOW RIBBONS Aquino’s call to wear the “yellow ribbon” was made during the “Daylight Dialogue” forum held at the Palace last Tuesday. The President asked Filipinos to wear yellow ribbons to show if they still supported the administration amid the DAP controversy. QUICK MANNER The President’s comment was made in response to Gregorio Navarro, president of the Management Association of the Philippines, who asked what the public can do to help his government. “Perhaps wearing our yellow ribbons, amongst other things, just to demonstrate exactly in a quick manner where the sentiments of our people lie,” said Aquino, who is battling record-low public trust and satisfaction ratings. PEACH RIBBONS  The President’s attempt to revitalize the yellow ribbon campaign, however, triggered criticisms from some groups who deemed it was only dividing the nation. In protest, some groups reportedly plan to wear peach ribbons when they file impeachment complaints against the President. * READ MORE...

ALSO: DAP list ‘sanitized’ Critics accused Palace of hiding ‘pork funds’

THE list of 116 projects funded by the Disbursement Acceleration Program released by the Palace Monday was sanitized to remove P30 billion worth of pork barrel that contributed nothing to the economy and merely promoted patronage politics, critics of the program said Tuesday. Former national treasurer and convener of Social Watch Philippines, Leonor Magtolis Briones and Bagong Alyansang Makabayan secretary general Renato Reyes Jr. said the Palace deliberately hid the DAP funds that went to congressmen, senators and other elected local officials. At 4:30 p.m. Monday, shortly before President Aquino delivered his speech on the DAP, the Palace released a 19-page list containing 116 DAP-identified projects worth P72.11 billion that were approved by the President on Oct. 12, 2011. Reyes compared the Palace list to the documents submitted to the Supreme Court entitled “Respondent’s 1st Evidence Packet” and found that some funds were deliberately hidden from the Supreme Court, the President and the public. Based on the Supreme Court document, copies of which were obtained by the Manila Standard, of the P72.11 billion, some P6.5 billion was allocated to “PDAF (Various other local projects)” in one column that was described in another column as “for augmentation.” But in the Palace list, the term PDAF [for Priority Development Assistance Fund] was deleted. * READ MORE...

ALSO Manila Times commentary: The DAP debacle 

The Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) was conceived as a budget reform mechanism to speed up completion of government’s priority projects. It is however turning out to be the Aquino administration’s biggest debacle. It was a policy with good intentions that had gone haywire, just like many other programs and projects that yielded negative outcomes because of bad implementation.
President Benigno Aquino 3rd and Budget Secretary Florencio Abad have both been pilloried for creating the DAP, and defending it even after the Supreme Court declared four activities under it as unconstitutional. Remember, the SC did not find the DAP as unconstitutional. Prof. Solita Monsod, economic planning secretary under Cory Aquino’s presidency, rightly said that the DAP is in bad odor because people have been led to believe that it is the President’s pork barrel. Well, favoritism appears to have gotten in the way of allocating the “savings” parked under DAP to agencies headed by close friends of the President and loyal members of the Liberal Party. It was like implementing a good policy in a bad way. That’s what made nonsense of the good intentions behind the DAP. Some brilliant minds and PR geniuses capitalized on that and succeeded in creating the DAP in the minds of the public that it was even worse than the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), and that the President dispenses political favors at his whim. PDAF was about public money that found its way into the pockets of politicians through a circuitous route using dubious non-government organizations for fake government projects. * READ MORE...


READ FULL REPORT HERE:
 
Palace to SC: You’ve done it too, not once but twice
 

INQUIRER FILE PHOTOS

MANILA, JULY 21, 2014 (INQUIRER) By Tarra Quismundo - We did it in good faith, and you’ve done it, too, twice.

This, in a nutshell, was how Malacañang appealed the Supreme Court’s ruling that struck down the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), laying down in a 52-page motion for reconsideration what President Benigno Aquino III essentially spelled out to the public in his defiant speech on Monday.

