CABINET GOES ALL OUT FOR DAP, BUT SENATORS FAIL TO ASK HARD QUESTIONS AT HEARING

JULY 24 --PHOTO: ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, flanked by Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima (left) and Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan (right), defends the Disbursement Acceleration Program, which the Supreme Court declared unconstitutional, at the Senate finance committee hearing on Thursday. Behind them are other Cabinet members in the VIP gallery. With a little help from Senate President Franklin Drilon and other administration senators, Cabinet officials on Thursday tried to convince the Senate finance committee that President Aquino was not “ill-advised” on the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) and that the economic stimulus plan that the Supreme Court had struck down had a legal basis. Showing up in the Senate in full force, Aquino’s Cabinet officials fielded questions from the senators during a seven-hour hearing, including the wisdom of the spending stimulus funds for stem cell research, paying for an insurance obligation of the corruption-ridden Bureau of Customs and settling a local tax liability of the National Power Corp. (Napocor).

But the Cabinet officials were not asked who among the members of the Senate and the House of Representatives received funds from the DAP, a quiet admission by the Senate investigators that they, too, benefited from the controversial stimulus program. The senators also could not tell the Cabinet officials that they concealed the DAP from them, because Budget Secretary Florencio Abad beat them to it by saying he presented the program to them in October 2011 as a viable way of accelerating government spending to stimulate the economy. In fact, he said, it was an old program, having been employed by the first Aquino administration and by the Ramos, Estrada and Arroyo administrations. And Abad said the DAP funds given to the senators were not bribes for them to vote for the conviction of impeached Chief Justice Renato Corona in May 2012. Quoting Drilon himself, Abad said “no money was given to lawmakers, only the privilege to propose projects.” Napoles racket
* READ MORE...

(ALSO) Butch Abad: Pro-, anti-Aquino solons listed projects for DAP funding, not Lacson 

Except for former senator and now rehabilitation czar Panfilo “Ping” Lacson, legislators, who either belong to the administration or the opposition, nominated projects from funds under the controversial Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), Budget Secretary Florencio “Butch” Abad said on Thursday. Even partylist groups, Abad said, had proposed projects from the DAP funds. “Well, dito ho sa Senado, isa lang po ang hindi humingi ng pondo na napapaloob po dun sa DAP savings at yan po ay si Senator Ping Lacson,” Abad said, responding to queries by Senate President Franklin Drilon, during the hearing of the Senate committee on finance on DAP. “Lahat ng mga senador regardless of political affiliations nominated projects that can be funded under this program. How about the House?” Drilon asked. “Ganun din po, maski na ho nasa minority ay napapagbigyan din po,” said Abad. Asked by Drilon if partylist groups had also received DAP funds, the Budget chief said, “Including partylist. Katulad ho ng Bayan, nakakatanggap din ho yun.” Abad particularly named Bayan Muna Partylist Representative Neri Colmenares as one of the recipients of projects funded through the DAP. Before this, Drilon pointed out that even Cabinet members could nominate projects that will be funded through the DAP. In fact, Abad said, they also received proposals even from ordinary citizens. THIS IS THE FULL REPORT

ALSO: ‘DAP hearing zarzuela with paid hacks cast’ 

PETITIONERS who successfully challenged the legality of the Disbursement Acceleration Program before the Supreme Court branded Thursday’s Senate hearing on the discredited program a “zarzuela” and “A-bad and uncouth script that was painful to watch” with administration senators taking turns acting as lawyers for Budget Secretary Florencio Abad. Leading questions posed by Senate President Franklin Drilon and Senator Antonio Trillanes IV gave Abad the opportunity to preach about the virtues of the DAP, even as the system of check and balances came crumbling down, the program’s critics added. “It’s sad that the Senate abdicated its oversight functions and opted to be spin doctors for the President,” said lawyer Harry Roque Jr., one of seven petitioners who challenged the DAP before the Supreme Court. Gabriela Rep. Luzviminda Ilagan, another petitioner, described Drilon and Trillanes as “Palace paid hacks.” “The Senate DAP hearing further revealed the DBM secretary as A-bad liar,” she said.

“They tried but failed to defend the DAP despite the fact that they had obvious paid hacks in the Senate like Frank Drilon and Sonny Trillianes.”  Lawyer Edre Olalia, counsel for the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan and other groups that filed an impeachment complaint against President Benigno Aquino III over the DAP, called Thursday’s session an “uncouth script.”  “Drilon’s leading and suggestive questions to Abad and other Palace officials obviously meant to deodorize and even glorify DAP,” Olalia added. “DAP was used to usurp the powers of Congress to approve the budget. These senators are justifying such usurpation, as well as justifying the pork barrel system where politicians depend on the good graces of the Executive in order to get projects and services,” said Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes Jr., another petitioner said. “The banter between Abad and Drilon seems scripted to say the least, and was designed to whitewash Aquino’s violations of the law,” Reyes said. “The Senate hearing was painful to watch and highlights again the rottenness of our system, one that has been corrupted by pork,” he added. * READ MORE...

ALSO: PNoy steps up SC attack; Says its DAP decision sends ‘chilling effect’ on public servants 

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. *READ MORE 

ALSO: ‘Justices not hiding anything,’ SC tells BIR’s Henares 

Justices of the Supreme Court (SC) have denounced witchhunt moves by the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) for them to disclose their assets dating back to 2003 or more than a decade ago.
SC spokesman Theodore Te rebutted the reported insi-nuation of Revenue Commis-sioner Kim Henares that the magistrates could be “hiding something” in denying her request to get copies of their Statements of Assets, Liabilities and Net worth (SALns) from 2003 to 2012.
Henares made the highly publicized request even after the high tribunal already released last month copies of the 2013 SALns of the justices upon the request of several media outfits.
Te noted that “members of the media and civil society, including law students, have been able to obtain copies of various SALns of the Justices and is proof enough that the SC justices are not hiding anything.”

Magistrates, Te stressed, are not exempting themselves from the rule on disclosure of SALn in rejecting the request of the BIR. “Please note that the SC has never said they (justices) are exempt from the SALn requirement nor that they are creating a new rule for themselves,” he said. Henares has questioned the SC decision to deny her request “for lack of sufficient basis,” claiming that her moves had nothing to do with the recent SC ruling declaring President Aquino’s Disbursement Acceleration Program (DA) as illegal. “I feel we have an accountability somewhere, somehow. They don’t have an unfettered authority. What is that, dictatorship?” Henares said in radio interview yesterday.
Te explained that the high court’s denial of the BIR chief’s request “must be contextualized” as it was “based on the reasons she has given in her request.” In her request last February, Henares said she intends to use the SALns “for tax investigation purposes” and “in relation to the ‘Ma’am Arlene’ controversy in the judiciary.” * READ MORE..

ALSO: Aquino bares SC ‘cross-border’ bid 

DAP FOLLOWS MABINI IDEALS — NOY: Obsessed with defending the use of the constitutionally-infirm Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), President Aquino used yesterday’s commemoration of Philippine revolution hero Apolinario Mabini’s 150th birthday as an excuse to lash out again at the Supreme Court (SC) which he has accused of having solicited the cross-border transfer of funds which it ruled as unconstitutional in its decision on the DAP. In his speech supposedly to honor Mabini, he said in July 2012, the Supreme Court had savings of P1.865 billion and which were earmarked to augment the fund meant for the construction of the Manila Hall of Justice. Aquino then asserted that he has more reason to justify DAP because “apart from this, we are all the more convinced that DAP is legal because the Supreme Court itself has agreed with this type of mechanism.” “In fact, in August of that year, they already held a groundbreaking event for the building. The problem was that the item in the budget for this project was under the Department of Justice (DoJ). It is clear then: the Judiciary’s money was earmarked for a project that was supposed to be undertaken by the Executive,” Aquino said.

