MANILA - President Aquino himself signed authorizations for his unconstitutional P142 billion disbursement acceleration program (DAP), based on documents shown by the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan).
However, Aquino's spokesman sees no liability for the chief executive or his administration after parts of the DAP were declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.
Lacierda confirmed that Aquino himself authorized the DAP.
"We have authorization. It is part of the requirement. As far as we know, yes. I haven't seen a copy yet. So that was what I was informed by Secretary Butch Abad."
The Bagong Alyansang Makabayan claims this is the smoking gun on Aquino's liability.
Bayan secretary general Renato M. Reyes, Jr. said the President is accountable for DAP because he signed and approved the release of billions of pesos from 2011-2013.
"His signature appears on the requests for release of funds submitted by the Department of Budget and Management, which were also signed and endorsed by Abad. At least 7 memoranda were signed by Aquino based on the DBM submissions to the SC that we have obtained," he said.
"The DBM also claims that it was the President who gave them the 'authority' to consolidate savings and utilize these for projects approved by the President. So it is clear that the buck stops with Aquino," Reyes added.
Reyes said that in the first DAP memo issued by the DBM dated October 12, 2011, Aquino signed and approved the release of an additional P6.5 billion for the PDAF of lawmakers in time for the Corona impeachment trial.
On December 21, 2011, Aquino approved additional projects worth P13.3 billion.
On June 27, 2012, Aquino signed and approved another Abad memorandum seeking the "omnibus authority to consolidate savings/unutilized balances and their realignment. The approved projects amounted to P32 billion, including P2 billion for Tarlac roadworks and another P8.3 billion "various local projects."
Aquino also approved the withdrawal of unobligated balances of NGA's for "slow moving projects," declaring them savings and authorizing their realignment.
On September 5, 2012, Aquino signed and approved Abad's September 4, 2012 memorandum seeking the "release of funds for other priority projects and expenditures of government." Projects for this period amounted to nearly P6 billion.
On December 21, 2012, Aquino approved the release of P33.3 billion in DAP funds, chargeable against "available savings and the 2012 unprogrammed fund." This again included the item "other various local projects" this time amounting to P2.79 billion.
In May 2013, Aquino approved more DAP releases amounting to P10 billion. This included again an item called "various local projects" amounting to P4.6 billion, the biggest item for the period.
Lastly, on September 25, 2013, Aquino approved the release of P10.534 billion in funds for the Task Force Pablo Rehabilitation plan, supposedly for livelihood, resettlement, infrastructure and social services.
"A special audit of the DAP projects is necessary. The Commission on Audit, in a dialogue with the outgoing Chair, refused to conduct a special audit, and instead directed us to monitor the regular audit. With the SC decision on the DAP, and with calls for accountability getting stronger, it is COA's job to conduct a special audit of the DAP projects," Reyes added.
NOT LIABLE FOR IMPEACHMENT
Lacierda declined to comment on how the President has taken the ruling, saying Malacañang is still waiting for the full SC decision.
"Without seeing the entire decision, it's like asking us to comment on the full movie when we were able to watch only the last 10 seconds of the film," he said.
Nevertheless, the spokesman said he doesn't think Aquino will be liable for impeachment on the ground of culpable violation of the Constitution.
He pointed out that the SC decision did not say the entire DAP is unconstitutional but only four specific acts.
Lacierda said the DAP is not the first government act to be stricken down by the Supreme Court.
"We agree that a number of Republic Acts have been declared unconstitutional. Why the specific concern over this particular act and not over the acts? For instance, I will give you an example, in the case of RH (Reproductive Health) there were a number of provisions… I think, specifically, eight provisions were declared unconstitutional. What's the difference between this case and that case? So does it rise… The basic issue is: Does it rise to a level of an impeachable offense because an act is declared unconstitutional? So that's the question that you ask," he said.
He added: "We have several acts that have been declared unconstitutional in the past, not just in this administration. It never reached the level of impeachability. Why the sudden interest on this particular act?"
Lacoerda said Budget Secretary Butch Abad, who is said to be the architect of the DAP, still enjoys the President's trust despite calls for him to resign or be sacked.
He also does not think Aquino's anti-corruption moral ascendancy has been diminished, pointing out that the public benefited from the DAP.
Among the projects funded by the DAP are the Nationwide Operational Assessment of Hazards (NOAH) of the Department of Science and Technology and the Doppler radar system.
IN GOOD FAITH
Lacierda said mere declaration of unconstitutionality is not the same as incurring criminal liability.
He also maintained President Aquino acted in good faith when he approved the DAP.
"We have always believed that the President has served with integrity and faithfulness, and the Filipino people know that very well. Do we view the threats seriously? Again, that's a question of exactly what is the basis for the impeachability of the President when other Republic Acts or other acts have been declared as also unconstitutional. Does it rise to the level of impeachability? That's the question that they should ask."
The spokesman said there is still the option to file a motion for reconsideration before the SC.
However, he also pointed out that the DAP has been discontinued as of last year.
"Well, I think, prior to the decision of the Supreme Court, the Disbursement Acceleration Program has already served its purpose. We already had it halted, I think, in 2013 if I'm not mistaken. End of 2013. So it has served its purpose," he said.
Last December 28, 2013, Abad, Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima and Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan recommended the DAP be discontinued following the controversy generated by the revelation that DAP projects were given to lawmakers during the Corona impeachment.
The three government officials said all economic and fiscal indicators "point to the conclusion that DAP has achieved its objective as a fiscal stimulus measure."
Lacierda said the administration has no regrets about the DAP.
"How does one regret a decision to help thousands of people, of our countrymen? How does one regret installing a Doppler radar warning system? How does one regret the setting up of school buildings? These are noble projects which benefited the people,' he said.
He also sidestepped calls for lawmakers who benefited from the DAP to return the money.
"We have to wait for the decision. I haven't seen the decision. We have to look into the decision as to what guidelines were provided, if any. Until such time, I cannot speak on that," he said.
He also said the public will be apprised of the projects funded through DAP.
"What we said that the list will be provided to the public, it is with the Supreme Court right now, so until… When it becomes final and executory, it will be released. But I understand there is already a list coming out. I don't know where it's coming from. How does one define criminal or wrongdoing?"