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SC strikes down certain provisions of DAP as unconstitutional

(Updated 4:29 p.m.) The Supreme Court has voted unanimously to strike down as unconstitutional specific acts under the controversial Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) of the Aquino government.

In a press briefing in Manila on Tuesday, SC spokesman Theodore Te said the high court sitting en banc declared the following "acts and practices" under the DAP, National Budget Circular No. 541, and related issuances as unconstitutional:

- the withdrawal of unobligated allotments from the implementing agencies, and the declaration of the withdrawn unobligated allotments and unreleased appropriations as savings prior to the end of the fiscal year and without complying with the statutory definition of savings contained in the General Appropriations Act;

- the cross-border transfers of the savings of the executive to augment the appropriations of other offices outside the executive; and

- the funding of projects, activities and programs that were not covered by any appropriation in the GAA.

Te said these acts violated Section 25 (5) Article VI of the 1987 Constitution and the doctrines of separation of powers.

The National Budget Circular No. 541, which sanctions the DAP, allows the DBM to withdraw “unobligated allotments of agencies with low levels of obligations as of June 30, 2012, both for continuing and current allotments.”

The court also ruled as void the portion of the DAP that allows the use of unprogrammed funds even without a certification from the National Treasurer saying that revenue collections exceeded the revenue targets due to non-compliance with the conditions provided in the relevant GAA.
Te said the high court en banc voted 13-0-1, with Associate Justice Teresita Leonardo-De Castro recusing. 
A court insider said the petitioners were "partially granted" because "other prayers of the petitioners, like the disclosure of documents, were not granted because they were moot."

Nine petitions have been filed with the high court contesting the legality of the DAP, a discretionary fund that hit the headlines after Sen. Jinggoy Estrada revealed that several senators received P50 million to P100 million after the conviction of Chief Justice Renato Corona by the Senate impeachment court.

Te said the dispositive portion of the ruling did not mention anything about liabilities of the government officials involved in the DAP.

Asked to comment on the SC ruling, presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said in a text message sent to GMA News Online that they will wait first for the full decision to come out.
"We are not in a position to make a comment until we see the full decision," he said.

Savings or presidential pork barrel?

The Aquino government said the fund came from "unobligated allotments of all agencies with low level of obligations as of June 30, 2012 both for continuing and current allotment" that President Benigno Aquino III ordered withdrawn on June 27, 2012.
The “withdrawn funds” were deemed as savings by Aquino and Budget Sec. Florencio "Butch" Abad, and realigned to “augment existing programs and projects of other agencies” and “fund priority programs and projects not considered in the 2012 budget but expected to be started or implemented within the current year.”
But the petitioners have argued the DAP funds could not be artificially deemed as “savings” as defined by the Department of Budget and Management and the General Appropriations Act of 2012 since there couldn't be savings in the middle of a fiscal year, especially if the projects or programs for which these funds were allocated by law, haven't been completed, discontinued or abandoned.
They said the funds accumulated through the DAP were part of the presidential pork barrel, where only the sitting President, or in this case, Aquino, can determine where the funds will go. They said this could be used for patronage politics.
During oral arguments last January, the government had insisted that the SC debate on the issue was already moot since the Aquino administration has already stopped the implementation of the DAP.
Abad, during the Jan. 28 debates, said the country’s economic managers have already recommended to Aquino to stop the implementation of the DAP.
Malacañang had reiterated the President's statement that DAP was essential in boosting economic growth.
Te said copies of the resolution would be available "within the next few days." 

"The decision itself will be promulgated as soon as editing is done and separate opinions are submitted," he said.

The SC spokesman said separate opinions will be submitted by Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, and Associate Justices Arturo Brion, Mariano del Castillo, Estela Perlas-Bernabe and Marvic Leonen. —With a report from Kimberly Jane Tan/KG/YA/KBK, GMA News