Filed late afternoon on Friday, the reversal plea sought to dismiss for lack of merit nine petitions that the court favored in its July 1 decision, which found that President Aquino had usurped Congress’ exclusive power of the purse and that Budget Secretary Florencio Abad may have knowingly circumvented the country’s appropriations rules in designing and enforcing the DAP.

Voting 13-0, the Supreme Court ruled that Malacañang violated the Constitution in undertaking cross-border transfers, or realigning savings into projects outside the executive branch and allocating savings to projects outside the approved national budget without certification from the national treasury.

But the Palace argued that the DAP, was implemented without malice.

“The President and his alter egos, in implementing a decidedly successful program, deserve to be afforded the traditional constitutional presumptions that apply to most other forms of public actions, especially the presumption of good faith,” Malacañang said in its motion for reconsideration.

“Respondents strongly object to any suggestion that bad faith attended the formulation of the DAP, made years before the Court’s unprecedented decision in these cases. With all due respect, the Honorable Court’s decision redefines existing administrative practice and potentially assigns malice post facto (after the fact),” the Palace said.

* No collusion with Congress

Malacañang also protested the view that Mr. Aquino overstepped his powers in implementing the DAP, as several justices had expressed in separate opinions on the decision.

“We strongly object to the notion that the President colluded with Congress, or that he undermined the Congress’ power of the purse and that Congress allowed its prerogatives to be undermined. The constitutional requirement of an annual exercise between the two political branches simply reflects the fact that the political departments, not the judiciary, are those in charge of running the government and managing the economy,” Malacañang said.

The DAP, it said, was implemented to stimulate public spending that had been slowed down by its own efforts to “plug leakages” in a system inherited from the previous administration, when there was “the prevalence of questionable and poorly designed programs and projects” and “huge agency lump-sum funds [that] were susceptible to abuse and which created implementation bottlenecks through zero-based budgeting and other tools.”

Affirm these

The Palace asked the Supreme Court to affirm the following:

Withdrawn obligated allotments and unreleased appropriations under the DAP are savings.

Cross-border transfers under the DAP are constitutional.

The President augmented items with appropriation cover under the DAP.

The use of the Unprogrammed Fund under the DAP complied with the conditions provided in the relevant General Appropriations Acts (GAAs).

Regardless of the nullification of certain acts and practices under the DAP and/or National Budget Circular No. 541, the operative fact doctrine does not operate to impute bad faith to authors, proponents and implementers who continue to enjoy the presumption of innocence and regularity in the performance of official functions and duties.

Gives public funds without dictation

The Constitution, Malacañang said, does not bar the President from realigning the executive branch’s savings to other departments, as long as the recipient decides how to use the augmentation.

“In such a case, the President merely gives the other department access to public funds but he cannot dictate how they shall be applied by that department, whose fiscal autonomy is guaranteed by the Constitution,” the Palace said.

Malacañang cited instances where the President provided the Commission on Audit (COA) and the House of Representatives additional funds out of Palace savings upon their request, but the agencies themselves decided how to use the extra allocations.

As Mr. Aquino said in his speech on Monday night, the practice of moving savings across agencies had been done before, even by the Supreme Court itself.

You, too, Your Honors

The Palace cited at least two instances—as the President vaguely referenced in his speech—when the Supreme Court took such an action.

It reminded the justices of that time in July 2012, when the Supreme Court earmarked its savings of P1.865 billion to augment the Department of Justice’s P100-million budget for the Manila Hall of Justice. Malacañang pointed out that the DOJ “is within the executive department.”

In March 2013, the Supreme Court also asked the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to move this P100-million budget to the judiciary, this time for the construction of the Malabon Hall of Justice, a project not funded under the 2012 or 2013 national budget.

Last year’s request, the Palace said, was withdrawn through a letter by Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno some nine months later, on Dec. 23, 2013, when petitions against the DAP were filed.

“These two instances show both cross-border transfers on the part of the Supreme Court—(a) the augmentation of an item in the executive from funds in the judiciary; and (b) the “transfer” of funds from the executive to the Supreme Court, whether or not for purposes of augmentation,” Malacañang said.

