Oct 252013
(Updated 6:17 p.m.) Former Manila Councilor Greco Belgica and two others from the religious sector on Friday filed with the Supreme Court a seventh petition questioning the legality of the controversial discretionary Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).

Aside from Belgica, who filed the petition on behalf of the Yeshua Change Agents, the other petitioners were Bishop Reuben Abante (Bible Mode) and Rev. Jojo Gonzales (Capitol Christian Leaders).

The three earlier filed separate petitions with the high court seeking to stop the release of the Priority Development Assistance Fund and Malampaya gas funds.

These funds –  or portions of them – were said to have been misused and diverted to bogus non-government organizations run by supposed fund scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles, who allegedly shares the money with government officials, including lawmakers.

In his petition, Belgica questionned the legality of the DAP and the Department of Budget and Management-National Budget Circular 541, particularly its portion that allows the use of the the DAP funds “to fund priority programs and projects not considered in the 2012 budget but expected to be started or implemented during the current year.” 

“Such directive is clearly a usurpation of the power of the legislature to appropriate government funds. Such power did not originate from the House or Representatives nor did it pass the legislative process under the Constitution,” read the petition.

Aside from Belgica, the other petitioners are Bishop Reuben Abante and Rev. Jojo Gonzales. 

The petitioners said the use of the DAP violated Section 29 (1), Article VI of the Constitution which requires that: “No money shall be paid out of the Treasury except in pursuance of an appropriation made by law.”

“In this case, NBC 541 even contemplates – even as it acknowledges – the use of DAP funds for programs or projects not in the current budget but only contemplated by the executive to be implemented or started within 2012 notwiths notwithstanding the absence of an appropriation therefore,” the petition read.

In an earlier petition against the pork barrel, the three petitioners said the respondents committed “grave abuse of discretion” when they allowed the implementation of the pork barrel system, which he said “violates the constitutional limits given to the executive and the legislative because they are able to spend money beyond what is approved by Congress since these are lump sum funds.”

Named respondents in the petition against PDAF were Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr., the Department of Budget and Management, Senate President Franklin Drilon and House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte.

The 24 senators in the country receive P200 million each in PDAF, while the more than 200 members of the House of Representatives are entitled to P70 million each.

As for the Malampaya fund, Belgica said the current system of disbursing the funds violates the constitutional provision on the mandates of the executive and the legislative branches, which empowers Congress to “appropriate for checks and balance, while the executive implements and prepares government projects.”

Belgica, who ran but lost in the 2013 senatorial race, said the government should no longer invoke the authority given to the President by the Marcos-era Presidential Decree 910, which creates a special fund to be used not only for energy development and exploitation programs but “for such other purposes as may be hereafter directed by the President.”

“Ang PD na iyon ay panahon pa ni (former President Ferdinand) Marcos. Wala na iyon. Iba na ang ginagamit natin. We are already a democratic country,” Belgica had said.

Belgica clarified they did not want the Malampaya fund itself dissolved, but merely wanted the system used to spend it to be revised.

Malampaya is a natural gas field located in the West Philippine Sea, off northwest Palawan. The project is spearheaded by the Department of Energy and operated by Shell Philippines Exploration B.V. (SPEX) with joint venture partners Chevron Malampaya LLC and PNOC Exploration Corporation.

The SC had earlier consolidated six other petitions against the DAP filed by former Iloilo Rep. Augusto Syjuco; Manuelito Luna; Philippine Constitution Association; the Integrated Bar of the Philippines; Ma. Carolina Araullo, and Jose Malvar Villegas Jr. Mark Merueñas/RSJ, GMA News

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