1987 Constitution, most battered charter (2)

“No money shall be paid out of the Treasury except in pursuance of an appropriation made by law” is Section 29 (1) of Article VI of the 1987 Constitution. This simple law is man’s constitutional version of the 8th Commandment of God, “Thou shalt not steal.” Whichever you violate you commit a mortal sin; the first one being the supreme law of man, and the other, the commandment of God.

When the Disbursement Acceleration Program money was offered by a Cabinet member to the prosecutors and the judges to prosecute and convict an innocent Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, the offense is very serious for its repugnance to norms and ethical standards, for stealing and bribing; as against the commandment of God, the offense is not only a mortal sin for stealing but also a mortal sin for bearing false witness against your neighbor.

Why and how was the battery against the constitution exposed:

On 25 September, Sen. Jinggoy Ejercito Estrada delivered a privilege speech at the Senate of the Philippines to reveal that some Senators, including himself, had been allotted an additional P50 million each as an “incentive” for voting in favor of the impeachment of Chief Justice Renato C. Corona.

Responding to Sen. Estrada’s revelation, Secretary Florencio Abad of DBM issued a public statement entitled: Releases to Senators Part of Spending Acceleration Program, explaining that 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.

He clarified that the funds had been released to the senators based on their letters of the funding request and that it was not the first time that release from the DAP had been made because the DAP had already been instituted in 2011 to ramp up spending after sluggish disbursements had caused the growth of the gross domestic product to slow down. He explained that the funds under the DAP were usually taken from (1) unreleased appropriations under Personal Services, (2) unprogrammed funds, (3) carry-over appropriations unreleased from the previous year, and (4) budgets for slow-moving items or projects that had been realigned to support faster-disbursement projects.

The revelation of Sen. Estrada and the reaction of Secretary Abad and the DBM brought the DAP to the consciousness of the Nation for the first time and made this controversy inevitable. That the issues against the DAP came at a time when the Nation was still seething in anger over the Congressional pork barrel — “an appropriation of government spending meant for localized projects and secured solely or primarily to bring money to a representative district” excited the Nation as heatedly as the pork barrel controversy. Nine petitions assailing the constitutionality of the DAP and the issuances relating to the DAP were filed within days of each other.

Before the release of the Decision of the Supreme Court on DAP, Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria P.A. Sereno executed a certification that the Conclusions in the Decision of the Supreme Court on the DAP were reached in consultation before the cases were assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Court.

The Decision was written by Lucas P. Bersamin, Associate Justice, now our Executive Secretary.

For resolution were nine consolidated petitions assailing the constitutionality of the Disbursement Acceleration Program, National Budget Circular 541, and related issuances of the Department of Budget and Management implementing DAP.

At the core of the controversy is Section 29 (1) of Article VI of the 1987 Constitution, a provision of the fundamental law that firmly ordains that “no money shall be paid out of the Treasury except in pursuance of an appropriation made by law.”

The tenor and context of the challenges posed by the petitions against the DAP indicate that the DAP contravenes the provision by allowing the Executive to allocate public money pooled from programmed and unprogrammed funds of its various agencies.

(To be continued)

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