The Office of the Ombudsman has indicted former President Benigno Aquino III for usurpation of legislative powers in connection with the creation of the Disbursement Acceleration Program, which the Supreme Court declared as unconstitutional.
Acting on the motions for reconsideration filed by the parties, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales found probable cause to indict Aquino for violation of Article 239 of the Revised Penal Code.
In a resolution dated May 22 and approved June 14, the Ombudsman’s special panel partially granted the motion for reconsideration filed by complainants Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate, Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes, Alliance of Concerned Teachers national chairperson Benjamin Valbuena, then Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption chairman Dante Jimenez, Mae Paner, Antonio Flores, Gloria Arellano and Bonifacio Carmona Jr.
The special panel denied the motion for reconsideration filed by former Budget secretary Florencio Abad, affirming his earlier criminal indictment for the same offense and administrative liability.
The charges arose from the unlawful issuance of National Budget Circular No. 541 to implement the P72 billion DAP that authorized the withdrawal of unobligated allotments of agencies with low levels of obligations as of June 30, 2012.
“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,” the resolution read.
“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.”
“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 Ombudsman 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,” the Ombudsman said.
In 2014, the Supreme Court declared unconstitutional the following acts committed in pursuance of the DAP—the 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 as well as the cross-border transfers of the savings of the executive to augment the appropriations of other offices outside the executive branch.
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