He added that the SC sought the cross-border fund transfer for the second time when it requested the transfer of P100 million DoJ funds for the Manila Hall of Justice project for the construction of the Malabon Hall of Justice.
“Wherefore, the court hereby requests the Department of Budget and Management to approve the transfer of the amount of One Hundred Million Pesos which was included in the DOJ-JUSIP for Fiscal Year 2012 budget for the Manila Hall of Justice to the budget of the judiciary, subject to existing policies and procedures, to be used for the construction of the Malabon Hall of Justice,” Aquino quoted the SC’s letter. “They were asking us to transfer to them—the judiciary, a separate branch of government—the funds that were supposed to be used in the construction of buildings that will house the courts. We see nothing wrong with this, since we know that it would only hasten the dispensation of justice in our country,” Aquino said.

“However, the Supreme Court withdrew its request in December 2013, when the discussions surrounding DAP had intensified. Even from these examples alone, it is clear that they intended to do a cross-border transfer, or a transfer of funds from one branch of government to another,” he added. “In all these examples, the executive branch did not initiate or offer anything. We never wished to involve ourselves in the jurisdiction or exclusive responsibilities of other branches of government; we never asked for anything in return. The only question we asked ourselves was: Would this benefit our people? If it would help, why should we oppose an opportunity to hasten the delivery of services to our Bosses?,” Aquino said.

ALSO Malaya commentary: AQUINO LIED ON SC FUNDS  

President Aquino is sinking himself deeper in a quagmire he himself created. He continues to defy the Supreme Court after the High Tribunal ruled that the pork barrel and the Disbursement Acceleration program are unconstitutional. The President claims the Supreme Court transferred P1.8 billion of its savings to the Department of Justice to augment its P100 million budget for the Manila Hall of Justice. The records of the Court do not show that any money in any sum – big or small – was ever transferred to the DOJ. The P1.8 billion is supposed to be savings of the Supreme Court. When the President claimed that the amount was transferred to the Department of Justice, he was effectively saying that the Judiciary, a co-equal branch of the Executive headed by the President, is as guilty or as noble as he was in spending savings for legitimate reasons such as the construction of the Manila Hall of Justice. The amount was realigned at the end of 2013 to Court’s capital outlay. That can be variously interpreted to mean the savings was returned to the National Treasury although it must be remembered at all times the Judicial
Development Fund disbursed solely at the discretion of the Chief Justice consists of docket and other fees litigants pay the courts. The money never left the vaults of the SC or the banks where the SC deposit the funds.

It is the duty of the SC to fund the construction of halls of justice from its judicial development fund that accumulates billions of pesos from dockets and other fees paid to the courts by litigants in all cases. The engineering and architectural designs of the Manila Hall of Justice were about to be bided by the Supreme Court itself, not the Department of Justice. The Manila Hall of Justice is supposed to house 120 courts in Manila now scattered all over City Hall with a few operating in the old building of Nawasa. As if to show its independence from the Department of Justice, an agency under the Executive Branch, the Supreme Court did not invite any official least of all the secretary of justice to the ground-breaking ceremony for the Manila Hall of Justice. It is supposed to sit on a property owned by the Supreme Court. There is no parallel or similarity between the savings of the Supreme Court and the Disbursement Acceleration Program. The savings of the Supreme Court is not part of the DAP. It was not returned to the Office of the President. It is to be used to build the Manila Hall of Justice as the construction of all halls of justice in the whole country is supposed to be the obligation of the Supreme Court. * READ MORE...

ALSO Inquirer commentry: The trouble with impeaching President Aquino 

The trouble with impeaching President Aquino is that Vice President Jojo Binay would become president. His wife, Elenita, would become first lady. What a prospect! It would be as if Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos were back in Malacañang. The last time we impeached a president (Joseph Estrada), he was succeeded by the then vice president (Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo). And look what happened. The cure was worse than the disease. Would it be the same if P-Noy is impeached (and convicted) and Binay succeeds him? With the Binays in Malacañang, we would be ruled by a new dynasty similar to the Marcos dynasty. Son Mayor Junjun would be the new Bongbong, daughter Congresswoman Abigail would be the new Imee, and daughter Senator Nancy would be the new Irene. With the exception of Nancy, all of them are facing graft charges. Jojo and Junjun have just been charged with plunder in the Office of the Ombudsman for constructing an 11-story parking building beside the Makati City Hall which, at a cost of P1.56 billion, makes it the most costly parking building in the Philippines, and maybe even in Asia and the world. Jojo and Elenita are already being tried in court for graft cases committed during their terms as mayor of Makati. Abigail allegedly has links to the pork barrel scam of Janet Lim Napoles. Only Nancy is free of accusations. What a dynasty! Jojo and Junjun have claimed that the new plunder charges were “politically motivated.” Junjun said the complaint was nothing new and that it was “fabricated.” The charges were filed by the Save Makati Movement, a group of Makati residents.

According to the complainants, the city government should have paid only P7,691 per square meter for the parking building, but the project cost was jacked up to P48,889 per square meter when it was completed in 2013, for an overprice of almost 600 percent, or more than P1.255 billion. They also say that even the current prevailing cost of commercial buildings in Makati is only P25,000 per square meter. Vice President Binay claimed that politics and the 2016 presidential election were behind the filing of the charges by his political foes, who, he hinted, were being backed by a “political rival.” But he refused to name the “rival.” Mayor Junjun noted that the complaint was filed after the release of the results of a Pulse Asia survey showing that his father was the leading choice for president in the 2016 election. (Actually, the survey results showed a drop in the Vice President’s popularity rating, but it was still higher than those of his rivals.) Father and son did not say, however, why the building cost that much.

“Politically motivated” is the usual mantra of politicians when they are caught with their hand in the till and charges are filed against them. This latest case is no exception. We have to admit it: The 2016 presidential election campaign has started. * * * In another speech defending the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), President Aquino said the Supreme Court had also transferred funds in the judiciary. Why is it all right for the Supreme Court to do it, but not all right for the executive branch? he asked in effect. In an earlier speech, he also said that other presidents before him had transferred funds. Why could they do it and I cannot? he asked. Here is why: * READ TO THE END OF COMMENTARY...


READ FULL MEDIA NEWS REPORT:

Cabinet goes all out for DAP


ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, flanked by Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima (left) and Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan (right), defends the Disbursement Acceleration Program, which the Supreme Court declared unconstitutional, at the Senate finance committee hearing on Thursday. Behind them are other Cabinet members in the VIP gallery. RICHARD A. REYES

MANILA, JULY 28, 2014 (INQUIRER) By TJ Burgonio - With a little help from Senate President Franklin Drilon and other administration senators, Cabinet officials on Thursday tried to convince the Senate finance committee that President Aquino was not “ill-advised” on the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) and that the economic stimulus plan that the Supreme Court had struck down had a legal basis.

Showing up in the Senate in full force, Aquino’s Cabinet officials fielded questions from the senators during a seven-hour hearing, including the wisdom of the spending stimulus funds for stem cell research, paying for an insurance obligation of the corruption-ridden Bureau of Customs and settling a local tax liability of the National Power Corp. (Napocor).

But the Cabinet officials were not asked who among the members of the Senate and the House of Representatives received funds from the DAP, a quiet admission by the Senate investigators that they, too, benefited from the controversial stimulus program.

The senators also could not tell the Cabinet officials that they concealed the DAP from them, because Budget Secretary Florencio Abad beat them to it by saying he presented the program to them in October 2011 as a viable way of accelerating government spending to stimulate the economy.

In fact, he said, it was an old program, having been employed by the first Aquino administration and by the Ramos, Estrada and Arroyo administrations.

