Palace asked to comment on appeal vs DAP ruling

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Friday, August 15, 2014

MALACAÑANG has 10 days to file an explanation with the Supreme Court (SC) on the appeal of an anti-Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) petitioner to declare unconstitutional improper expenditures under the controversial economic stimulus package.

The SC made the order in a two-page resolution issued last Tuesday.

In his appeal, former Manila Councilor Greco Belgica said the executive department erred when it used DAP money to augment programs, projects and activities in the national budget that did not have actual deficiencies.

He also asked the SC to declare illegal the allocation of so-called "savings" to augment appropriation items over and above the maximum amount recommended by the president.

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.

Belgica said Section 49 of Book VI of the Administrative Code of 1987 cannot 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,” he said.

Key provisions of the DAP had been stricken off 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 Palace also appealed the unanimous decision, anchoring on the argument that the use of savings and unused funds that were pooled under the DAP was within the president's authority to augment funds under the Constitution.

At the same time, the Aquino administration rejected insinuations that bad faith attended the formulation of the DAP, which was allegedly used to bribe senators into voting for the impeachment of then Chief Justice Renato Corona in 2012.

“No malice could be attributed to these mechanisms, which represent the Executive’s contemporaneous interpretation of the budget which it helped prepare with Congress. This interpretation was validated repeatedly, year after year, through budget deliberations before Congress,” the Palace said. (Sunnex)

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