Did PNoy threaten SC justices with impeachment?
Bayan Muna Rep. Colmenares believes PNoy did
MANILA - After the Supreme Court (SC) stripped President
Benigno Aquino III of his Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) and his congressional allies stripped of their Priority Development Assistance Funds (PDAF), there are now talks of the impeachment SC justices and the abolition of the Judiciary Development Fund (JDF).
These, amid continued talks of the President's own impeachment over the unconstitutional DAP.
Aquino ended his speech on DAP on Monday night with the following:
"Ang mensahe ko po sa Korte Suprema: Ayaw nating umabot pa sa puntong magbabanggaan ang dalawang magkapantay na sangay ng gobyerno, kung saan kailangan pang mamagitan ng ikatlong sangay ng gobyerno. Ang panawagan natin sa Korte Suprema: huwag ninyo naman sana kaming hadlangan. Hindi ba dapat kasama namin kayo sa repormang ito? Tapusin na natin ang sistemang nagpapahamak sa taumbayan."
Bayan Muna Representative Neri Colmenares believes the President has threatened the justices of the high court with impeachment.
"It's a threat kasi sinasabi niya, 'Pag di niyo i-grant MR (motion for reconsideration), magbabanggaan tayo.' Pag di sundin ng President ang Korte Suprema, magkaka-crisis talaga," Colmenares said.
He added, "Really very difficult speech kahapon. Nobody expected he will come with two new things. Sabi niya, 'mag-MR kami at SC, sana tingnan mo MR namin. Otherwise magkabanggaan."
Colmenares maintained Aquino submitted the national budgets for congressional approval. He believes that considering Aquino's tenure in office, he cannot pin DAP on his predecessor.
"Masyado na mahaba [ang term] ni President. Tama na, huwag na sisi sa iba, sisihin mo pa previous administration?" he said.
Aquino, in his speech, said: "Kung maaalala po ninyo, nang umupo tayo sa puwesto, tumatakbo na ang 2010 budget, at minana rin natin ang panukalang budget ng 2011. Isipin po ninyo: Sa P1.54 trillion na dinatnan nating pondo ng 2010, nasa P100 billion o 6.5 percent lang nito ang natitirang gamitin sa nalalabing anim na buwan ng taon."
Aquino drafted the 2012 and 2013 budgets.
ADMIN CODE VS CHARTER
Colmenares also rebutted the President's repeated invocation of the Administrative Code, arguing that the Constitution is supreme over the Administrative Code.
He reiterated that government generates savings only upon project completion or abandonment of the project, but what Aquino did was generate savings without even making sure implementing agencies actually implemented the project.
He also pointed out that the budgets are good for one year and not half-year.
Colmenares believes Aquino wants the SC to reverse its ruling so he can continue his DAP in future years.
Colmenares also said the administration cannot claim good faith in DAP since Aquino himself is a critic of impoundment of funds. He added that the public has to feel the economic benefits of DAP.
IMPEACHMENT, COMING SOON?
For his part, Aquino's Liberal Party colleague, House Justice Committee Chairman Niel Tupas, said his panel will treat with dispatch any impeachment complaint against any official, whether it's against the President or the justices of the Supreme Court.
"We will, sabi ko nga kanina, it's our constitutional duty once impeachment complaint filed and referred, we will hear that complaint whether against SC or President. [It] has to go through process. We will treat it with dispatch and urgency. All impeachment complaints , there's certain period we have to finish it, matagal yun, 60 session days yun," he said.
Aquino's allies enjoy super majorities in both houses of Congress.
BILL VS JDF
As if that wasn't enough, Tupas filed a bill stripping the Supreme Court of control over its own lump sum fund -- the JDF.
House Bill 4730, if enacted, will abolish the current JDF and replace it with a Judiciary Support Fund (JSF).
Like the JDF, it will be funded from collections of court fees but unlike the JDF, the SC can only tap it upon submission of an itemized budget of expenditures.
Seventy percent must go into allowances of personnel, 15 percent for maintenance of court offices, and 15 percent for office supplies.
Unlike the JDF, the JSF will be managed by the National Treasury. The JDF is currently controlled by the SC and can only be subjected to a general audit of the Commission on Audit (COA).
In the same breath, Tupas wants a special audit of the JDF.
Tupas maintained this move is not a tit for tat.
"Let's look at it this way system is working. It's the system of checks and balances. SC checks the legislature by declaring PDAF unconstitutional, it also checked executive by declaring DAP unconstitutional. I think the executive is respecting that's the very purpose why President intends to file an MR," he said.
For her part, former national treasurer Leonor Briones does not think that the list of DAP projects released after the President's speech satisfied the need for transparency.
Briones pointed out that the list does not state the status of the projects.
"This is exactly what I keep saying: COA has to verify. 2012 ito, 2014 na, whether projects constructed, delivered, and they were overpriced or whether [Janet Lim] Napoles got a share. Mere listing doesn't satisfy requirements expected by the people."
Briones also shot down the good faith defense of the administration.
"[Good faith] is the most difficult thing to prove... difficult to believe especially since DBM Circular 541 was initiated by DBM. The secretary is A lawyer, he has a battery of lawyers, he was congressman, secretary, then you have President surrounded by lawyers," she said.
Aquino's allies now plan to pass a supplemental budget to continue to PDAF and DAP-funded projects, something which Briones said should have been done in the first place.
"It seems he has been blaming the former president for many things he could have made -- like a supplemental budget. And it would have been easy because Congress is under his control," Briones said.