Nov 072013

The Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), representing the Aquino administration, on Thursday asked the Supreme Court to junk all cases filed against the controversial Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) for lack of merit.  

In a 41-page comment, the OSG asked the high court to dismiss all petitions against DAP for “lack of merit” and deny the application for a temporary restraining order and/or writ of preliminary injunction.

“The burden is on the petitioners to establish their case and prove grave abuse of discretion on the part of the respondents [but] the petitions, mostly anchored on newspaper clippings and media reports, are miserably lacking on the allegations of facts that would support a claim of grave abuse of discretion,” it said.

“It is incomprehensible, therefore, given the insufficiency and uncertainty of facts, how petitioners can allege grave abuse of discretion,” it added.

Last week, parties in at least eight petitions challenging DAP’s legality agreed to answer six main questions during oral arguments before the SC on Nov. 11.

Among these questions are on the nature of the DAP, whether it is a fund or a program, and the legal basis for its creation.

In its comment, the OSG said DAP is “neither a fund nor an appropriation but a program or an administrative system of prioritizing spending.”

“As is obvious from its name, it is a program for accelerating disbursements. What is only unstated in the title of the program—DAP—is that the sources of funds are from, first, the legitimately-generated savings of the government, and second, the Unprogrammed Fund authorized in any relevant GAA [General Appropriations Act],” it said.

It likewise said no law is required for the creation of DAP.

“The President has the constitutional authority to create policies in the execution of laws,” it said.

It added that the Department of Budget and Management is “expressly empowered to issue rules and regulations ‘to carry into full effect the laws relating to matters within [its] jurisdiction,’ for the ‘achievement of more economy and efficiency in the management of government operations.’” 

“The President, through the DBM, implemented the DAP in order to accelerate public spending, push economic growth, and promote prudent fiscal management. This is plain executive policy-making, nothing more,” it said.

Aside from these, petitioners are also questioning the definition of savings and the constitutionality of fund releases on requests of certain legislators and using DAP to augment appropriations under the national budget.

But the OSG, in its comment, said the “Constitution provides that the “President…may, by law, be authorized to augment any item in the general appropriations law for [his] office from savings in other items of [his] appropriations.”

“Following this rule, a legal authorization can be issued to allow the President to go beyond the original appropriation by augmenting deficient items with savings from other items,” it said, although noting that it is the legislature that defines what can be considered as “savings.”

But it said whatever request members of Congress make to the President it is “at best recommendatory and, at worst, an unsolicited advice.”

It likewise said that the DAP did not fund programs and projects not in the GAA as alleged by some petitioners.

The OSG said that if petitioners are “interested in learning the specific details” of any government program for which funding was provided, they can “exercise their constitutional rights” by asking the DBM to provide them details of how the government funded any such project, activity, or program.

The DAP became an issue after Senator Jinggoy Estrada bared that he and other senators who voted to convict former Chief Justice Renato Corona in May last year received P50 million each in additional funds months after the impeachment trial. 
Budget Secretary Florencio Abad has admitted that the funds came from the DAP, but maintained these were not bribes or incentives for senators. He said the DAP fund, which is basically realigned savings, was released to address sluggish government spending in 2011. —KG, GMA News

 Leave a Reply