Militants appeal DAP decision that ‘shielded’ Aquino
Vince F. Nonato
Progressive activists have filed an appeal on the Ombudsman’s decision that “attempted to shield” former President Benigno Aquino III from liability over the outlawed Disbursement Acceleration Program.
Such was the “attempt to shield” Aquino that the March 3 resolution barely explained why Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales let him off the hook and only indicted his Budget Secretary Florencio Abad for usurpation of legislative powers.
Besides this observation, activists led by Bayan Muna Party-list Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate also pointed out that the Ombudsman ignored Aquino’s own issuances, made logical errors, and misapplied Supreme Court rulings in order to clear him of the offenses of technical malversation and graft.
In a strongly-worded 17-page motion for reconsideration filed by the National Union of People’s Lawyers on Monday, the activists said Abad could not have been the only official liable for usurpation of Congress’ powers.
While the Ombudsman resolution found Abad’s National Budget Circular 541 to have illegally redefined “savings” under the General Appropriations Act in July 2012, the appeal noted that Aquino’s prior issuances were swept under the rug.
The complainants pointed out that Aquino himself approved DAP in October 2011, as well as Abad’s request for authority to withdraw and pool the unutilized funds for the first half of 2012.
They noted that Abad’s NBC 541 merely confirmed Aquino’s prior actions and he could not have issued it without the president’s approval.
“Glaring is the lack of mention with respect to Aquino,” the motion read. “The Decision, in its attempt to shield Aquino mentioned only NBC 541 apparently as the only document/act which ‘unduly modified, expanded the meaning of savings under the GAA.'”
‘Idiots until proven otherwise’
The activists also took exception to the Ombudsman’s finding that Aquino and Abad were in good faith and could not be held liable for graft.
They maintained that the officials knowingly caused undue injury to the government by curtailing the agencies’ spending power through the premature declaration of unused funds as “savings.”
“With due respect, Complainants cannot subscribe to the Decision’s apparent perspective pertaining the duties and responsibilities of our public officials, that is, they are stupid or idiots until proven otherwise,” the motion read.
“The Preisdent and his alter egos are thus presumed, like ordinary people, to know the law, and as such ignorance, feigned or otherwise, is not an excuse,” it added.
The complainants also noted the Ombudsman’s logical “flaw” in dismissing the technical malversation charge.
The Ombudsman held that Aquino and Abad were just the “policy-makers” and they did not directly misapply the funds for other purposes.
But, the complainants still deemed them liable as the “clear masterminds/authors” who directed the diversion of funds.
The complainants also disagreed with the Ombudsman’s pronouncement that the premature declaration of “savings” does not itself consummate the violation of the law.
The appeal also chided the Ombudsman for sidestepping the issue of whether the DAP funds were used for purposes other than those they were appropriated for.
For the complainants, the Supreme Court’s July 2014 and February 2015 are already sufficient bases for such a finding.
In a press statement, Zarate insisted that “the main person who carried out the crime should not have been spared from punishment.”
“Otherwise, there’s no use to this case. It will only further the state of impunity in the budget system our government,” he said.