The 6th sowing - Manila Standard

Culpable violation

If Speaker Feliciano “Sonny” Belmonte, Jr. truly understands what he is talking about, he would not recklessly open his mouth to defend the release of the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) by saying it is legal, constitutional and logical. Many are asking: Where did Belmonte get that silly idea?  They could only surmise that either he is a downright ignoramus, or has all the reasons to justify the diversion of funds for which he became notorious as mayor of Quezon City, fattened by an astronomical budget of more than P3 billion annually. Section 25, Article VI of the Constitution is as clear as the sky when it repeats in every subsection from (1) to (6) the word “appropriation.” The word “appropriation” refers to the fund for which a law is enacted.  In that law where funds are appropriated, it must state the purpose why funds have to be released.  Only a rubberstamp Congress will enact an appropriations law without stating the purpose, or conversely, state the purpose but without funding it.  It is not just a question of legality or constitutionality, but plain and simple common sense. It is from that time-honored process that Congress has been entrusted the duty to enact laws on appropriation, and this explains why there exist provisions in the Revised Penal Code (RPC) reminding public officials on how public funds should be spent.   To be precise, if there is no law appropriating funds for that particular purpose, then acts to that effect would violate Article 217 of the RPC, or malversation of public funds or property.    If there was a law appropriating public funds, but said public officer used the fund for a different purpose, he is still liable under Article 220 for the illegal use of public funds, commonly known as “technical malversation”. It is not even about the misuse of public funds as PNoy’s derailed spokeswoman would insist, but massive malversation.   It is for this why many are saying Speaker Belmonte is talking nonsense because the Congress that he presides over has yet to abrogate the criminal provisions on malversation.  Unless and until Congress does that, only then could the public take him seriously. To begin with, the controversy about the DAP has nothing to do with the aligning of savings as envisioned in Subsection (5), Section 25 of Article VI giving the President, the Senate President, the Speaker of the House, the Chief Justice, and the heads of constitutional commissions the authority to augment anytime appropriations for their respective offices from savings in other items of their respective appropriations. Here, the President committed a series of culpable violation of the Constitution by authorizing his own department, the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) headed by a yellow zealot like him, to fund certain projects as requested by their minions in Congress directly from the President’s bloated budget, or by authorizing their release without the benefit of any congressional appropriations.  The funny thing is they all assume things can be made legal by branding their modus operandi, calling it the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP). Speaker Belmonte also justifies that the use of DAP is to help speed up the implementation of the corrupted administration projects.  He could not recall even as a lawyer that many public servants had been dismissed from the service, sent to jail or had their retirement benefits forfeited for trying to skirt the bidding requirement in the approval of projects or procurement of materials by government agencies.  It is illogical and maybe senile for Belmonte to assume he is above the law or that he can get away with the bidding process all in the name of wanting to speed up many of the graft-laden projects of this corrupt administration. The rationale in enjoining public officials to strictly observe the implementation of Section 25, subsection (5) of Article VI of the Constitution is to prevent the erosion of power that divides the three branches of government.  It is the concrete application of the system of checks and balance. To permit that, as Belmonte would suggest, would allow the President to freely bribe every member of Congress and public official just for him to get what he wants, which is exactly what he is doing now.  It is worse than financial dictatorship, as Senator Joker Arroyo would say, for it is a corrupted form of dictatorship with this pretending to be honest government, feeling it could not be held liable for bribery under the RPC and  under the anti-Graft Practices Act. I know one honest public servant who was punished by the court for skirting the mandated bidding process.  Despite the fact that the honest public servant obtained the supplies lower than those offered by those corrupting and losing bidders, and even proved it to the court that no damage was suffered by the government, and believing he was doing a patriotic duty,  he was nonetheless punished by those bigoted justices by depriving him of his retirement benefit. In fact, many are shaking their heads why the Supreme Court refused to issue a temporary restraining order for the continued release of the DAP.  The refusal amounts to abetting those haughty hypocrites to continue with their illegal acts of releasing public funds and in treating Congress like a doormat. Right now, Aquino, Abad, Drilon and Belmonte and their cabal are basking in arrogance with their blatant disregard of the time-honored constitutional procedure.  They have practically converted our national treasury into their private piggy bank with full authority to their trusted paymaster on how much money should be released, for what purpose said money should be released, and who would be entitled with Malacañang playing the role as the year-round Santa Claus. It is for this reason why we cannot follow the justification of Belmonte that the new mode in releasing public funds adopted by this pretending to be honest government is legal, constitutional and logically sound.
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