THE Ombudsman’s Special Panel of Investigators has ordered former President Benigno S. Aquino III and other former Aquino officials to comment on the motions for reconsideration filed in connection with the controversial Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).
All parties to the DAP cases, including Aquino, have 15 days from notice within which to file their comments.
In an earlier ruling, the Ombudsman found probable cause to charge former Budget Becretary Florencio Abad Jr. with violation of Article 239 (Usurpation of Legislative Powers) of the Revised Penal Code (RPC).
However, in their motion for reconsideration, complainants, led by Party-list Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate of Bayan Muna, filed their motion questioning the Ombudsman’s March 7, 2017, ruling and called for the indictment of Abad and Aquino for technical malversation and violation of the antigraft law.
They said Aquino and Abad should be indicted for technical malversation because they are the public officers in charge of the national budget and as such they are the ones who authored the DAP-caused illegal transfers of funds.
The charge stemmed from Abad’s issuance of National Budget Circular (NBC), 541 to carry out the implementation of the controversial DAP involving P72 billion.
The Ombudsman said NBC 541 authorizes the withdrawal of unobligated allotments of agencies with low levels of obligations as of June 30, 2012.
“During the investigation it found that by issuing NBC 541, Abad unlawfully encroached on the powers of Congress by effectively modifying the provisions on savings of the 2012 General Appropriations Act [GAA],” the Ombudsman said.
According to the Ombudsman, “NBC 541 provided the principal bases for the withdrawal of unobligated allotments, which were declared as savings and used to fund PAPs [programs, activities and projects] under the DAP. The issuance of this circular is an act of usurpation. This is contrary to law.”
Violation of Article 239 of the RPC is penalized by prision correccional in its minimum period and temporary special disqualification from public office.
In 2014 the Supreme Court declared unconstitutional the following acts committed in pursuance of the DAP:
Withdrawal of unobligated allotments from the implementing agencies; and the declaration of the withdrawn unobligated allotments and unreleased appropriations as savings prior to the end of the fiscal year without complying with the statutory definition of savings contained in the GAA; and
The cross-border transfers of the savings of the Executive department to augment the appropriations of other offices outside that department.