“The Supreme Court said that the DAP was not savings therefore Section 39 does not apply. Also a mere administration code cannot trump the Constitution.” – Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares
By MARYA SALAMAT
MANILA – In what many say was a preview of his upcoming State of the Nation Address, President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III spoke strongly against his perceived detractors (which include this time the Supreme Court justices) and defended the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) as well as his rule from start to finish of his speech. But based on the statements of various groups emailed to Bulatlat.com, his justifications are all wrong.
The College Editors Guild of the Philippines said it is “a generic Aquino tirade against his predecessor, marred by ill-constructed arguments, broken analysis and broken figures of speech.” They sum it up as a mere consolidation of fallacies that leaves no space for the real score.
People’s organizations pointed to the following as the delusions, lies or fallacies Aquino presented in his speech:
1. “DAP is legal.” “DAP has legal basis.”
Various groups, including lawyers and progressive lawmakers and the Supreme Court Justices, said the DAP’s core components are illegal and unconstitutional. That remains so until today, although some groups have urged the high court to come out with stronger and clearer ruling on liabilities resulting to implementation of DAP and other pork barrel.
“Aquino’s use of Section 39 of the 1987 Administration Code is not even right because the section pertains to savings,” Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares said in a statement. “The Supreme Court said that the DAP was not savings therefore Section 39 does not apply. Also a mere administration code cannot trump the Constitution,” Rep. Colmenares added.
Even considering Sec. 49 of the same Administrative Code, “the deemed unconstitutional parts of the DAP would remain unconstitutional,” said Kabataan Partylist Rep. Terry Ridon. He cited four reasons.
* Cross-border transactions are constitutionally prohibited not because we overlooked Sec 49, but because it impinges upon the separation of powers in the Constitution, including all related issues thereto such as independence and integrity between departments.
* The use of unprogrammed funds would remain prohibited even if Sec. 49 was applied because it can only be used after fulfilling the conditions for its use under the General Appropriations Act.
* The use of unobligated allotments for other purposes remain prohibited even if Sec. 49 was applied because the Court disagrees on the Executive’s definition of “savings,” which unconstitutionally included projects that had not been executed or implemented.
* Despite Sec. 49, public funds still cannot be used for projects not covered by any General Appropriations Act.
Kabataan Party Rep. Ridon said Sec. 49 cannot save the case of Aquino government in the DAP, “which is why the President today is already issuing direct threats against the SC in the event that the latter does not reverse its decision.” And from that springs the next fallacy used by Aquino as basis for self-defence against culpability in DAP.
2. Popular Aquino can do whatever he wants in this ‘democracy’
“The President as part of the executive branch of the government has the power of the sword, Congress the power of the purse, and judiciary the power of the pen,” former Budget Secretary, Prof. Benjamin Diokno, said.
But the “height of President Aquino’s hubris,” said ACT Teachers Rep. Antonio Tinio, is Aquino’s public and brazen repudiation of the Supreme Court’s key arguments in the ruling – that he usurped the Congressional power of the purse through the DAP – and now he seems intent on usurping the Supreme Court’s exclusive role as final arbiter on matters of law as well.
Rep. Tinio said President Aquino’s defiance of the Supreme Court constitutes nothing less than what the Constitution refers to as betrayal of public trust, specifically a tyrannical abuse of power, which is a clear ground for impeachment.
It is ironic, said Tinio, that the son and heir of the icons of the anti-dictatorship struggle, Ninoy and Cory, is acting like a full-fledged tyrant, having been found to have usurped Congressional power and now challenging the authority of the Supreme Court.
“The Supreme Court’s decision is clear. President Aquino seized control of public funds and appropriated them to projects according to his personal discretion, usurping the powers of Congress to determine government spending and creating a fiscal dictatorship in the process. There is no way that the President can escape accountability,” concluded Gabriela Women Rep. Luzviminda Ilagan.
3. ‘DAP is good and beneficial’
This is the claim that brought the loudest cries of disbelief among members of progressive peoples’ organizations in Monday’s gathering at Plaza Miranda.
