Impeachment rap filed vs Aquino

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Monday, July 21, 2014

MANILA (Updated) -- Militant lawmakers endorsed an impeachment complaint against President Benigno Aquino III on Monday, a week before the Chief Executive delivers his fourth State of the Nation Address (Sona) in Congress.

Representatives Neri Colmenares and Carlos Isagani Zarate (Bayan Muna) and Fernando Hicap (Anakpawis) endorsed the complaint for betrayal of public trust and culpable violation of the Constitution against Aquino.

The complaint, which stems from Aquino's unconstitutional release of the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), is backed by 28 other complainants composed of militants, anti-pork barrel advocates, church leaders and other individuals.

The complaint said the President "culpably violated the Constitution by usurping Congress' power of the purse and undermining the principles of separation of powers and system of checks and balances."

"The unconstitutional and void acts include premature pooling of funds that are not in reality savings, the cross-border transfer of funds to augment the appropriation of other offices outside the Executive Branch, funding of projects that are not covered by the General Appropriations Act (GAA) and the use of unprogrammed funds," it added.

It said the DAP turned the Congress-approved General Appropriations Act into "one man's pork barrel."

"By virtue of his unchecked exercise of discretion, President Benigno Simeon Aquino III juggled funds from one program to another, or in the case of DAP, to projects based on his mere whim. The DAP is not only fiscally and economically unsound but also evil. It not only destroys accountability but worse, spends public funds according to the discretion of just one man, the President," the complaint added.

(Video by John Carlo Cahinhinan/Sunnex)

"[Aquino] must be held to account so that lessons must be learned. For this he must be impeached," the complaint said.

The complainants include persons who earlier questioned the DAP before the High Tribunal, as well as anti-pork advocates who are key players in last year's Million People March and succeeding actions.

The complainants believed that DAP further exacerbated the corruption in the pork barrel system by giving additional pork to lawmakers and local officials, in exchange for their support for the Aquino administration.

"Sa pamamagitan ng DAP, pinasahol pa ni Aquino ang korap na sistemang pork barrel sa bansa, salungat sa pangako niya 'daang matuwid'," Colmenares said.

"The President says DAP is a stimulus program done in good faith. This is belied by the list of DAP projects, most of which have nothing to do with stimulating the economy save for increasing government expenditures," the House Senior Deputy Minority Floor Leader added.

The complaint said DAP allowed Aquino to give lawmakers some P17.3 billion in extra pork through lump-sum items known as "other various local projects."

Other DAP expenditures were also lump sum discretionary spending such as additional pork for local officials in the form of "support for LGUs" and various local infrastructure projects.

The complaint said that to enlarge the presidential pork, Aquino withheld funding for so-called "slow-moving projects" and took control of the savings of agencies that were previously used for personnel development.

The benefits of ordinary teachers and other government employees suffered because the so-called "savings" were being centralized to fatten the presidential pork, it added.

In a related development, reports revealed that nearly 900 Special Allotment Release Orders (SAROs) of the more than 1,000 total DAP SAROs were given to lawmakers.

The complainants said it bolstered allegations that DAP truly intended to function as presidential pork.

Meanwhile, the House leadership vowed to do its ministerial duty to include the complaint to the Order of Business (OB) for plenary referral to the House committee on justice.

"We will do our ministerial duty. The (House) Secretary General will submit the impeachment complaint to the Office of the Speaker and the Speaker has 10 session days to transmit the complaint to my committee (House committee on rules) and we have three session days to include it in the Order of Business for plenary referral to the House committee on justice," said House Majority Floor Leader Neptali Gonzales II.

The Constitution provides that support from at least one third of nearly 300 congressmen are needed to ensure trial at the Senate but it remains doubtful if the complaint will even move past the committee level in the House, where Aquino allies are in control.

For his part, Senator Antonio Trillanes IV said over the weekend that the impeachment is a plot by the opposition and anti-Aquino groups to "weaken" the administration in preparation for the 2016 presidential elections.

He recalled that some executive actions before that were ruled as unconstitutional by the SC like the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) and the creation of the Truth Commission to determine accountability of the Arroyo administration but nobody called for Aquino's impeachment.

"Unfortunately for our country, maraming napapasakay. I always maintained that the DAP issue is not an indisputable moral issue but a vague, complicated legal issue," Trillanes said in a text message.

Aquino was displeased with the SC ruling on DAP, telling the public on primetime television last July 14 that the justices may have erred in dismissing the government's legal standpoint on the program, which helped the economy to move forward from low government spending in 2011.

He also warned of a clash between the executive and judiciary over the issue while his congressional allies are now pushing for the repeal of the law on the Judiciary Development Fund (JDF), the so-called "pork barrel" of the judicial branch.

Reacting to the President's tirades, SC employees wore black and red shirts and pinned ribbons of the same colors on Monday to protest Malacanang's alleged attacks on the Constitution and the judiciary.

SC Employees Association president Jojo Guerrero said their "silent protest" would be a weekly thing, especially during the flag-raising ceremony every Monday.

"The judiciary is fuming mad because you've (Aquino) been fooling us. Just follow the law," Guerrero said.

His group, numbering around 3,000, is in favor of making Aquino and other DAP implementors accountable after the end of the President's term, unlike the Sandiganbayan Employees Association, which joined calls for Aquino's removal from office.

Sandiganbayan employees president Mar Aguilar added that Aquino is liable for technical malversation for using public funds not intended for DAP.

Aguilar said they will participate in anti-Aquino protests in next week's Sona. (Sunnex)

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