Doctrine of operative fact

The Palace also argued that the doctrine of operative fact, a legal doctrine the Supreme Court cited in its ruling implying how the DAP’s sponsors could be held accountable for the program, “has nothing to do with the potential liability of persons who acted pursuant to a then-constitutional statute, order or practice.”

In its decision, the Supreme Court said that the doctrine, which upholds the effects of an unconstitutional law prior to its nullification, could only apply to projects and activities conducted under the DAP in good faith.

The court said the principle may not be invoked by the law’s “authors, proponents and implementers, unless there are concrete findings of good faith in their favor by the proper tribunals determining their criminal, civil, administrative and other liabilities.”

Malacañang disagreed: “They are presumed to have acted in good faith and the court cannot load the dice, so to speak, by disabling possible defenses in potential suits against so-called authors, proponents and implementers. The mere nullification of an act has no bearing on individual liability precisely because the doctrine primarily seeks to ensure that acts performed prior to nullification are still deemed valid on the theory that judicial nullification is a contingent or unforeseen event.”

‘Not justiciable’

The Palace also asserted that the legal action against the DAP was “not justiciable” in the first place, as petitioners have “neither been injured nor threatened with injury as a result of [the] DAP.”

“Just because people have ‘incompatible perspectives’ on a constitutional question does not mean they have a justiciable controversy that any of them can ask the court to decide when, in such a case, all that is necessary is to stage a public debate and ask the board of judges to decide,” the Palace said.

Silent protest: Court workers to wear black, red in protest Philippine Daily Inquirer 7:20 am | Saturday, July 19th, 2014


INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines—Some show a yellow streak. Some show courage.

Red and black are the colors of choice for the country’s court employees as they stage a silent protest Monday amid President Benigno Aquino III’s warning of a “clash” between the executive and the judiciary over the Supreme Court’s ruling striking down Malacañang’s Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) as unconstitutional.

Joel Guerrero, president of the Supreme Court Employees’ Association, on Friday said employees of the high court, the Court of Appeals, the Court of Tax Appeals and the Sandiganbayan have agreed to wear red or black at the start of the new work week as a symbol of indignation to attacks against the judiciary and threats to scrap the Judiciary Development Fund (JDF).

The action, expected to go nationwide through lower courts, is the court employees’ answer to President Aquino’s speech Monday questioning the Supreme Court’s July 1 ruling on DAP, which found the presidential discretionary fund unconstitutional for encroaching into Congress’ exclusive power of the purse, among others.

Getting personal?

The decision was unanimous among 13 judges who took part in the vote (one magistrate inhibited from the voting).

“We are wondering why he is saying it’s getting personal. But 13-0, is that personal? That’s all the justices. And we are talking about the Constitution. We have one law, one country. Maybe it’s better that we help each other out,” Guerrero said.

* Guerrero said they will not wear “that sad color,” in apparent reference to yellow, a color Aquino himself had appealed on the public to display in support of the administration.

Guerrero said court employees’ groups had no consultation with the justices, as in previous similar actions, but expressed confidence that it won’t be an issue.

The groups also oppose moves to take a second look at the JDF, as was recently proposed in Congress. He said court employees get less than P2,000 a month through the JDF, and that a certain percentage of the fund goes to the rehabilitation of court houses.

He said court employees will stage a similar action on July 28, when President Aquino delivers his fifth State of the Nation Address (Sona). Tarra Quismundo

FROM THE MANILA BULLETIN

Coloma downplays President's call to yellow supporters: Don’t take yellow ribbon call too seriously

Coloma: Don’t take President Aquino’s yellow ribbon call “too seriously.”

Presidential Communications Operations Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. stressed this yesterday as he tried to downplay the President’s appeal for people to wear yellow ribbons to show support for the administration. The call came at the heels of the President’s speech explaining the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), key provisions of which were recently declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.

“We can take it seriously but not too seriously,” the Palace official added.

Coloma said there is no deliberate attempt to start a contest of political colors and further sow division.

“It was a light moment in the dialogue. Wala namang layunin na magsimula ng kompetisyon ng kulay [There is no plan to start a competition of colors],” Coloma said in a Palace press briefing.