And Abad said the DAP funds given to the senators were not bribes for them to vote for the conviction of impeached Chief Justice Renato Corona in May 2012.

Quoting Drilon himself, Abad said “no money was given to lawmakers, only the privilege to propose projects.”

Napoles racket

* And no senator asked the Cabinet officials about the testimony of Benhur Luy, the principal whistle-blower in the P10-billion pork barrel scam, that P425 million from the DAP went to nongovernment organizations (NGOs) controlled by the racket’s alleged mastermind, businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles.

Luy said the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) released the money in March and May 2012 to finance projects recommended by Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada, Ferdinand Marcos Jr., Bong Revilla and Tito Sotto.

He also said the modus operandi Napoles used to access the DAP was the same as the method she employed to bleed the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF)—getting the lawmakers to endorse phantom projects proposed by her bogus NGOs.

But the members of the finance committee headed by Sen. Francis Escudero did not remember, freeing Abad, the main target of the opposition senators’ probing questions, to paint the DAP as a sound stimulus program grounded on law.

Help from Drilon
With a push from Drilon, who received P600 million from the DAP for his projects, Abad cited the legal basis for the nullified stimulus program, the Administrative Code of 1987.

When his turn to question Abad came, Drilon tried to elicit answers from him that bolstered the administration’s defense of the DAP.

Drilon cited a constitutional provision that states that the President, Senate President, House Speaker, Chief Justice and heads of constitutional commissions may, by law, augment any item in the General Appropriations Act for their offices from savings in other items of their appropriations.

Drilon said the Constitution took effect on Feb. 2, 1987, and six months later, the Administrative Code was passed.
Abad agreed.

“Therefore there is an authority by law for the President, Senate President, Speaker of the House… to augment items in the budget. Isn’t that correct?” Drilon asked.

After getting an affirmative answer from Abad, Drilon continued: “Therefore you relied on the Administrative Code in your action… And it was on this basis that you augmented items in the budget from savings in the General Appropriations Act.”

“That is correct,” Abad replied.

Drilon said that if the Supreme Court ruled that the realigned funds were not savings, the executive branch may have violated the GAA, not the Constitution.

“That has been our position,” Abad answered.

Drilon then asked if Sections 38, 39 and 49 of the Administrative Code had been declared unconstitutional. Abad said that as far as he knew, those provisions had not been voided.

“In truth, all these acts of the executive were made under this Administrative Code?” Drilon asked. Abad agreed.

Project list

The budget chief submitted a document listing projects out of the P144.37 billion released from the DAP. But he and other Cabinet secretaries were grilled on the prudence of allocating DAP funds to certain projects, such as a stem cell research project.

Some P237.5 billion in savings were pooled from 2010 to 2013, P167 billion was approved by the President and only P144.34 billion was released under the DAP. The balance would be used to bring down the deficit, Abad said.

He said he believed that most of the DAP projects had been implemented, but admitted that the executive branch was at a loss over how to proceed, such as paying contractors, because the Supreme Court decision was unclear on this.

Otherwise, lawmakers, even from the opposition and party-list groups, proposed projects funded from the DAP, Abad said.

Nearly all of the Cabinet officials, led by Cabinet Secretary Rene Almendras, showed up at the Senate finance committee hearing on the DAP.

Voting 13-0, the Supreme Court struck down the DAP, under which pooled savings in the national budget were allotted for high-impact projects to pump-prime the economy beginning 2011.

The court specifically voided a circular allowing the release of savings from the executive department to agencies and projects outside the national budget approved by Congress.

‘Chilling effect’

Abad said the Supreme Court’s ruling had a “chilling effect” on the administration’s “momentum for reform.”

He admitted that the executive branch was shocked by the court’s contention that the doctrine of operative fact and presumption of good faith could not apply to the implementers of the DAP.

“This unprecedented departure from the long-held interpretation of the doctrine of operative fact as applied to the actors in the DAP is worrisome because it is discordant with the presumption of good faith and the presumption of regularity that public officials are accorded in the performance of their duties and functions,” Abad said.

“More troubling is the chilling effect of those two stray paragraphs [in the Supreme Court decision] on the Aquino administration’s momentum for reform,” he added.

After all, he said, if public servants were presumed to have acted in bad faith, the bureaucracy would “second-guess” itself before taking “creative action.”

“A bureaucracy [that] shakes in its boots while performing just the bare minimum of its duties,” Abad said. “What a shame if we now presume bad faith of those who have in fact acted in the country’s best interests.”

He said the court ruling that savings and standby appropriations could only be declared at the end of the fiscal year discouraged quick public spending.

The net effect is that by the time the budget is released, implementation of the project “would have begun too late,” Abad said.

Interdependence

Abad also defended the cross-border transfer of funds disallowed by the Supreme Court, saying the practice did not undermine the principle of separation of powers.

“As separate as the three branches of government are, there remains a relationship of interdependence among them, belonging as they are to a single government,” he said. “This interdependence is such that the success of one hinges on the ability of the other two to support it.”

DAP for customs

Sen. Grace Poe quizzed Abad on the allocation of DAP funds for the payment of P2.7-billion obligation of the Bureau of Customs to Philippine Deposit Insurance Corp. (PDIC) and Napocor’s P750-million tax settlement with the municipal government of Pagbilao, Quezon province.

“Why would they need DAP? They’re the customs,” Poe asked.

Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima explained that the customs bureau’s import comprehensive supervision scheme contract with Société Générale de Surveillance (SGS) “didn’t turn out well,” and then state-owned Philippine National Bank (PNB) guaranteed the contract.

When PNB was privatized, the PDIC assumed the guarantee, Purisima said.

“We need to pay that to make sure that the PDIC is healthy to make sure that they have the resources to protect the deposits for all of us,” Purisima said.

He couldn’t recall, however, under which administration the customs bureau hired SGS.

Poe pressed on, saying the customs bureau should have paid for the obligation and it should not have been rescued by the DAP. “Is there no other way that customs can pay for the obligation?” she asked.

Purisima said that as chair of the PDIC, he proposed that the government pay the obligation out of the DAP.

“These are some of the open accounts that had been lingering for some time. In 2011, we were doing some house cleaning. Which one should be eliminated? I could have sat on this, and passed this on to the next administration, or since there was a chance, we should clean it up,” he said.

Sen. Ralph Recto later quizzed Purisima on the same matter. “Why was it included in the P144 billion worth of DAP projects?” he asked. “How did it help our economy? How many jobs were created?”

“Many of the DAP projects I would have approved. I would have problems giving this to PDIC because it did not go through the deliberative process,” he added.

Napocor package

As for the compromise settlement with Quezon, Purisima explained that Quezon raised the realty tax on a Napocor power plant in the early part of the Aquino administration. The Napocor, however, was not subject to local taxes.

“They were threatening to auction off the power plant. That’s when the President intervened, exercising his authority to condone that local tax that Quezon was imposing on the power plant. But there was also recognition, being the host of the plant, they needed some assistance to support the local community,” he said.

Purisima said the Office of Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa negotiated a settlement package with Quezon to compensate the provincial government for the condonation of the tax.

Abad said the package amounted to P4 billion, which was used to fund infrastructure projects.

“If we are to account for these, then we should go to these implementing agencies?” Poe asked.

Abad agreed.

Projects implemented

Abad said he believed most of the DAP-funded projects had been implemented.

“What the President said is that if you’re in doubt, don’t touch the project,” he said when asked by Escudero to confirm that Aquino had ordered the suspension of DAP-funded projects.

But responding to senators demanding more details about the projects, Abad said he would next match letters of lawmakers with the list of projects, and would submit these to the Senate.

He said he would upload the list of projects to the government’s and the DBM’s websites.

