Syjuco files impeachment rap vs Aquino

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Monday, July 7, 2014

(UPDATED) FORMER representative Augusto "Boboy" Syjuco submitted Monday to the House of Representatives an impeachment complaint against President Benigno Aquino III over the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), whose certain parts were declared as unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.

Syjuco, a former director general of the Technology Education and Skills Development Authority (Tesda), wanted Aquino to be impeached for alleged bribery, betrayal of public trust and culpable violation of the Constitution.

The ex-lawmaker said Aquino violated the law and his own oath of office when he authorized the massive transfer of funds from various sources to DAP a hitherto unknown program, which the President allegedly created in 2011 without the knowledge and consent of Congress, and the full details of which he has consistently refused or failed to disclose.

He said Budget Secretary Florencio Abad admitted that the disbursement and release of these funds were primarily initiated by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) and approved by Aquino without congressional appropriation.

"Aquino wilfully violated Section 25 (5), Article VI of the Constitution which states that “No law shall be passed authorizing any transfer of appropriations; however, the President, the President of the Senate, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, and the heads of Constitutional Commissions may, by law, be authorized to augment any item in the general appropriations law for their respective offices from savings in other items of their respective appropriations," Syjuco said.

Various critics of DAP explained that it practically repeals the General Appropriations Act (GAA) by realigning funds to items not found in the budget that has been approved by both houses of Congress.

Syjuco said the power of the purse solely belongs to Congress as stated in the 1987 Constitution.

"President Aquino cannot claim in good faith in the creation and the implementation of DAP. As early as 2008, he was 'completely aware' that converting funds into 'savings' in mid-year or realigning them outside the congressional appropriations law was illegal," the ex-lawmaker said.

He added that Aquino during his short stint as senator has filed a measure through Senate Bill 3121 or the Budget Impoundment Control Act.

"Since President Aquino caused and approved the creation and implementation of the DAP, fully knowing that the same is in blatant contrast with the Constitution, this puts his act to the degree of Culpable Violation of the Constitution," the complaint read.

In same complaint, Syjuco said the DAP has "corrupted members of the House of Representatives and the Senate in order to impeach convict and remove" then Chief Justice Renato Corona as head of the Supreme Court.

The former lawmaker cited the privilege speeches by Senators Jinggoy Estrada and Ramon Revilla Jr. last year where they both confirmed that the senators-judges who voted to convict Corona in the impeachment trial were given an additional P50 million in discretionary funds and they claimed that the allocation is an "incentive" for voting for the conviction of the former Chief Justice and was provided in a private and confidential letter from Senate President Franklin Drilon, then chairman of the Senate finance committee at the time.

Lawyer Oliver Lozano was the first to submit an impeachment complaint against the President following the SC decision on DAP.

However, Kabataan party-list Representative Terry Ridon said that his colleagues in the Makabayan bloc in the House set aside the impeachment complaint of Lozano for being "insufficient in form and substance."

"While we appreciate Attorney Lozano's effort in producing an impeachment complaint ahead of everyone, we believe his five-page verified complaint contains weak arguments and failed to meet the stringent standards set by the Constitution," Ridon said.

On Thursday, Lozano personally delivered his complaint to the congressional office of Ridon for the legislator's endorsement.

Lozano cited Aquino's involvement in the DAP controversy, his failure to address the Zamboanga siege, and the problems brought about by Typhoon Yolanda, as the bases of his impeachment complaint.

But Ridon said that he will not endorse Lozano's complaint.

"Initially, we considered having his complaint consolidated with the one we are drafting at the moment. But when we reviewed his complaint, it became apparent that his impeachment suit is grossly insufficient in form and substance," Ridon said.

The lawmaker explained that Lozano's arguments were "weak" and would not stand even a cursory review of the House committee on justice.

"The discussion of substantive matters was too general. Attorney Lozano did not even mention why Aquino committed culpable violation of the Constitution through the DAP," the militant lawmaker said.

Malacanang, for its part, does not see the need for a loyalty check in Congress amid the filing of an impeachment complaint against Aquino over DAP.

With the "benefits" of the public coming from DAP, Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda indicated that any impeachment complaint against the President would not succeed.

"If you look at the beneficial effects of DAP, how it has profited and benefited the people, do you think a loyalty check is needed?," he said in a regular press briefing on Monday when asked if there would be a need for a loyalty check from Aquino's allies at the House of Representatives.

Lacierda shrugged off Syjuco's move to file impeachment complaint against Aquino as he even likened the former Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (Tesda) chief to Lozano, a habitual filer of impeachment complaints even to previous presidents.

"Mr. Boboy Syjuco has been filing cases left and right. So it's just one of his actions...And in case of Boboy Syjuco, he's just filing a case like Mr. Oliver Lozano," he said.

He said it would be up to the House of Representatives how it would treat Syjuco's complaint.

"That's their business...we will let the congressmen speak for themselves as they see the impeachment complaint before them," Lacierda said.

Meanwhile, militant workers under the Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) held a lightning protest on Monday morning near Gate 7 of Malacañang, saying he should be made accountable for creating and implementing the DAP.

KMU said Aquino cannot claim that the spending program was created "in good faith" because it was allegedly spent for corruption and patronage.

"It is not only against the country's basic law, but constitutes plunder of funds which should have been used for workers and the poor. In a sense, dahil sa DAP, dumami ang mahirap," said KMU secretary-general Roger Soluta.

Anti-DAP petitioners, on the other hand, called on the Commission on Audit (COA) to immediately conduct a special audit on how the DAP funds were disbursed through "specific acts and practices" cited as an unconstitutional by the SC.

The petitioners also called on COA to serve notices of disallowance against all parties involved placing priority on cross-border transfer of funds committed by the Executive branch and make public all audit reports on DAP.

COA itself received P143.7 million on November 11, 2011 for the IT infrastructure program and hiring of additional litigation experts.

However, the SC said the Constitution disallows the transfer of funds among co-equal branches of government and independent agencies like COA.

"Without such COA report, investigations done and charges filed will come to nothing. As petitioners and taxpayers we are committed to watch every development regarding this issue," the statement said.

Among the signatories to the statement were former senatorial candidate Greco Belgica, lawyer Manuelito Luna and Bishop Reuben Abante. (With SDR/Virgil Lopez/Sunnex)

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