YELLOW RIBBONS

Aquino’s call to wear the “yellow ribbon” was made during the “Daylight Dialogue” forum held at the Palace last Tuesday. The President asked Filipinos to wear yellow ribbons to show if they still supported the administration amid the DAP controversy.

QUICK MANNER

The President’s comment was made in response to Gregorio Navarro, president of the Management Association of the Philippines, who asked what the public can do to help his government.

“Perhaps wearing our yellow ribbons, amongst other things, just to demonstrate exactly in a quick manner where the sentiments of our people lie,” said Aquino, who is battling record-low public trust and satisfaction ratings.

PEACH RIBBONS

The President’s attempt to revitalize the yellow ribbon campaign, however, triggered criticisms from some groups who deemed it was only dividing the nation. In protest, some groups reportedly plan to wear peach ribbons when they file impeachment complaints against the President.

* NOT COUNTING

Coloma explained that there was no plan to check the number of the President’s supporters through the yellow ribbons. He said President did not really have “very specific ideas on his mind” when asked by Navarro about what people can do.

“I don’t think mayroong project doon na, ‘sige, simula ngayon bilangin natin kung mas marami ‘yung dilaw o mas marami ‘yung peach [I don’t think there is a project to start counting those wearing yellow or peach],” Coloma said.

VIBRANT DEMOCRACY

Coloma recognized though that “healthy diversity and even differences in opinions” are part of a vibrant democracy.

He said although there are different views, people can agree on fundamental matters related the country’s interest such as economic growth and poverty alleviation.

“Sang-ayon ako doon sa iyong punto na dapat siguro sa halip na magkawatak-watak, hanapin natin kung paano magkakaisa [I agree that instead of sowing division, let’s find ways where we can unite],” he said.

“I strongly believe there is a scope for finding common ground,” he added.

DIVISIVENESS

Two senators – Joseph Victor Ejercito and Antonio F. Trillanes IV – called the yellow ribbon campaign as causing divisiveness among Filipinos.

Trillanes, an administration ally, said the effect of the President’s call is to create divisiveness among Filipinos.

“Presidente siya lahat ng Filipino at hindi lang yung bumuto sa kanya,’’ he said. (He is not the President only for all those who voted for him but for all Filipinos.)

Ejercito, a member of the Senate minority bloc, said that “as President, he should have been magnanimous as he is the father of the nation.’’

“PNoy asking his supporters to wear yellow ribbon only worsens the divisiveness among our people,’’ he said.

How can people try to unite when the President (is) himself causing the divisiveness?’’ he asked.

In the eighties, wearing yellow ribbons colored the march of the opposition to Malacañang to oust then President Ferdinand E. Marcos which later installed Corazon Aquino as the next President in the mid-80s.

The yellow ribbon campaign surfaced many times to show support for Pres. Cory, and later for PNoy. It was also the unofficial logo of the Aquino campaign. (Genalyn D. Kabiling and Marion B. Casayuran)

FROM THE MANILA STANDARD

DAP list ‘sanitized’ Critics accused Palace of hiding ‘pork funds’ By Christine F. Herrera | Jul. 16, 2014 at 12:01am


THE list of 116 projects funded by the Disbursement Acceleration Program released by the Palace Monday was sanitized to remove P30 billion worth of pork barrel that contributed nothing to the economy and merely promoted patronage politics, critics of the program said Tuesday.

Former national treasurer and convener of Social Watch Philippines, Leonor Magtolis Briones and Bagong Alyansang Makabayan secretary general Renato Reyes Jr. said the Palace deliberately hid the DAP funds that went to congressmen, senators and other elected local officials.

At 4:30 p.m. Monday, shortly before President Aquino delivered his speech on the DAP, the Palace released a 19-page list containing 116 DAP-identified projects worth P72.11 billion that were approved by the President on Oct. 12, 2011.

Reyes compared the Palace list to the documents submitted to the Supreme Court entitled “Respondent’s 1st Evidence Packet” and found that some funds were deliberately hidden from the Supreme Court, the President and the public.

