Aquino camp 'curious' at reversal of earlier Ombudsman decision clearing him of charges
MANILA (UPDATED) - Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales has indicted former President Benigno Aquino III for the implementation of the controversial Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) during his administration.
In a statement Wednesday, the Office of the Ombudsman said Morales "found probable cause" to hail Aquino to court for the alleged unlawful issuance of National Budget Circular No. 541 for the implementation of DAP, an economic stimulus program.
The issuance authorized the release of P72 billion in funds through the withdrawal of unobligated allotments from various government agencies in 2012.
Aquino was charged with usurpation of legislative powers under Article 239 of the Revised Penal Code.
The anti-graft body's latest move reverses it's 2017 decision which cleared Aquino of charges over the alleged illegal implementation of the DAP in 2011, 2012, and 2013.
Former Budget Secretary Florencio Abad was the only official found liable in the supposed illegal implementation of DAP last year.
The Ombudsman found probable cause to charge him with usurpation of legislative powers, a crime that carries a penalty of imprisonment ranging from six months and one day to six years.
Abad was also found guilty of simple misconduct and ordered suspended for three months. Since he is no longer in office, he must pay a penalty equivalent to three months of salary.
The Supreme Court invalidated several acts under Aquino's DAP, including cross-border allotments, unconstitutional in 2014.
Asked for comment, Aquino's spokesperson Abigail Valte said: "We are yet to receive a copy of the Ombudsman’s decision. We’re quite curious to study how the Office arrived at a reversal of its previous decision finding no liability on the part of Former President Aquino."
The Liberal Party, meanwhile, defended Aquino's actions in relation to the implementation of the DAP.
"The DAP was crafted with the intention to deliver the services and infrastructure needed by the people and guided by the laws available to the executive. This is why former President Aquino gave his nod to the program," the party said in a statement Wednesday.
"Before all courts and until the very end of the process, former Pres. Aquino will show that he did not commit any illegal act. He will respect the process, as he expects that his reasoning be also given due course," it added.
Meanwhile, Senator Panfilo Lacson expressed his support for Aquino, saying it is clear the former president "did not pocket any DAP money" based on the case filed against him.
"While I feel for the former president, the question on his possible culpability on the actions taken by his DBM secretary will largely depend on the documents and paper trail made available to the Ombudsman prosecutors to prove or disprove his direct or indirect participation," he said in a statement.
"What is clear, though, is that former President Aquino did not pocket any DAP money, hence the case filed is for usurpation of legislative power and not violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act," Lacson added.
Last year, Morales also indicted Aquino for usurpation of authority and violation of the anti-graft and corrupt practices act over the botched anti-terror raid in Mamasapano, Maguindanao province in 2015, where 44 police commandos were killed.