More justification for DAP

By Jess Diaz, The Philippine Star

Posted at Jul 21 2014 09:23 AM | Updated as of Jul 21 2014 05:23 PM

MANILA - Local government units (LGUs) throughout the country will have to stop the financial assistance they give to courts as a consequence of the Supreme Court (SC)’s ruling on the controversial Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), a senior lawmaker said yesterday.

Rep. Elpidio Barzaga Jr. of Dasmariñas City in Cavite, who is former mayor of his city, said LGUs would also have to withdraw whatever assistance they extend to the Commission on Elections (Comelec) and the Commission on Audit (COA).

Such financial aid could be considered as “cross-border” transfer of funds, which the SC ruling on DAP prohibits, Barzaga said.

He warned the high court that the withdrawal of such assistance could cripple local courts.

“The financial assistance from LGUs include construction of courtrooms and buildings, additional allowances for judges, procurement of computers, equipment and office supplies, and payment for casual workers assigned to courts,” he said.

He said courts are housed in buildings constructed with funds from LGUs and the executive branch.

Barzaga said the impact of stopping such help would be huge on regional trial courts and metropolitan trial courts.

“As it is, the condition of our local courts is already deplorable, to say the least. Imagine how far it can get worse without a shot of financial aid from LGUs? Barring the local courts from receiving funds from LGUs is obviously not in the interest of ensuring quick dispensation of justice,” he stressed.

He pointed out that if the SC ruling on DAP were followed, the entire judiciary, including local courts, would have to reject assistance from outside its sphere as this would be cross-border transfer of funds.

“There has to be a clarification from the Supreme Court because no one would want to be held criminally liable for simply trying to help the judiciary meet its financial needs and ease some of its burden,” he added.

In a motion asking the SC to reconsider its decision declaring parts of DAP unconstitutional, the administration said the high court itself made cross-border fund transfers at least twice before it prohibited such practice.

One instance was when it augmented funds of the Department of Justice for the court building in Manila.

The judiciary had received fund augmentations or realignments from the Department of Budget and Management.

The latest realignment amounted to P10.133 million and released on June 6, 2013 to the Court of Appeals for “additional funding requirements for travelling and other expenses.”

It is not clear if the money was sourced from DAP, which the Aquino administration implemented from 2011 to 2013.

In 2010, the appellate court received P35 million for its “zero backlog activities,” while P13.5 million was given to the Court of Tax Appeals for its “operational requirements.” The funds were released on Dec. 13.

That same year, P50 million was released to the Commission on Appointments for “operating requirements.” The independent commission is the congressional body that screens Cabinet appointees.

In 2006, the SC received an additional P134.185 million from Malacañang. The Court of Appeals was given P35 million.

That same year, P200 million was released to Congress on top of its appropriations.

There had been similar fund realignments to the Comelec, COA and the Office of the Ombudsman.

Such transfers would now be banned under the SC ruling on DAP.

PNP got P4-B DAP

Meanwhile, the Philippine National Police (PNP) has received some P4 billion in DAP funds on top of its P7.8-billion budget last year.

Department of Budget and Management (DBM) records submitted to the SC showed allocation of seven items to the PNP funded by the economic stimulus program that was declared unconstitutional by the high court.

An allocation of P45 million was spent for the construction of the PNP Maritime Group Training Facility in Mabini, Batangas to enhance the rescue capabilities of the police force.

Another P8.722 million was earmarked for the construction of the PNP Crisis Action Force Building at Camp Crame.

One big-ticket allocation is P115.556 million for the implementation of the “P1,000 per capita/personnel for every police station pursuant to Special Provision No. 8 of Fiscal Year 2011 GAA RA 10147.”

Another P100 million was set aside to support the requirements of the Department of the Interior and Local Government transfer to the National Police Commission building in Quezon City.

Two other big-ticket items were the construction of 20 new police stations, which cost the government P128.210 million, and the hiring of non-uniformed personnel at P860.705 million.

An additional budget of P2 billion was earmarked for the PNP modernization program. –With Edu Punay