MANILA - Liberal Party member and Iloilo Representative Niel Tupas maintained that President Benigno Aquino III did not threaten the Supreme Court (SC) when he defended his administration's Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) in a televised nationwide address last week.
In his speech last July 14, Aquino criticized the high court for its ruling declaring certain acts and practices under the DAP as unconstitutional.
"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," Aquino said.
Speaking to ANC's "Beyond Politics" on Tuesday, Tupas said Aquino was just "honest" in his speech. He believes the President could not hide his disappointment over the decision of the SC.
"He feels na talagang naapektuhan ang programa niya especially with all the calamities na nangyari... So parang naging honest siya sa feelings niya hanggang sa humantong doon sa wag na sanang magkabanggaan," he said.
But he said Aquino did not in any way threaten the SC. In fact, Aquino made it clear he would follow the legal process by filing a motion for reconsideration, Tupas said.
Malacañang has consistently defended the DAP, claiming it helped spur the country's economic growth.
But the SC, in its decision, pointed out that the executive can only use and transfer money to other agencies if this is in the form of savings and is appropriated under the General Appropriations Act (GAA).
Tupas, meanwhile, has filed a bill seeking to abolish the high court's lump sum fund -- the Judiciary Development Fund (JDF) -- following the SC's ruling on the DAP.
But he maintained that the bill is an "honest-to-goodness" legislation and is not a retaliation against the SC.
He said what's happening now with the DAP is part of the "system of checks and balances."
"Mate-threaten lang siguro ang judiciary kung may ginawa silang masama diyan sa pondo," Tupas said.
'A CLEAR THREAT'
Bayan Muna Representative Neri Colmenares, however, disagreed with Tupas, saying that is very obvious that the President issued a threat against the SC.
"Ibig sabihin, pag hindi pumayag ang Korte Suprema sa MR (motion for reconsideration) niya, magbabangaan sila. Yun na yung threat eh," he said.
"An ordinary lawyer may not file an MR sa 13-0 [unanimous decision], pero pag Presidente ka na may threat, it changes everything," he added.
According to the lawmaker, the SC now only has two options: it may either stand pat on its DAP ruling or give in to Malacañang.
Unfortunately, both options will lead to a crisis, Colmenares said.
He said if the SC maintains its DAP ruling, there will be a clash between the executive and the judiciary.
And if the high court reverses its ruling, many people will express outrage, he said.
"There wil be hundreds of rallies all over the country. The people will be saying: Anong klase kang Korte Suprema? Anong klase kang Presidente na ginawa mo yun?"
Colmenares is one of the lawmakers who have endorsed an impeachment complaint against the President over the DAP.
The complaint, filed by militant group Bayan and 27 other complainants, accuses Aquino of culpable violation of the Constitution and betrayal of public trust.