The list identified every project, implementing agency, special allotment release order details, the programs or projects augmented, and their status, he said.

“We will consult with the legal experts because the Supreme Court is not very clear on this,” he said in reply to a question of how to deal with contractors demanding payment.

Not for landowners

Agrarian Reform Secretary Virgilio de los Reyes denied reports that the DAP was used to pay landowners’ compensation in Hacienda Luisita, owned by Aquino’s family in Tarlac province, until it was awarded to farmers under the agrarian reform program.

De los Reyes said the funds for landowners’ compensation came from the national budget.

Abad confirmed that the President approved the DAP projects and authorized the government’s economic managers to consolidate savings for projects.

“I don’t know if the President was ill-advised. If you look at the outcome of the DAP, even the Supreme Court said that indisputably, the DAP has served the country well. On the contrary, perhaps he got good advice,” he said in reply to a question from Sen. Joseph Victor Ejercito. “It bore fruit. Let me emphasize this: We’ve not increased taxes, except the sin tax.”

After quizzing Abad, Ejercito concluded: “This representation thinks that the administration is trying to justify technical malversation… As they say, the road to hell is paved with good intentions… One can’t juggle funds no matter how good the intention is.”

Stem cell research

Sen. Nancy Binay pointed to the shelved project to rehabilitate the Ninoy Aquino International Airport and the use of the funds for other DAP projects and the allocation of P70 million in DAP funds to stem cell research when so many hospitals lacked beds for patients.

Abad explained that the airport project had to be shelved to give way to a study on the best method to rehabilitate the airport’s Terminal 1.

Explaining the stem cell research, Health Secretary Enrique Ona said he was looking at the preventive, promotive, curative and even rehabilitation needs of the entire health sector.

The stem cell project, which is under the Lung Center of the Philippines, consisted of a laboratory also used for stem cell research, he said. The instruments there would be used for other purposes and the research may help deal with illnesses, he said.

Ona said specialty hospitals had sought the project, which had produced results.

He added that the government bought 8,000 to 10,000 beds for hospitals, though he acknowledged that it needed to buy 5,000 to 10,000 more.–With a report from Leila B. Salaverria

Butch Abad: Pro-, anti-Aquino solons listed projects for DAP funding, not Lacson By Maila Ager |INQUIRER.net12:48 pm | Thursday, July 24th, 2014


Budget Secretary Florencio Abad. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO / LYN RILLON

MANILA, Philippines – Except for former senator and now rehabilitation czar Panfilo “Ping” Lacson, legislators, who either belong to the administration or the opposition, nominated projects from funds under the controversial Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), Budget Secretary Florencio “Butch” Abad said on Thursday.

Even partylist groups, Abad said, had proposed projects from the DAP funds.

“Well, dito ho sa Senado, isa lang po ang hindi humingi ng pondo na napapaloob po dun sa DAP savings at yan po ay si Senator Ping Lacson,” Abad said, responding to queries by Senate President Franklin Drilon, during the hearing of the Senate committee on finance on DAP.

“Lahat ng mga senador regardless of political affiliations nominated projects that can be funded under this program. How about the House?” Drilon asked.

“Ganun din po, maski na ho nasa minority ay napapagbigyan din po,” said Abad.

Asked by Drilon if partylist groups had also received DAP funds, the Budget chief said, “Including partylist. Katulad ho ng Bayan, nakakatanggap din ho yun.”

Abad particularly named Bayan Muna Partylist Representative Neri Colmenares as one of the recipients of projects funded through the DAP.

Before this, Drilon pointed out that even Cabinet members could nominate projects that will be funded through the DAP.

In fact, Abad said, they also received proposals even from ordinary citizens.

FROM THE MANILA STANDARD

‘DAP hearing zarzuela with paid hacks cast’ By Christine F. Herrera, Macon R. Araneta | Jul. 25, 2014 at 12:01am


Hearing on the DAP. Budget Secretary Florencio Abad testifies before the Senate finance committee on the Disbursement Acceleration Program in a hearing on Thursday that was attended by members of the Cabinet (bottom left) and by senators led by Senate President Franklin Drilon (upper left). With Abad in the photo is Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima. Lino Santos

PETITIONERS who successfully challenged the legality of the Disbursement Acceleration Program before the Supreme Court branded Thursday’s Senate hearing on the discredited program a “zarzuela” and “A-bad and uncouth script that was painful to watch” with administration senators taking turns acting as lawyers for Budget Secretary Florencio Abad.

Leading questions posed by Senate President Franklin Drilon and Senator Antonio Trillanes IV gave Abad the opportunity to preach about the virtues of the DAP, even as the system of check and balances came crumbling down, the program’s critics added.

“It’s sad that the Senate abdicated its oversight functions and opted to be spin doctors for the President,” said lawyer Harry Roque Jr., one of seven petitioners who challenged the DAP before the Supreme Court.

Gabriela Rep. Luzviminda Ilagan, another petitioner, described Drilon and Trillanes as “Palace paid hacks.”

“The Senate DAP hearing further revealed the DBM secretary as A-bad liar,” she said.

“They tried but failed to defend the DAP despite the fact that they had obvious paid hacks in the Senate like Frank Drilon and Sonny Trillianes.”

Lawyer Edre Olalia, counsel for the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan and other groups that filed an impeachment complaint against President Benigno Aquino III over the DAP, called Thursday’s session an “uncouth script.”

“Drilon’s leading and suggestive questions to Abad and other Palace officials obviously meant to deodorize and even glorify DAP,” Olalia added.

“DAP was used to usurp the powers of Congress to approve the budget. These senators are justifying such usurpation, as well as justifying the pork barrel system where politicians depend on the good graces of the Executive in order to get projects and services,” said Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes Jr., another petitioner said.

“The banter between Abad and Drilon seems scripted to say the least, and was designed to whitewash Aquino’s violations of the law,” Reyes said.

“The Senate hearing was painful to watch and highlights again the rottenness of our system, one that has been corrupted by pork,” he added.

* When it was her turn to grill Abad, Senator Nancy Binay asked presiding officer Senator Francis Escudero, chairman of the Senate committee on finance, to have the testimony of Abad and the rest of the Cabinet members taken under oath.

Drilon immediately objected and told the panel there was no need for the oath but Escudero made the Cabinet men swear anyway.

Trillanes also used the forum to hit Vice President Jejomar Binay for the alleged P1.5-billion “parking building” that resulted in the filing of plunder charges against him, taking potshots at the elder Binay in the presence of his daughter.

Drilon encouraged Abad to name the opposition lawmakers who had received DAP funds.

Abad singled out Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares, who endorsed the first impeachment complaint against President Aquino, saying he received P10 million from DAP.

Colmenares vehemently denied Abad’s claim and insisted that he had the P10-million milk feeding project withdrawn when he learned that the funds came from DAP.

Colmenares branded the accusation against him as “a diversionary tactic.”

Ilagan, who also endorsed the impeachment complaint against the President, said Abad’s attempt to defend the DAP at the hearing was futile and served only to fuel the people’s outrage.

“Abad gives the people further reason to support moves to make Aquino accountable, be it through the impeachment process or otherwise,” Ilagan said.

Ilagan said Abad had only shown how billions in DAP disbursements “went to vague, undetermined projects endorsed by legislators betraying the fact that it was indeed used to corrupt public officials.”

“At least P17.3 billion [was] disbursed to fund ‘priority local projects nationwide requested by legislators, local government officials and national agencies.’ [There were] three allotment releases for these in the amounts of P6.5 billion (approved by the office of the President on October 12, 2011), P8.1 billion (June 27, 2012) and P2.8 billion (December 21, 2012),” Ilagan said.

