THE Philippine Office of the Ombudsman on Thursday directed the country’s former president, Benigno Simeon Aquino III, to comment on a motion seeking his inclusion in the prosecution of the unlawful implementation of the P72 billion Disbursement Acceleration Program from which he was earlier cleared.
“The parties to the DAP cases, including Aquino, have 15 days from notice within which to file comment,” the Ombudsman’s Special Panel of Investigators said in a statement.
Earlier, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales cleared former Pres. BS Aquino III and his budget undersecretary Mario Relampagos from any criminal and administrative liability over their implementation of the DAP.
However, Morales found Aquino’s alter ego, former budget and management secretary Florencio Abad; guilty of simple misconduct for the same case and ordered him suspended for three months. She also found probable cause to indict Abad with violation of Article 239 (Usurpation of Legislative Powers) of the Revised Penal Code.
In their motion, the Bayan Muna Partylist asked the Ombudsman to charge Aquino not only with usurpation of legislative power, but also with graft and malversation.
The militant political organization, at the same time, also asked the government prosecutors to look at previous DAP issuances that bear the signature of Aquino, which it said was a clear liability on the part of the former chief executive.
The case against Aquino, Abad and Relampagos arose from the complaint filed by Representative Carlos Isagani Zarate, Renato Reyes, Benjamin Valbuena, Dante LA Jimenez, Mae Paner, Antonio Flores, Gloria Arellano and Bonifacio Carmona, Jr.
It will be recalled that in 2014, the Supreme Court declared unconstitutional the following acts committed in pursuance of the DAP: (1) withdrawal of unobligated allotments from the implementing agencies; and the declaration of the withdrawn unobligated allotments and unreleased appropriations as savings prior to the end of the fiscal year without complying with the statutory definition of savings contained in the GAA; and (2) the cross-border transfers of the savings of the Executive to augment the appropriations of other offices outside the executive.
While the SC deemed as unconstitutional three executive acts under DAP in July 2014, it reversed itself on one of these acts in a ruling almost a year later when it partially granted the government’s appeal on the earlier ruling.
Moreover, the SC also ruled that there is a presumption of good faith in the implementation of DAP-related projects. The high tribunal’s ruling left only “authors” of the DAP as those who may be held liable.
The DAP was a special spending program under the Aquino administration meant to stimulate economic growth. Implemented from 2011 to 2013, it pooled government savings and realigned unused funds to 116 high-priority projects.