MANILA - President Benigno Aquino III on Wednesday challenged critics to file an impeachment case against him over the controversial Disbursement Acceleration Program fund releases.
Speaking to reporters, Aquino debunked the claims of former senator Joker Arroyo and Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago that the DAP releases are illegal and unconstitutional and could be used as grounds for impeachment.
"Isulong nila kung palagay nila tama sila pero kakabasa ko lang sa Constitution, meron authority sa savings to put to other uses basta nandun sa ating budget. Nakatoka naman yun supposed to be for projects that are already authorized by Congress. Since they were both senators, one would assume that they would either supportive of the budget or they were not successful to alter the budget," he said.
He denied that the DAP was used as bribes to senators after the Corona trial.
The controversy over the DAP started after Sen. Jinggoy Estrada, who is facing plunder charges before the Ombudsman, revealed that several senators received at least P50 million each in DAP funds after the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona.
Arroyo earlier described as "criminal and unconstitutional" the use of the DAP, saying that the fund came from savings of other government agencies. He noted that 11 senators received half a billion pesos worth of projects under the DAP in April 2012 in the middle of the Corona trial.
"This is a criminal and unconstitutional measure kasi you will see sa budget wala yun. There is no authorization for anyone to appropriate that money and spend it," he told Punto por Punto host Anthony Taberna.
Santiago, meanwhile, said the Constitution bars any law authorizing any transfer of appropriations. She said the DAP was used to augment new budget items not previously authorized by Congress.
“Under American law, if the President discovers an enacted appropriation which has not been spent, the President cannot just cancel the appropriation. The President must first ask Congress for a rescission, meaning a cancellation or cut-back of appropriated funds for a project no longer considered necessary. The President cannot act by himself alone. Such a law would restore the balance of power between the executive and legislative branches,” she said.
Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda earlier said the President's use of these savings is allowed by the Constitution.
Lacierda cited Article 6, Sec 25, Sub-section 5 of the Constitution which states that the President, Senate President, House Speaker, Chief Justice and heads of constitutional commissions "may, by law, be authorized to augment any item in the general appropriations law for their respective offices from savings in other items of their respective appropriations."
ANC, October 2, 2013