She also cited at least P30.7 billion in large, lump sum items, including P10.1 billion for “various infrastructure project,” “various local projects,” and “various priority projects,” and P10.9 billion for “peace and development-related” projects.

“There was also P2.0 billion for national roads in the President’s home province of Tarlac and even P43 million for “capacity-building” of NGOs and people’s organizations,” Ilagan said.

“The hearing revealed the truth about how Aquino and Abad usurped the power of Congress, stole public funds and allotted them to questionable and anomalous bribery projects. Inconsistencies of the Palace data and their explanations have been exposed. They have failed and continue to fail to account for DAP funds allotted to lawmakers and LGUs, favored politicians and pet projects,” said Vencer Crisostomo, Anakbayan chairman, who is also an impeachment complainant.

The Palace ploy, Crisostomo said, was to confuse the public and muddle the issue.

“Abad made ridiculous claims such as DAP being ‘legal and constitutional’ and lied regarding the Palace ‘good intentions.’ They cannot hide the fact that DAP is illegal, it is stolen money and it is

a crime committed by Aquino and his pork gang,” Crisostomo said. He also said the Senate hearing avoided mentioning two important words regarding DAP: Corona and Impeachment.

“What savings?” asked Kabataan Rep. Terry Ridon, an impeachment complainant against the President.

“Secretary Butch Abad and Senate President Franklin Drilon have both apparently overlooked what the Supreme Court said about the claim that DAP came from savings. In so many words, the SC clearly defined how and when public funds can be considered savings and why DAP funds cannot be considered as savings,” Ridon said.

During the Senate hearing, Abad confirmed that P237.5 billion were set aside by DBM for DAP, while P167 billion worth of projects were proposed for the mechanism, and P144.3 billion was eventually released. Abad repeatedly told the Senate that the DAP funds were sourced from “savings.”

However, Ridon pointed out that in the Supreme Court decision on DAP, it said “unreleased appropriations and withdrawn unobligated allotments under the DAP were not savings, and the use of such appropriations contravened Section 25(5), Article VI of the 1987 Constitution.”

“The SC decision is as clear as day. The Executive has withdrawn funds and discontinued GAA-listed projects illegally to fund DAP. Secretary Abad, repeating the word ‘savings’ over and over and over will not change that fact,” said Ridon, who earlier filed plunder charges against Abad over the same program.

“This is the same reason why Abad and Drilon’s comparison of DAP to the disbursement programs of past administrations does not hold water. In past administrations, the funds used were savings and not withdrawn unobligated allotments and unreleased appropriations,” Ridon added.

Ridon also said Drilon’s “Nombra argument” or that legislators only “nominated” projects for DAP – which Abad confirmed – only established the fact that DAP was created and executed by none other than the Executive department.

“This is the very reason why Malacañang simply cannot pass the blame solely on to legislators. If there were indeed DAP funds embezzled by certain legislators, as some quarters claim, they could not have done it alone. In such a scenario, it is highly probable that the Palace – DBM at the very least – would have acted in collaboration with probable unscrupulous lawmakers to [divert] public funds,” Ridon said.

Ridon also said that he was not surprised at how the Senate President acted during the hearing on DAP.

“Of course, Drilon would defend DAP to the best of his abilities. After all, he received P450 million for the Jaluar Dam that did not go through the General Appropriations Act,” Ridon said.

“Secretary Abad repeated the argument that DAP was necessary to fast-track public spending, following consecutive quarters of underspending. But Abad did not disclose the rest of the story: that it is also the administration’s fault why government had been severely underspending in the early part of Aquino’s term as president,” Ridon said.

“What can be gleaned from the Senate hearing is this simple fact: that the Executive clearly usurped the congressional power of the purse and toyed with billions of public funds with impunity, using underspending as a cover for their criminal acts,” Ridon said.

Ridon echoed Ilagan’s views that Abad’s testimony in the Senate only made the arguments in the pending impeachment complaints stronger.

On Tuesday, Ridon endorsed the second impeachment complaint filed against Aquino in the House of Representatives over DAP.

Addressing the Budget secretary directly, he said: “Secretary Abad, repeating a lie a thousand times – even on live television – cannot make it a truth. Why don’t you just call a spade a spade, and admit liability over DAP?”

Ridon also disclosed that his group, along with Youth Act Now, will file a supplemental complaint with the Ombudsman Friday against Abad, to add 116 counts of technical malversation to the charge of plunder that theyfiled a few weeks ago.

“Abad clearly committed technical malversation. From his Senate testimony, we can clearly see that he engineered the illegal program, and authorized the transfer of funds. We need to hold him accountable for this,” Ridon said.

“Secretary Abad’s defense of the Disbursement Acceleration Program clearly shows President Aquino’s unyielding and kapit-tuko attitude on the presidential pork. The people’s situation on the ground belies claims that it benefitted the economy and the poor and lump sum allocations to various projects endorsed by legislators clearly indicate that it is pork,” Ilagan said.

“Abad’s arguments on how the DAP benefitted the poor, how it stimulated the economy and how allocations were done in good faith have long been debunked. We need only to look at the growing number of hungry, homeless, impoverished people among the few living lavishly on pork grime to know who benefitted from the DAP. Aquino’s drop in popularity ratings reflect a growing dissatisfaction among Filipinos. Certainly it is not the poor, not the majority,” Ilagan said.

In Thursday’s hearing, only three senators—including two newcomers—questioned Abad’s claims about the DAP.

With the Cabinet in the session hall, Drilon posed leading questions to enable Abad to cite the program’s supposed benefits.

In the hearing that lasted almost seven hours, Senator Nancy Binay found that the administration also got additional funding for projects and programs from other sources outside the DAP.

Early in his testimony, Abad said P4.1 billion in additional funds from the DAP were given to the Commission on Elections to buy ballot-counting machines. Later, however, he said the allocation was not under the DAP but came from “regular savings.”

But Binay questioned why the special allotment release order or SARO was issued in December 2012, when the deed of sale for the machines was dated March 2012.

Binay also grilled Abad on which projects approved by Congress had their funds withdrawn to create “savings” for the DAP.

One of these projects, she reminded Abad, was the rehabilitation of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 1 and some of the country’s lighthouses and seaports.

Abad said Transportation and Communications Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya withdrew the NAIA project after they found out there were structural problems that needed to be addressed first.

He disclosed that the Department of Public Work and Highways did not have any expert who could certify a performance-based design, “so we procured a consultant who could perform performance-based design.” He also said the terminal also needed to undergo stress test.

“In hindsight, now I see that the DOTC lacked the organization and personnel to push out these problems. It is only now that we have the opportunity to have the resources,” said Abad.

Senator JV Ejercito also questioned Abad on why the Palace did not just submit a supplemental budget to Congress, where they have a majority.

In defending the DAP, Abad again cited the Administrative Code.

But Ejercito said the administration was simply “trying to justify technical malversation.”

He said that’s the intent of the plaw against technical malversation was to tell the people that one cannot juggle funds no matter how good the intention is.

“They should have just respected the Supreme Court. It could have passed an appropriation measure from Congress but it ignored the co-equal branch of government,” he said.

“As they say, the road to hell is paved with good intentions,” he added.

Administration Senator Ralph Recto raised the possibility of a cut in income taxes if the government has big savings which amounted to P237 billion in a span of three years as testified by Abad.

“With the huge savings, these can also be added to the salaries of teachers,” he added.

He also questioned the DAP allocation of P2.8 billion to pay the Philippine Deposit Insurance Corporation (PDIC) for the debts of the Bureau of Customs to the SGS which had never helped the economy.

He also hit the lack of transparency in the allocation of DAP funds to state-owned companies.

Senator Grace Poe also asked how the Palace determined priority projects under the DAP, and questioned why the PDIC payment was made a priority.

Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima said the government decided to include the settlement of the obligations in the “house cleaning” undertaken by the Aquino administration.

Poe also asked for a list of SARO releases for the DAP-funded projects.

Senator Sergio Osmena III, an administration ally, said the government should have used the Malampaya fund to pay for electrication and other energy projects instead of using the DAP.

Trillanes, however, defended the DAP and urged the Palace to make its communications group do “double time to explain this is constitutional.”

In his testimony, Abad said the Court ruling on the DAP could reverse the country’s economic growth.

PNoy steps up SC attack By Joyce Pangco Panares | Jul. 24, 2014 at 12:01am


150th birthday. President Benigno Aquino III opened the Apolinario Mabini Museum in Tanauan, Batangas, on Wednesday to commemorate the hero’s 150th birth anniversary at the Apolinario Mabini Shrine. Malacañang Photo Bureau

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

FROM THE TRIBUNE

‘Justices not hiding anything,’ SC tells BIR’s Henares Written by Benjamin B. Pulta Friday, 25 July 2014 00:00 TRIBUNE


HENARES

Justices of the Supreme Court (SC) have denounced witchhunt moves by the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) for them to disclose their assets dating back to 2003 or more than a decade ago.

SC spokesman Theodore Te rebutted the reported insi-nuation of Revenue Commis-sioner Kim Henares that the magistrates could be “hiding something” in denying her request to get copies of their Statements of Assets, Liabilities and Net worth (SALns) from 2003 to 2012.

Henares made the highly publicized request even after the high tribunal already released last month copies of the 2013 SALns of the justices upon the request of several media outfits.

Te noted that “members of the media and civil society, including law students, have been able to obtain copies of various SALns of the Justices and is proof enough that the SC justices are not hiding anything.”

Magistrates, Te stressed, are not exempting themselves from the rule on disclosure of SALn in rejecting the request of the BIR. “Please note that the SC has never said they (justices) are exempt from the SALn requirement nor that they are creating a new rule for themselves,” he said.

Henares has questioned the SC decision to deny her request “for lack of sufficient basis,” claiming that her moves had nothing to do with the recent SC ruling declaring President Aquino’s Disbursement Acceleration Program (DA) as illegal.

“I feel we have an accountability somewhere, somehow. They don’t have an unfettered authority. What is that, dictatorship?” Henares said in radio interview yesterday.

Te explained that the high court’s denial of the BIR chief’s request “must be contextualized” as it was “based on the reasons she has given in her request.”

In her request last February, Henares said she intends to use the SALns “for tax investigation purposes” and “in relation to the ‘Ma’am Arlene’ controversy in the judiciary.”

* Associate Justice Mariano del Castillo remains the richest magistrate of the high court. His SALn showed a net worth of P122.2 million in 2013, up by over P12 million from his net worth of P109.7 million in the previous year.

Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio is the second richest with P84.3 million in net worth for 2013, which is less than P500,000 higher than his net worth of P83.8 million in 2012.

Associate Justice Marvic Leonen, the most junior justice in the SC, had a net worth of P1.8 million last year, slightly up from his P1.6 million in 2012.

Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno’s net worth also grew by less than P1 million from P18.1 million in 2012 to P19 million last year.

Associate Justice Bienvenido Reyes had P78.2 million in net worth last year, higher by some P1.7 million than his P76.5 million in 2012.

Associate Justice Estela Perlas-Bernabe had P74.6 million in net worth in 2013, also less than a million-peso higher than her P73.8 million in the previous year.

The SALn of Associate Justice Roberto Abad, who retired from the judiciary last May 22, showed a net worth of P47.3 million.

In the latest SALNs, Justice Associate Justice Diosdado Peralta had net worth of P32.4 million for 2013, Justice Jose Mendoza with P31.5 million, Associate Justice Lucas Bersamin with P27.8 million, Justice Martin Villarama Jr. with P24 million, Justice Arturo Brion with P16.5 million, Justice Jose Perez with P13.5 million, Justice Teresita Leonardo-de Castro with P10.4 million and Justice Presbitero Velasco Jr. with P10.3 million.

The SALns of the justices were released for the first time after 20 years in August 2012, some two months after the high court released guidelines for releasing the SALns of judges and justices.

The SC, however, already concluded investigation on that controversy involving alleged influence peddling in the Court of Appeals and trial courts by a certain “Ma’am Arlene,” and none of the high court magistrates had been implicated.

Henares, who said she would file another request with the SC, said the planned tax probe on justices was an offshoot of the ouster of former Chief Justice Renato Corona in May 2012 due to millions of assets not declared in his SALn.

“Now that they’re talking about accountability and transparency, shouldn’t they set the example?” she added. With Paul Atienza

Aquino bares SC ‘cross-border’ bid Written by Tribune Thursday, 24 July 2014 00 TRIBUNE



DAP FOLLOWS MABINI IDEALS — NOY

Obsessed with defending the use of the constitutionally-infirm Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), President Aquino used yesterday’s commemoration of Philippine revolution hero Apolinario Mabini’s 150th birthday as an excuse to lash out again at the Supreme Court (SC) which he has accused of having solicited the cross-border transfer of funds which it ruled as unconstitutional in its decision on the DAP.

In his speech supposedly to honor Mabini, he said in July 2012, the Supreme Court had savings of P1.865 billion and which were earmarked to augment the fund meant for the construction of the Manila Hall of Justice.

Aquino then asserted that he has more reason to justify DAP because “apart from this, we are all the more convinced that DAP is legal because the Supreme Court itself has agreed with this type of mechanism.”

“In fact, in August of that year, they already held a groundbreaking event for the building. The problem was that the item in the budget for this project was under the Department of Justice (DoJ). It is clear then: the Judiciary’s money was earmarked for a project that was supposed to be undertaken by the Executive,” Aquino said.

He added that the SC sought the cross-border fund transfer for the second time when it requested the transfer of P100 million DoJ funds for the Manila Hall of Justice project for the construction of the Malabon Hall of Justice.

“Wherefore, the court hereby requests the Department of Budget and Management to approve the transfer of the amount of One Hundred Million Pesos which was included in the DOJ-JUSIP for Fiscal Year 2012 budget for the Manila Hall of Justice to the budget of the judiciary, subject to existing policies and procedures, to be used for the construction of the Malabon Hall of Justice,” Aquino quoted the SC’s letter.

“They were asking us to transfer to them—the judiciary, a separate branch of government—the funds that were supposed to be used in the construction of buildings that will house the courts. We see nothing wrong with this, since we know that it would only hasten the dispensation of justice in our country,” Aquino said.

“However, the Supreme Court withdrew its request in December 2013, when the discussions surrounding DAP had intensified. Even from these examples alone, it is clear that they intended to do a cross-border transfer, or a transfer of funds from one branch of government to another,” he added.

“In all these examples, the executive branch did not initiate or offer anything. We never wished to involve ourselves in the jurisdiction or exclusive responsibilities of other branches of government; we never asked for anything in return. The only question we asked ourselves was: Would this benefit our people? If it would help, why should we oppose an opportunity to hasten the delivery of services to our Bosses?,” Aquino said.

* Aquino also rationalized that Mabini would have favored the use of the DAP since it expedites government service.

“Before the Malolos Congress, Mabini made clear the need for the executive branch to act in a swift, responsive, and sometimes bold manner, precisely because it is tasked with responding to the needs of the people in the soonest possible time. He also called on the legislature: Let us help one another; let us not tie the hands of the executive, so that no opportunity to quickly improve the lot of our people will be wasted,” Aquino said.

“If power comes from the people, then it is only just that this power be used to uphold their interest and welfare,” Aquino said as quoted from Mabini’s “The True Decalogue.”

