Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales has indicted former President Benigno Simeon Aquino III for usurpation of legislative powers in connection with the alleged anomalous Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).
In a resolution dated May 22, 2018, which was approved by the Ombudsman on June 14, 2018, the special panel partially granted the motion for reconsideration filed by complainants Carlos Isagani Zarate, Renato Reyes, Benjamin Valbuena, Dante LA Jimenez, Mae Paner, Antonio Flores, Gloria Arellano and Bonifacio Carmona Jr.
In the same resolution, the special panel denied the motion for reconsideration filed by former Department of Budget and Management Secretary Florencio Abad, affirming Abad’s earlier criminal indictment for the same offense and his administrative liability.
Malacañang welcomes indictment
The case stemmed from the unlawful issuance of National Budget Circular No. 541 to implement the DAP involving PHP72 billion, which authorized the withdrawal of unobligated allotments of agencies with low levels of obligations as of June 30, 2012.
In its resolution, the Ombudsman said “a re-evaluation of the case establishes that the individual actions of respondent Aquino and respondent-movant Abad showed a joint purpose and design to encroach on the powers of Congress by expanding the meaning of savings to fund programs, activities and projects under the DAP.”
“Abad’s act of issuing NBC 541 cannot be viewed in a vacuum. The evidence on record shows that an exchange of memoranda between [Aquino] and [Abad] precipitated its issuance. Verily, without the approval of the said memoranda by respondent Aquino, NBC 541 would not have been issued,” it added.
The Ombudsman added in the memorandum dated June 25, 2012, “respondent Aquino, by marginal notes, specified his unqualified approval on the following requests: (1) grant of omnibus authority to consolidate fiscal year 2012 savings/unutilized balances and its realignment; and (2) grant of authority to withdraw unobligated balances of national government agencies for slow-moving projects/expenditures as of 30 June 2012 and its realignment.”
The anti-graft body said Aquino had the authority and the duty to look into each item on the memorandum before signifying his approval.
“An examination of the Memorandum would show that respondent Aquino made marginal notes on several expenditure items and on the approval page. Such marginal notes show meaningful discussion between respondents and not mere reliance of a superior on a subordinate. Thus, respondent Aquino cannot rely on the Arias doctrine,” it added.
“It is thus clear that respondent-movant Abad sought the approval of respondent Aquino on both the request for authority to pool savings to fund the DAP and the request for omnibus authority to pool savings/unutilized balances. In both instances, respondent Aquino knowingly gave his approval. His approval prompted the issuance of NBC 541 which directed the withdrawal of unobligated allotments and unreleased appropriations and their declaration as savings, which is contrary to law,” the Ombudsman said.
In 2014, the Supreme Court declared unconstitutional the following acts committed in pursuance of the DAP: (1) 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 General Appropriations Act; and (2) the cross-border transfers of the savings of the Executive to augment the appropriations of other offices outside the Executive Branch. (PNA)