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The DAP: An unconstitutional means to uphold the Constitution

By Atty. Harry Roque Jr. | Oct. 10, 2013 at 12:01am
I add my opinion to the plethora of opinions concluding that the Disbursement Acceleration Program (referred to also as Drilon, Abad and P Noy) is unconstitutional. It is clear from the language of the Constitution that while the President, among others, can re-align savings from his office, he can only do so by spending it for his office and for a line item provided in the appropriation law. This much can be gleaned from Section 25(5) of Article VI of the Constitution: “the President, the President of the Senate, the Speaker of the House of Representatives,  x x x 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.”

Note that the language of the law clearly states that any augmentation must be a) for an item in the general appropriations law; and b) must be “for their offices”. Consequently, any augmentation from savings from the OP can only be spent by the OP and cannot be given to lawmakers. Furthermore, it must be to augment particular expenses in the appropriations law and not for any and all other purposes.

This interpretation has been upheld by the Supreme Court. In the oft-cited case of Demetria vs. Alba, the Supreme Court ruled: “The leeway granted ( to the President et al) was thus limited. The purpose and conditions for which funds may be transferred were specified, i.e. transfer may be allowed for the purpose of augmenting an item and such transfer may be made only if there are savings from another item in the appropriation of the government branch or constitutional body.”

Can this be a ground for impeachment of the President? Certainly, as the DAP is clearly a culpable violation of the Constitution. This despite the denials from the President’s bad mouths, Edwin Lacierda and Abigail Valte, both of whom happen to be lawyers. I can only surmise that the two bad mouths slept through the lectures of Father Joaquin Bernas when Demetria was discussed in their Constitutional Law 1 class.

But will the President be impeached because of DAP? Here, we have history to turn to. As a veteran of three impeachment complaints against Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, I have acquired the wisdom to know that as a political process, the fate of impeachment depends on the largesse of the President. In fact, every member of Congress rejoices with the filing of an impeachment complaint because with it comes lots and lots of taxpayers money to buy the votes of the Tongressmen and Senatongs. So while the law clearly states that the President may be removed because of DAP, the reality is that expenditures such as the DAP and the PDAF, including the Malampaya fund, etc., will  almost surely be used to insulate the President from any threat of removal.

Having said this, is PNoy off the hook? Certainly not. Writing as an ordinary citizen, I have to say that PNoy’s violation of the constitution elicits further anger than those committed by PGMA. This is because of his promise that he will take the daang matuwid. When he promised this, I thought, as did the millions that gave him a tremendous popular mandate, that in addition to being less corrupt; the President, unlike PGMA, will rebuild damaged institutions.

But instead of doing this, we find that PNoy, through the DAP, was no different from his predecessor: he will commit culpable violations of the Constitution to meet certain ends. True, I supported the ouster of former chief Justice Renato Corona as in fact, I stood as one of the private prosecutors against him. But his removal from office, in my mind, was necessary to restore the integrity and independence of the judicial branch of government. Certainly, it was a cause that called for strengthening the binding nature of the Constitution as only an independent Court can assert the supremacy of the of the Constitution. This cause could not have warranted a breach of the very Constitution that the Corona impeachment sought to uphold as supreme.

It is for this reason that I now hold the President in much contempt. To PNoy, I say: How could you? Where is the daang matuwid?
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