Aquino said that Mabini, who was then an official of the Malolos Republic under Aguinaldo, had a hard time deciding the budget where he dealt with the Ilustrados when war with the Americans began.

“Thus, Mabini insisted: No one in a position of power has the right to profit from serving in government,” Aquino said.

What Aquino did not say was that Mabini, who was Emilio Aguinaldo’s foreign minister, quit his Cabinet and bared the wrongs committed by Aguinaldo, including his murder of Bonificio.

“Let me point out once more: DAP’s objective was to deliver the benefits due our countrymen in a fast and correct way. Through this policy, we maximized the use of public funds, so that the suffering of our people would not prolong,” Aquino said.

Aquino, through Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza had filed a motion for reconsideration which sought to reverse the unanimous SC decision that declared Palace acts that created the DAP as unconstitutional.

The decision also required DAP authors and implementors to prove “good faith” through a proper court.

Aquino said that the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (Tesda ) received P1.6 billion from DAP which was allocated and used for the training of 223,615 technical education graduates.

“All the pertinent details of these graduates—including names, addresses, and contact numbers—are well-documented and open to the public; anyone can freely examine and investigate them,” Aquino said. But the CoA report said Tesda had ghost students.

Aquino also cited the DREAM-LiDAR project under Project NOAH, which was also funded under DAP.

“Now, the water level information we are able to gather during typhoons has become more reliable and exact.

Warnings are given no less than six hours before calamity strikes, which gives efficient LGUs, such as those led by (Albay) Gov. Joey Salceda, enough time to evacuate their people from the path of the storm,” Aquino said.

Aquino said that in the tourism sector, out of 202 roads built leading to priority destinations in our country, 66 were funded under DAP in 2012, to the tune of P5 billion.

Aquino said these roads will ensure ease of travel and convenience for tourists. He said the completion of the roads and, consequently, the arrival of tourists in key destinations directly benefit the countrymen who make a living through tourism.

“To tell you the truth, undertaking DAP was not a haphazard decision on our part. We did not simply make it up; we based it on laws, most prominently the Administrative Code of 1987, which we believe is in accordance with our Constitution,” Aquino said.

Aquino said his administration undertook DAP with Sections 38, 39, and 49 of the Administrative Code as basis.

“The method we used has likewise been used by previous administrations. And seeing that the Supreme Court itself, the institution with the expertise and the sole mandate to interpret the law, did it as well, we became more confident that our method was correct,” Aquino said.

Aquino said that because of the “clamor and noise surrounding this issue, it seems as if the true meanings of some concepts are being obscured”.

“The first such concept is that of “good faith.” Indeed: in ordinary situations, good faith is used to describe actions driven by good intentions. However, when we speak of “good faith” in terms of the law, it takes on a deeper meaning, which is: If your actions, whether in the past or present, have a legal basis in existing laws, then you acted in good faith. To add to this: Even if those laws are declared invalid or unconstitutional in the future, it still cannot be said that you acted in bad faith,” Aquino said.

Aquino said that with SC decision against DAP, “it seems as if the Supreme Court changed both the rules and this long-established understanding of good faith, and in so doing, brought about serious implications on the work of all those in government”.

Aquino said that each member of the executive branch must make decisions every day.

“With this fact, we are reminded of Abraham Lincoln’s saying “You can please some of the people some of the time; all of the people some of the time; some of the people all of the time; but you can never please all the people all the time.” It is only natural that, in the course of service, there are times when our actions are questioned,” Aquino said.

“For those in government, if you fulfilled your mandate as prescribed by law, and in accordance with the presumption of regularity, then you have nothing to fear. However, with the recent Supreme Court decision, whenever the actions of any government employee are questioned, this employee now has the obligation to prove that he is innocent of any wrongdoing,” Aquino said.

Aquino also cited as example the process of bidding out projects when only one bidder can win.

“Naturally, there are others who lose, and what if these individuals look for loopholes with which to file cases against government officials involved in the bidding process? The unfortunate official who makes the decision to award the bid now has to defend himself from lawsuits. How can you work efficiently if you constantly have to face cases?,” Aquino said.

Aquino said that the negative effect to the government employees would be to worry about the possibility of imprisonment because they are presumed guilty until proven innocent.

“Today, because of the Supreme Court decision, each government official must play a guessing game in predicting if his right actions will be considered unconstitutional in the future,” Aquino said.

Aquino said that “decision making in the executive becomes disincentivized, and with this hesitance comes a delay in the delivery of benefits to the Filipino people”.

“This is the “chilling effect” that the Supreme Court decision will have on government,” Aquino said.

Aquino said he must emphasize: “What we call the retroactive effect will truly have a chilling effect because the standard you were following today, when changed in the future, will result in the new standards becoming the basis on which you will be judged: How can you be expected to follow a standard that is yet to be determined?”

“When it comes to the law, the Supreme Court has the final word. We have no plans of defying rulings. In truth, we are following not only the primary points in the decision; we are also acting in consideration of all the opinions that accompanied it,” Aquino said.

Aquino said that even then, they must never forget that, as Mabini had said, “whatever power held by any leader in any branch of government comes from the people”.

“Thus, we are all asked to push for any and all actions that redound to the benefit of our Bosses. This principle is why the executive branch has filed a Motion for Reconsideration, which includes all the arguments I have outlined today and in the past,” Aquino said.

Aquino said the motion for reconsideration “is a just act, one that follows due process”.

“It provides a good opportunity to once again lay down all the facts on the table, ensuring that those rendering decisions have the chance to appreciate the points that may have been overlooked in the past, and the well-reasoned arguments that will strengthen all sides,” Aquino said.

Aquino said that he sometimes envies his colleagues in government, who are entrusted with a mandate for only one aspect of society.

“As the father of our nation, I am obliged to consider the whole, the big picture, at all times, because my decisions on one sector invariably affect others as well. It is likewise my obligation to shed light on this issue, and help our honorable justices understand, especially because their decision has grave implications not only in the executive, judicial, or legislative branch, but also and more importantly on the entire country,” Aquino said.

Aquino said he has obligation to help “my Bosses achieve clarity of thought, and impart to them the necessary information, so that all can see what is right and what is just”.

“We are bound by one fate, by the same joys and sorrows, and by common aspirations and interests,” Aquino said quoting Mabini’s Decalogue.

FROM THE MALAYA

AQUINO LIED ON SC FUNDS By Amado P. Macasaet | July 25, 2014


By Amado P. Macasaet

President Aquino is sinking himself deeper in a quagmire he himself created. He continues to defy the Supreme Court after the High Tribunal ruled that the pork barrel and the Disbursement Acceleration program are unconstitutional.

The President claims the Supreme Court transferred P1.8 billion of its savings to the Department of Justice to augment its P100 million budget for the Manila Hall of Justice. The records of the Court do not show that any money in any sum – big or small – was ever transferred to the DOJ.

The P1.8 billion is supposed to be savings of the Supreme Court. When the President claimed that the amount was transferred to the Department of Justice, he was effectively saying that the Judiciary, a co-equal branch of the Executive headed by the President, is as guilty or as noble as he was in spending savings for legitimate reasons such as the construction of the Manila Hall of Justice.

The amount was realigned at the end of 2013 to Court’s capital outlay. That can be variously interpreted to mean the savings was returned to the National Treasury although it must be remembered at all times the Judicial
Development Fund disbursed solely at the discretion of the Chief Justice consists of docket and other fees litigants pay the courts. The money never left the vaults of the SC or the banks where the SC deposit the funds.

It is the duty of the SC to fund the construction of halls of justice from its judicial development fund that accumulates billions of pesos from dockets and other fees paid to the courts by litigants in all cases.