Based on the Supreme Court document, copies of which were obtained by the Manila Standard, of the P72.11 billion, some P6.5 billion was allocated to “PDAF (Various other local projects)” in one column that was described in another column as “for augmentation.”

But in the Palace list, the term PDAF [for Priority Development Assistance Fund] was deleted.

* Its description in the second column said: “This item shall fund priority local projects nationwide requested by legislators, local government officials and national agencies.”

It no longer said it was meant for “PDAF augmentation.”

“The Palace list was to deliberately mislead the public into thinking that there was no PDAF in DAP. The Palace sanitized the list. But DAP is pork barrel like PDAF,” Reyes said.

Reyes cited items 41, 73 and 100 in the Palace DAP list hidden under the name “various local projects.”

“These items are clearly pork barrel funds intended for legislators and other officials. The pork funds hide under the name various local projects. They total P17.5 billion,” Reyes told the Manila Standard.

“Now, how would increasing PDAF or congressional pork be beneficial for the economy? The Palace tried to hide these pork funds by not mentioning the PDAF connection. We doubt if Malacanang can even account for these funds. These items prove that DAP is pork just like

PDAF, contrary to what the President claims that the two are different. It is clear, DAP equals PDAF. PDAF is painted all over the DAP projects,” Reyes said.

In the Palace list, an allocation of P6.5 billion in LGU support fund was recorded. The Palace downplayed its use by describing it as “Pursuant to the President’s directives, this amount will help local governments cushion the impact of the 4.8 percent decrease in the 2012 IRA or Internal Revenue Allotment over the 2011 levels due to abrupt decrease in national internal revenue collection in 2009.”

But in the Supreme Court evidence packet, its description says, “In FY 2012, LGUs will suffer a cut in their IRA share at about P13.6 billion. To buffer the blow of the reduction, the Support Fund will be set up for LGUs requiring financial assistance to implement projects that fall under a prescribed menu. The guidelines shall be released jointly by the DILG and DBM.”

In the Palace list, the LGU support fund had a balance of P900 million that was not indicated in the Supreme Court evidence packet.

Under the Supreme Court evidence packet, an allocation of P5.432 billion for landowners’ compensation was listed for compensable lands under the agrarian reform program.

However, in the Palace list, the amount listed was P5.46 billion that was “indicated in the memo to the President but only indicated as cash release that is not included in the P72.11-billion proposed funding.”

“This item was included in the DAP as part of the disbursement strategy since it only required the release of the NCA [cash]. It already has an appropriation in the FY 2010 and FY 2011 GAA in the total amount of P7.932 billion. The cash requirement was released on Oct. 4, 2011 to beef up disbursement alongside disbursements under DAP,” the Palace list says.

The Palace list counted the P5.46 billion allocation as included in the total amount of P72.11 billion even “if it was not included in the P72.11 billion proposed funding.

“This only goes to show that Aquino started impounding the funds as early as 2010, under the national budget approved by his predecessor,” Reyes said.

President Aquino’s first national budget was deliberated on and approved in December 2011.

Briones described as “anomalous” the Palace list because it did not have details of where exactly the money went.

“How can the President say the DAP projects were graft-free when not one project has been audited and investigated by the Commission on Audit? Where are the details? Who were the beneficiaries? Who received what and how much?” Briones said.

“Instead of explaining to the public the details of the DAP, the President went on and on defending himself and the executive, saying what they did was right. And those who question them were wrong,” Briones said.

Briones and Reyes demanded a “full disclosure” of the DAP funds from the President.

“Somebody has got to be accountable for these seemingly invisible projects. Where are these projects and where did the funds go? For as long as the Palace does not come clean, doubts will continue to taint the DAP as one big source of corruption and used for political patronage,” Briones said.

FROM THE MANILA TIMES

The DAP debacle July 20, 2014 10:53 pm by TITA C. VALDERAMA


Tita Valderama

The Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) was conceived as a budget reform mechanism to speed up completion of government’s priority projects. It is however turning out to be the Aquino administration’s biggest debacle.

It was a policy with good intentions that had gone haywire, just like many other programs and projects that yielded negative outcomes because of bad implementation.

