MANILA - Senator Miriam Santiago said President Benigno Aquino III and Budget Secretary Florencio Abad should be made accountable for the unconstitutional Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).
“Can [Aquino] be impeached, definitely. But can he be impeached in reality? They have to muster enough votes so it’s bound to fail. I will not blame, however, the people who will attempt to test the waters, float a trial balloon,” she said.
Santiago also had the following advice for Abad.
"[For Abad], my gentle recommendation is for him to just resign… If we adapt an attitude that we are beyond questioning, that we are – by some unearthly process – are converted by a mere fact that our positions are of angelic creatures or demons who are beyond the reach of law – then the answer is different," she said.
The Supreme Court yesterday declared several acts under the DAP unconstitutional. To summarize, the high court said 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.
The discretionary fund earlier hit the headlines when Senator Jinggoy Estrada bared that several senators received some P50 million to P100 million supposedly in exchange for voting to convict former Chief Justice Renato Corona. The DAP supposedly totaled P1.1 billion.
The government claimed this was used to bolster infrastructure spending to buoy economic growth.
"The good faith doctrine – there is no such thing in the Revised Penal Code or criminal law. You don't consider the good faith, except in certain circumstances," Santiago said.
Since DAP was declared unconstitutional in its essence, this means the disbursement of the funds was already a crime committed, she said.
"Akala ng DBM, pwede nila pulutin kung saan-saan at ipamigay without any criteria. That’s not how the law works,” she said.
The P1.1 billion ”stolen” should be given back to the Filipino people, she said.
“The Ombudsman and the Department of Justice should file a criminal case against each person because that’s a crime. The Constitution says that you can’t do that, but still you went ahead as if there is nothing to answer for. You just committed a crime!” Santiago noted.
The possible crime here is technical malversation, she said.
A civil case should also be lodged in order that the P1.1 billion will be returned to the public, she said.
"Third, there should be active cooperation between the Commission on Audit and the DOJ. All documents, statistics should be made available to prosecutors… It will take long, but it must be taken," she added.
Several pundits said the SC decision tried to take the blame off the president in order to protect him from any criminal charges. The SC has yet to issue the entire document.
Even Santiago could not hide her dismay. "It’s now a case of doctrinal chaos. You can’t understand what are the principles applied. Is it a principle of constitutional law? Penal law? Civil law?”
"This is why there is an urgent need for the SC to “pinpoint responsibility… If we are going to observe the principle of responsibility in public office, we can’t just pass the law and say it’s valid or invalid. If it’s invalid, who’s responsible for the actions taken under it,” she said.
In Philippine jurisprudence, there is such a thing as “intermediate consequences,” she added.
For example, between the time a law was passed and invalidated, several acts have already been established. The acts already meant liability, she explained.
She said the unconstitutional DAP has implications.
“What happens to the decision to [oust Corona]? It is now tainted by suspicions of bribery,” she said.
“What is now the effect on judicial review of cases? In effect, you’re saying as long as you’re in good faith, you can violate the Constitution?”