Catch those thieves

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Chief Justice Lucas Bersamin, who authored the Supreme Court (SC) ruling in 2014 that declared the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) of yellow President Noynoy Aquino unconstitutional, must be wondering what happened to the portion of the decision requiring the “authors, proponents and implementors” of the program to be held accountable.

That part of the ruling is crucial particularly now after retired Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales handed Noynoy and his Rasputin, former Budget Secretary Butch Abad, a lifeboat in charging them with “usurpation of legislative powers” that requires a few months jailtime and a light fine of some three months’ worth of salary for each.

A review of the Morales decision also becomes relevant with the allegations of the resurrection of pork barrel in the 2019 General Appropriations Bill as a result of insertions at the House of Representatives.

Legislators may believe that the defense of good faith in the use of public funds will let them off easy when they are made to account for the theft. Considering that nearly P150 billion was misappropriated from the budget, this defies any logical appreciation of justice when applied.

The Palace money pool was the private slush fund of Noynoy and his Liberal Party cohorts that was extensively used to underwrite the impeachment and the subsequent ouster of the late Chief Justice Renato Corona.

The list released by Abad himself showed 116 projects between 2011 to 2013 funded with P144.4 billion under the DAP.

The SC in its ruling indicated that while the Executive has the power to implement measures to stimulate the economy, as Noynoy’s and Abad’s defense goes, the particular acts of creating the DAP violated the doctrine of separation of powers as a result of the creation of supposed savings prior to the end of the fiscal year and without complying with the statutory definition of savings as contained in the budget law; the act of cross-border transfer of savings among agencies; the funding of projects, activities and programs not covered under the budget law and the use of unprogrammed funds without meeting the required excess in revenue targets.

Noynoy vigorously protested the SC decisions, defending the Priority Development Assistance Fund, saying that “Filipinos need the PDAF,” while stating in a nationwide address after the High Court ruling that “DAP is good.”

Noynoy in his address even threatened the High Court of a constitutional crisis over the DAP as he insisted on its legality citing a provision in an obscure 1987 Administrative Code that his mother, former President Cory Aquino, signed.

The edict turned out to be have been drafted by the administration of former President Ferdinand Marcos.

The defense of good faith was raised by Morales in her DAP ruling, but it does not lessen the culpability of the Palace in the illegal act.

Noynoy also faulted SC justices as living in an ivory tower and failing to appreciate the Palace’s goal of speeding up government services.

It was the opposite, however, since in his vanity, Noynoy failed, again, to connect with the view of many to honor the most important piece of legislation produced yearly, which is the national budget.

The Bersamin-penned decision found refuge in the doctrine of operative fact that in essence did away with the need to undo whatever had transpired as a result of the unconstitutional act.

A limitation, however, was imposed on the use of the doctrine based on the SC decision, which stated that it can be applied only to projects “that can no longer be undone” and whose beneficiaries relied on good faith on the validity of the DAP.

The doctrine, however, can’t apply “to the authors, proponents and implementors of the DAP unless there are concrete findings of good faith in their favor by the proper tribunals determining their criminal, civil, administrative and other liabilities.”

The starting point of the SC ruling, if followed, should be on Noynoy and Abad from whom the illegal acts transpired.

Good faith was never present in the implementation of the DAP considering its use in the Corona ouster.

The preemptive case that selective justice gatekeeper Morales filed should be reviewed and Noynoy and Abad must be prosecuted to the fullest extent.

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