President Benigno Aquino 3rd and Budget Secretary Florencio Abad have both been pilloried for creating the DAP, and defending it even after the Supreme Court declared four activities under it as unconstitutional. Remember, the SC did not find the DAP as unconstitutional.

Prof. Solita Monsod, economic planning secretary under Cory Aquino’s presidency, rightly said that the DAP is in bad odor because people have been led to believe that it is the President’s pork barrel.

Well, favoritism appears to have gotten in the way of allocating the “savings” parked under DAP to agencies headed by close friends of the President and loyal members of the Liberal Party. It was like implementing a good policy in a bad way. That’s what made nonsense of the good intentions behind the DAP.

Some brilliant minds and PR geniuses capitalized on that and succeeded in creating the DAP in the minds of the public that it was even worse than the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), and that the President dispenses political favors at his whim.

PDAF was about public money that found its way into the pockets of politicians through a circuitous route using dubious non-government organizations for fake government projects.

* According to the findings of the Ombudsman, Senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. got the biggest amount of kickbacks from the PDAF scam amounting to P224 million, followed by Sen. Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada with P183 million, and Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile with P172 million.

According to the Commission on Audit (COA), these anomalous transactions were consummated in 2007 to 2009, or before the Aquino administration assumed power.

In my basic and simple understanding of the budget process learned from years of covering the legislature, the DAP was just a name given to something that existed and was practiced in the past to buy political loyalty.

But as a lawyer-friend said, in courts of law good intentions do not win cases, evidence does. Perhaps the magistrates found the projects funded through the DAP worthy enough for them to recognize “good faith.”

In the midst of the discussions about the DAP, I looked back at some stories I wrote while I was with the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) from 2008 to 2012 and I found two about the use of P50-billion savings in 2008 as “economic stimulus fund” that former treasurer Leonor Briones described as an “election stimulus fund” for 2010.

I came across a story about a proposal of Sen. Teofisto Guingona 3rd seeking to control the president’s wide discretion in disbursing public money, including the lawmakers’ PDAF, and other unspent amounts in the annual budget program.

The bill was seeking to prohibit deferred or rescinded funds to be used for any purpose other than what Congress has authorized through legislation.

Impoundment or withholding releases of funds to generate savings effectively weakens the power of Congress over the purse because the president can choose which projects to fund and which not to fund.

Guingona’s analysis of the government’s budget program and spending habits noted that since 2005, the national government generated huge amounts in savings while delivery of basic services was very dismal.

Savings in 2005 soared to 17.36 percent, from 0.94 percent in the previous year. The government operated in 2004 on a re-enacted budget of 2003.

The situation was almost the same in 2007 when savings reached 16.71 percent, from 0.20 percent in 2006 when the 2005 budget was re-enacted.

Overall savings in 2009 was at P106.11-billion that could have found its way into the administration’s “war chest” for the 2010 elections.

The money came from unreleased or unused allocations for agencies and was lumped into “savings,” which were then transferred to favored offices. It was in this process where “abuse of savings” came in, Guingona said.

There were many reasons why appropriated funds were not released. One was an agency’s non-compliance with the documentary requirements of the Department of Budget and Management. Politics was another, such as what happened when the presidency withheld “pork barrel” allocations for congressional districts of legislators perceived to be “unfriendly” to the powers that be.

Interestingly, Revilla filed a similar anti-impoundment bill on July 3, 2007. COA’s audit findings of Revilla’s fund misuse started in 2007. In his bill, he proposed a penalty, a fine of up to P100, 000, and “temporary special disqualification” for “deferring, withholding, or cancellation of an authorized allocation in the General Appropriations Act.”

The penal provision, however, neither defined “temporary special disqualification” nor specified the officials covered. As well, the bill was not clear on whether or not the president should be among the accountable officials.

There is an adage that says: If you want to see change, be the change you want to see. Revilla did the opposite. When he did not get his bill passed, he acted so he could benefit from the political largesse.

Let me end this piece pondering over a Sunday Mass homily where the priest said: Good will be good even if everybody is against it; evil is evil even if everybody is for it.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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