In another statement, Gabriela Women Rep. Emmi De Jesus denounced what she calls as the President’s alibis and she refuted claims that the DAP funded projects that benefited the people. “Aquino claims that DAP funded electrification projects and created classrooms but we are now struggling with rotating brownouts, and children remain cramped in overcrowded classrooms.”
Aquino and other Palace officials have earlier claimed that the DAP stimulated the economy in 2011, with DAP contributing to 1.3 percentage point to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth in the last quarter of 2011.
“The government’s Disbursement Acceleration Plan was partially successful and contributed 1.3 percentage points (ppt) to GDP growth in Q4, up from 0.3 ppt in Q3, but this was not enough to push growth up to the targeted level of around five percent,” the World Bank noted in a report.
The World Bank also clarified in a footnote to the same report that the 1.3 percentage point contribution actually refers to the total government consumption and public construction, and thus is not a result of DAP alone.
Independent think tank Ibon Foundation has earlier explained that the P61.4 billion ($1.395 billion) DAP-related spending in 2011 accounts only for 19.8 percent of total government spending in the fourth quarter of 2011. Total spending is the sum of government final consumption expenditure and public construction in the national income accounts measured at current prices.
Ibon computed that the real contribution of DAP-related spending to economic growth is “likely just one-fourth of a percentage point at most in the fourth quarter of 2011 and less than a tenth of a percentage point for 2011 as a whole.”
Ridon said that in the World Bank’s Philippine quarterly report, it belittled the effects of DAP on the overall economic standing of the country. In a subsequent report it published in July 2012, the World Bank explained that the overall effect of disbursement acceleration for public construction has been eaten up by the deceleration of private construction. The said report showed that the main drivers of Philippine GDP growth are rising exports and steady inflow of remittances.
“There can be no talk of actual economic growth brought about by the DAP since that is to assume that Filipinos are better off as we speak. In reality, according to the SWS surveys of self-rated poverty from 2010-2014, more and more Filipinos are reeling from the brunt of aggressive cuts to social services and severe incidences of hunger,” Menerva Espanta, spokesperson of Kabataang Artista para sa Tunay na Kalayaan (KARATULA), said in another statement.
4. DAP funded lifesaver projects … benefiting whom?
Aquino equated their DAP to parking illegally to save lives. But not only is this a bad analogy, according to the Health Alliance for Democracy, it had “saved” not the people but the scammers, the corrupt and the cronies and pet projects of President Aquino, said Gabriela Women Rep. Emmi de Jesus in Filipino.
Aquino repeatedly made mention of the urban poor and their relocation in his speech in defense of DAP. According to the urban poor group Kadamay, the Informal Settlers Fund (P10 billion or $229M per year up to 2016, or a total of P50 billion [$1.146B]) is not really for the benefit of the informal settlers near waterways but as “milking cow” for Aquino’s allies in the National Housing Authority, led by his former classmate, Chito Cruz, DILG Sec. Mar Roxas, and DPWH. Carlito Badion, secretary-general of Kadamay, said a big chunk of this DAP also likely went to estate developer Gerry Acuzar, owner of New San Jose Builders, Inc (NSJB), and brother in law of Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa.
The Montalban Relocatees Alliance (MRA), an alliance of urban poor groups from Barangay San Isidro and San Jose in Rodriguez, Rizal, said that Aquino’s DAP has only brought misery to the supposed beneficiaries of the Informal Settler Fund.
Mercy Merilles, spokesperson of MRA and chair of San Andres Relocatees Association, disputed Aquino’s statement in his televised speech that the informal settlers has benefited from DAP. She said the Aquino administration has not only demolished their homes using the ISF. “It has also demolished our lives when they transferred our families to the relocation sites.”
Worse, they were transferred to sites that are also dangerous during the rainy season, and they have to pay several times the cost of construction and lot. Merilles asked, “With billions of taxpayers’ money being used to build the housing programs for the poor, why are we still being charged with overpriced monthly amortization? Does our monthly payment go back to the national treasury or to the pocket of low-cost housing capitalist like Gerry Acuzar?”
Merilles represents just one of the cases where DAP has proved to be of little help, it even contributed to their misery. Activists are also mentioning DAP funds that went to big landowners including those behind Hacienda Luisita, where farmworkers are still struggling to gain ownership of land as previously ruled by the Supreme Court.