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Petitioners assert DAP destroys government checks and balances

The Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) has given President Benigno Aquino III a form of “budget dictatorship” and has destroyed the checks and balances between the branches of the government, DAP petitioners said on Tuesday.

In the Supreme Court’s oral arguments over the controversial stimulus program, petitioners said that the DAP is empowering the president to transfer and allocate funds to projects which are not listed under the General Appropriation Act (GAA).

Petitioner Manuel Lazaro said that the power to appropriate budget is with the Congress, and not in the executive branch through the Department of Budget. He said that any programmed activity that will not be found in the GAA is deemed illegal.

“The creation and implementation of the DAP is not only unconstitutional and illegal, but is also vitiated with grave abuse of discretion,” he said.

Petitioners said that under DAP, Aquino has the sole discretionary to allocate funds to the projects, without asking for the permission and clearance from the Congress.

Cong. Carlos Zarate agreed and said that the stimulus program has “circumvented” the power of congress to appropriate public funds for public use, which is called as the “power of the purse.”

For instance, the president has allocated billions of funds for the capital outlay of State Universities and Colleges (SUCs) nationwide without the approval of the Congress. But after an investigation, it found that these SUCs did not receive funds for capital outlay. This is one of instances where the congress should first decide on the legality and the amount of budget to be allocated for a specific project, he said.

He said DAP constitutes as the presidential pork which “gives the president a form of budgetary dictatorship.”

Manuelito Luna said that under the constitution, any project to be funded should be authorized by the congress with a legal legislation and therefore, releasing funds without a law “undermines the principle of checks and balances.”

“As far as promoting good governance, the DAP facilitates the abuse of power aside from facilitating corruption.”

With these, the petitioners are asking the highest court to issue a temporary restraining order to stop the executive branch from further releasing funds under the program while it is yet to decide on its constitutionality.

The Aquino administration maintained that it has violated no law in releasing funds under the DAP, which they said was accumulated from the government “savings.”

But petitioners argued that savings will be acquired only if a project is cancelled or abandoned under the GAA.