SC urged to clarify DAP ruling

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Monday, July 21, 2014

A FORMER senatorial candidate asked the Supreme Court (SC) on Monday to declare unconstitutional improper expenditures under the controversial Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).

Petitioner Greco Belgica observed that under the DAP, President Benigno Aquino III augmented or added funds from savings for projects in amounts that exceeded many times the original funding for them under the national budget.

For example, the DREAM Project of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) under the 2011 budget was given an additional P1.6 billion even if it only had a total appropriation of P537.91 million.

"How could a P537,910,000 appropriation be augmented by almost three times such amount, that is, P1.6 billion for a total expenditure of P2.137 billion?" the motion for reconsideration stated.

Belgica said to allow the President to use more money than he initially determined would be required for a certain project "would be to disregard the process of budgeting required to be observed under the law."

"More importantly…the Congress' limited power to decrease or delete any appropriation item would be put to naught by the President's power to augment by latching on an existing appropriation cover however tenuous its terms may be on the pretext that it is deficient," the motion said.

He also debunked arguments that Section 49 of Book VI of the Administrative Code of 1987 can be used to justify the improper augmentations, saying the provision requires that the obligations being funded from savings be "incurred during a current fiscal year or previous fiscal years."

"Hence, it can only refer to PAPs (projects, activities and programs) with existing appropriation covers and to those unpaid obligations of the previous years, especially contingent obligations that became due and demandable only during the current fiscal year as borne by the enumeration in the cited provision," Belgica said.

Key provisions of the DAP had been struck down by the SC for pooling funds even before the end of the fiscal year, using savings to aid offices outside the Executive branch, funding projects not under the national budget and tapping unprogrammed funds without following necessary requirements.

The ruling, which was appealed by Malacañang last Friday, pushed Aquino critics led by militant lawmakers to file an impeachment complaint against him on the ground of betrayal of public trust and culpable violation of the Constitution.

But the complaint will likely be dismissed by the House of Representatives, which is dominated by Aquino’s party-mates and allies. (Sunnex)

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