The engineering and architectural designs of the Manila Hall of Justice were about to be bided by the Supreme Court itself, not the Department of Justice. The Manila Hall of Justice is supposed to house 120 courts in Manila now scattered all over City Hall with a few operating in the old building of Nawasa.

As if to show its independence from the Department of Justice, an agency under the Executive Branch, the Supreme Court did not invite any official least of all the secretary of justice to the ground-breaking ceremony for the Manila Hall of Justice.

It is supposed to sit on a property owned by the Supreme Court.

There is no parallel or similarity between the savings of the Supreme Court and the Disbursement Acceleration Program.

The savings of the Supreme Court is not part of the DAP. It was not returned to the Office of the President. It is to be used to build the Manila Hall of Justice as the construction of all halls of justice in the whole country is supposed to be the obligation of the Supreme Court.

* The lie about the P1.8B savings having been transferred to the Department of Justice for the construction of the Manila Hall of Justice is a smokescreen, a squid tactic intended to show what is right for the Judiciary as far as the use of savings is concerned is similarly right for the Office of the President.

Not so. On the contrary, the comparison mixes peaches with apples; worse, it is a comparison between the ridiculous and the sublime. The President is the ridiculous. The Court is the sublime.

As far as the ruling of unconstitutionality is concerned, the President is defending himself in reverse. His legal advisers must have told him about the time-honored dictum that the Supreme Court is right even when it is wrong.

The Presidential legal counsel must have told the President about this dictum. The President simply refuses to heed sound advice for his benefit and that of democracy that he is sworn to protect. The President’s job is to enforce the law, not to interpret it.

That should be clearer than clear to a mind that has respect for the independence of the judiciary. The President does not seem to have that mind. His advisers have, but the President does not listen to them.

The problem with this dictum rears its ugly head when the court decides to be wrong for its own reasons.

Still the Court cannot be threatened or cowed into submission to the President by his continued insistence that he did no wrong in DAP.

It is wrong for the President to believe the people are behind him in his fight with the Supreme Court.

Even if that were so, he should have the capacity to discern between support of the people that he thinks he gets by tangling with the Court, and the respect for the separation of powers and recognition of the fact that his use of DAP funds usurps the power of the purse of Congress to pass the annual General Appropriations Act.

We say nobody is allowed to spend funds not appropriated in the National Budget. The savings of government agencies are part of unspent appropriation.

What these agencies save cannot be appropriated to create the DAP. The funds of the DAP are not in the General Appropriations Act.

It would benefit the President a great deal if he had told the people that he disbursed the funds for their benefit. It we must split hairs, there is really nothing wrong with the disbursement.

What the court found unconstitutional is the creation of the fund. The President would gain more points by telling the people the decision of the Court must at all times be respected. After all, it is presumed the people benefited from his mistakes although using P5 billion allegedly to pay the owners of Hacienda Luisita is a wrong that did not benefit the people. It benefited his family.

This is where the saying “the pot should not call the kettle black” finds its true meaning.

The ability to listen and obey sound advice is a great virtue of a national leader like President Aquino who is variously held as responsible for economic growth proven in many ways such as the all-time high in gross international reserves and consistent reports of profits big and small companies. Most of all about 150 companies listed in the Philippine Stock Exchange paid about P350 billion in cash dividends in 2012 and 2013.

He wants to obliterate all these gains that no president before him produced, just because the Supreme Court stopped him from continuing with the duty of helping the people with money that is not supposed to exist in the sense that the DAP funds are not appropriated in the budget.

They always say “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.” This is not saying the President is leading his people to hell. It just so happens he violated the Constitution. He should apologize to the people instead of waging a war he cannot win with the Supreme Court.

FROM THE INQUIRER

The trouble with impeaching President Aquino By Neal H. Cruz |Philippine Daily Inquirer2:42 am | Friday, July 25th, 2014


By Neal H. Cruz

The trouble with impeaching President Aquino is that Vice President Jojo Binay would become president. His wife, Elenita, would become first lady. What a prospect! It would be as if Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos were back in Malacañang.

The last time we impeached a president (Joseph Estrada), he was succeeded by the then vice president (Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo). And look what happened. The cure was worse than the disease. Would it be the same if P-Noy is impeached (and convicted) and Binay succeeds him?

With the Binays in Malacañang, we would be ruled by a new dynasty similar to the Marcos dynasty. Son Mayor Junjun would be the new Bongbong, daughter Congresswoman Abigail would be the new Imee, and daughter Senator Nancy would be the new Irene. With the exception of Nancy, all of them are facing graft charges.

Jojo and Junjun have just been charged with plunder in the Office of the Ombudsman for constructing an 11-story parking building beside the Makati City Hall which, at a cost of P1.56 billion, makes it the most costly parking building in the Philippines, and maybe even in Asia and the world.

Jojo and Elenita are already being tried in court for graft cases committed during their terms as mayor of Makati. Abigail allegedly has links to the pork barrel scam of Janet Lim Napoles. Only Nancy is free of accusations. What a dynasty!

Jojo and Junjun have claimed that the new plunder charges were “politically motivated.” Junjun said the complaint was nothing new and that it was “fabricated.” The charges were filed by the Save Makati Movement, a group of Makati residents.

According to the complainants, the city government should have paid only P7,691 per square meter for the parking building, but the project cost was jacked up to P48,889 per square meter when it was completed in 2013, for an overprice of almost 600 percent, or more than P1.255 billion. They also say that even the current prevailing cost of commercial buildings in Makati is only P25,000 per square meter.

Vice President Binay claimed that politics and the 2016 presidential election were behind the filing of the charges by his political foes, who, he hinted, were being backed by a “political rival.” But he refused to name the “rival.”

Mayor Junjun noted that the complaint was filed after the release of the results of a Pulse Asia survey showing that his father was the leading choice for president in the 2016 election. (Actually, the survey results showed a drop in the Vice President’s popularity rating, but it was still higher than those of his rivals.) Father and son did not say, however, why the building cost that much.

“Politically motivated” is the usual mantra of politicians when they are caught with their hand in the till and charges are filed against them. This latest case is no exception.

We have to admit it: The 2016 presidential election campaign has started.

* * *
In another speech defending the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), President Aquino said the Supreme Court had also transferred funds in the judiciary. Why is it all right for the Supreme Court to do it, but not all right for the executive branch? he asked in effect.

In an earlier speech, he also said that other presidents before him had transferred funds. Why could they do it and I cannot? he asked.

Here is why:

Because you were caught and they were not.

* Had they been caught, too, no doubt the high court would have also declared their actions unconstitutional.

And while previous presidents and the Supreme Court were not caught red-handed illegally transferring funds, it does not mean P-Noy was not violating the Constitution when he did what they did. You cannot justify your actions by those of others. Just because a thief was not caught before does not mean that the actions of a new thief are okay. They both committed crimes. The only difference is that one was caught and the other was not.

P-Noy said the DAP funds were put to “good use.”

Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson said on television that billions of pesos in DAP funds were transferred to his department to finish projects that could not be completed because of lack of funds.

This is the general excuse of P-Noy, that funds were transferred to augment the budgets of other projects.

Isn’t it the executive branch which prepares the national budget that it sends to Congress for approval?

Why did it set aside too little funds for some projects and too much for others?

That shows incompetence on the part of the Department of Budget and Management.

The Supreme Court declared the DAP unconstitutional not because the funds were put to “good use” but because the executive branch usurped the exclusive power of Congress to allocate funds.

Also, the DBM hijacked funds and called these “savings” before the project was completed and before the end of the fiscal year.

That’s illegal.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

© Copyright, 2014 by PHILIPPINE HEADLINE NEWS ONLINE
All rights reserved


PHILIPPINE HEADLINE NEWS ONLINE [PHNO] WEBSITE