Thursday, October 24, 2013

Pnoy’s Obstinate Stand on DAP May Well Cost Him the Presidency

Pnoy has been stumping around at every speaking engagement and media interaction on his recalcitrant position on the legality and constitutionality of the little-known Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) at the backdrop of pronouncements made by a score of the country’s recognized Constitutional Law experts as Senator Mirriam Defensor Santiago, former Senator Joker Arroyo, and Constitutional Convention member Fr. Joaquin Bernas, a member of 1986 Constitutional Commission, which drafted the 1987 Philippine Constitution. Even Former Chief Justice Reynato Puno shares the same view.
Pnoy has, it seems, as source of his basis for his audacious DAP constitutionality argument the opinions of his Budget main man and architect of DAP, Lawyer Butch Abad, Presidential Spokesperson and Deputy Spokesperson, Lawyers Edwin Lacierda and Abigail Valte, respectively, and presumably his Executive Secretary, Lawyer Pacquito Ochoa. I don’t want to take anything away from the latter, but to be pitted against the former (Sen. Santiago et al.) on issue of constitutionality, is like a boxing match between Floyd Mayweather and Oscar Larios (very little-known).
And it is not as if Sen. Santiago et al. simply said DAP was unconstitutional without providing bases for the position, on the contrary, they were almost unanimous on their basis: “No money shall be paid out of the treasury except in pursuance of an appropriation made by law.” (Section 29, Article VI, Philippine Constitution).
The “appropriation” being referred to in the adverted provision is the General Appropriation Act (GAA), the law containing the executive-detailed budget to run the government on a given year. Congress deliberates on whether to approve or reduce the budget so proposed by the president, but it cannot increase the same. Clearly, once the GAA is passed, certified by both houses, and approved by the president, and becomes a law, Congress’s task is done except for its Oversight Committee, and it is the executive department that carries out the provisions thereof.
That the president exercises discretion in the disbursement of so-called DAP, allegedly representing savings from the budget, is paying out money not in accord with an appropriation made by law.
Paragraph 5, Section 25 of the same article on “The Legislative Department” of the Constitution, provides, viz:
“Section 5.
No law shall be passed authorizing any transfer of appropriations; however, the President, the President of the Senate, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, and the heads of Constitutional Commissions may, by law, be authorized to augment any item in the general appropriations law for their respective offices from savings in other items of their respective appropriations.”
While this provision continues to reinforce the argument in favor of unconstitutionality, this seems to be where Pnoy is drawing his constitutionality argument: “xxx the President xxx may, by law, be authorized to augment any item in the general appropriations law for their respective offices from savings in other items of their respective appropriations.”
However, that is a clear misreading of the provision. The president may augment any item in the general appropriations law, it speaks of the law or what is stated therein, which negates discretion on disbursement.
The president may continue his stubborn stance on the matter, but the longer he does so the more that his base support will erode. Many of his supporters, at this point, continue to give him a pass on his transgressions, but they have been calling on the President to make his Liberal Party stalwart and DAP architect bow out of office out of delicadeza and spare the president the flak he had brought on him.
If delicadeza, however, fails to dawn on Butch Abad, Pnoy must exercise his power to remove and fire Abad. This can save his presidency, and refocus the hunt on the scammers who are enjoying the benefits of muddled issues brought about by DAP.

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