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DAP: What did the Supreme Court really say?

(Article Published in the Rappler, Jul 18,2014)

       It is crucial for non-protagonists to listen carefully, and at least not to be deaf, to what the Supreme Court en banc decision really says about the DAP

       With President Benigno Aquino III's announcement on July 14 that the government will ask the Supreme Court to reconsider its July 1 decision en banc on the DAP (Disbursement Acceleration Program, i.e. Araullo, et al v. Aquino III, et al, G.R. 209287 and 8 other petitions), it is certain that the national disturbance called DAP will outstay typhoon Glenda which, by now is reported to be out of the PAR (Philippine Area of Responsibility).

       It needs to be recalled that the Supreme Court promulgated its en banc DAP decision on the 9 consolidated petitions which were filed by various groups, mostly civic and non-governmental organizations, "within days of each other" (sic; words of theponencia itself) only a little over 6 months after the Supreme Court had decided the PDAF (Priority Development Assistance Fund) cases of Belgica, et al v. Ochoa, et al, GR 208566, on November 11, 2013. The PDAF and DAP cases essentially suits that question before the judiciary the legality of certain acts of the legislature and/or the executive concerning the payments of public monies.

       DAP defined

       The DAP petitions were filed after Senator Jinggoy Estrada (now in jail awaiting trial for having received PDAF kickbacks) revealed that some senators (himself included) had been allotted an additional P50 million ($1.15 million*) a couple of years back, by way of, according to him, "incentive" for voting in favor of the impeachment of Chief Justice Renato C. Corona.

       Department of Budget and Management (DBM) Secretary Florencio Abad immediately responded with a public statement, contesting Estrada's characterization of the motive behind the allocation, which benefitted those who voted for impeachment as well as those who voted against it, e.g. Joker Arroyo.

       Abad claimed that on the contrary, "the funds released to the senators had been part of the DAP, a program designed by the DBM to ramp up spending to accelerate economic expansion." That public debate, which was as noisy as backyard quarrels of housewives, on what the allocation was for "brought the DAP to the consciousness of the nation for the first time."

       The DAP, as it was embodied in Budget Circular No. 541 and related issuances of the DBM, was actually a response of the government to criticisms that it was not spending enough to spur the local economy onwards.

       The World Bank itself had at that time warned in its quarterly update released in September 2011 that "the Philippines' economic growth could be reduced, and potential growth could be weakened should the government continue with its underspending ...."

       The government had justified its foot dragging by claiming the need to examine carefully the expenditures of the previous administration but nevertheless took the cue and since then had taken steps to increase its spending. Among those steps was the DAP.

       It is to be noted that the World Bank, obviously as a result of the government's increased spending through, among others, the DAP, had since then accordingly revised its views of the country's steps to ensure its future.

       In fact, the visiting World Bank President Jim Yong Kim personally announced the international organization's intent to offer the country substantial concessional loans to keep the Philippines' progress on course.

       DAP as a 'national disturbance'

       However, the DAP controversy had taken a life of its own, parented by polygamous political motivations and nursed undoubtedly by expressions of the pros and cons of the program in traditional mass and social media alike.

       With the national disturbance called DAP currently still raging within the PAR, it is crucial for us non-protagonists to listen carefully, and at least not to be deaf, to what the Supreme Court en banc decision really said about the DAP, to be deft in sorting out the media's statement of facts from the spin of those doing the reporting, and, with 2016 elections at hand, expose the daft who are obviously exploiting the bad weather for their selfish interests, selling needless and non-functional protective gear against the storm as well as passage through unstable make-shift planks over flood waters.

       The Supreme Court clearly recognized that the DAP, as the P in its name stresses, is a program. It is not a single act or issuance, but a combination of many acts and several issuances.

       Thus, it must be stressed that what the Supreme Court did was to declare questionable not all, but only some of acts and practices in the program.

       The dispositive provision stresses this fact. It states that the decision only "PARTIALLY grants the petitions for certiorari and prohibition" brought before it." Partial, not total.

       The decision declared as "UNCONSTITUTIONAL", only 3 kindsof "acts and practices" in the program and ruled as "VOID" only one kind. (The capitalization and block of "PARTIALLY,"UNCONSTITUTIONAL," and "VOID" are the Supreme Court's, not mine.) – Rappler.com

       To be continued

       (Reynaldo "Gerry" Geronimo is a partner at the Romulo, Mabanta, Buenaventura Sayoc & De los Angeles law office. He is known as The Trust Guru and maintains a website, www.thetrustguru.com.)

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