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Protests mount vs Philippine president
Publication Date : 22-07-2014
The Philippine House of Representatives on Monday accepted the first impeachment complaint filed by 28 activists led by Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) against President Aquino for culpable violation of the Constitution in the implementation of the controversial Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) and betrayal of public trust.
“The facts will show that the buck stops with President Aquino. He is responsible and accountable for DAP and must be impeached,” the complainants said, referring to the purported economic stimulus package that the Supreme Court ruled on July 1 as unconstitutional.
The complainants charged that the DAP served “as the President’s pork barrel which he also used to bribe, give rewards or grant favors to politicians and allies and became the kitty of corruption for those in power.”
The complaint cited two grounds: Culpable violation of the Constitution when the President usurped the power of Congress in declaring idle funds as “savings,” made cross-border fund transfers, spent public funds for projects, activities and programs not found or funded in the budget; and betrayal of public trust when he created his own pork barrel worth 144 billion pesos (US$3.23 billion), showered these funds on his pet projects and favored politicians, and partly to influence the impeachment of Chief Justice Renato Corona.
Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda sought to distance Malacañang from the impeachment move. He declined to say whether the Palace was confident that the move would eventually be defeated in the House, which is controlled by the President and even with the supposed absence of pork barrel he could give away in return.
“We will let the House of Representatives determine in its own rules the allegations of the complaint,” Lacierda said.
The complainants accused the President and Budget Secretary Florencio Abad of deception when they made it appear that the senators and representatives were asking for additional funds when it was the executive who was dangling these extra money in the form of the DAP.
“The lawmakers were allowed to determine how the amounts would be used, hence they were asked to ‘nominate’ projects based on the funds made available by Malacañang. It was a scheme ever similar to the PDAF (Priority Development Assistance Fund) system where lawmakers are given lump-sum funding for priority projects of their choice,” the complainants said.
In November 2013, the high court likewise declared the PDAF unconstitutional in the wake of widespread public outrage that billions of pesos in the congressional pork barrel went to ghost projects and kickbacks.
The President has yet to “substantiate” his claims that the DAP had been effective as an economic stimulus program, the impeachment proponents said.
The complainants cited “damning evidence of patent and unadulterated bad faith” on the part of the President in implementing the DAP.
They noted that as a senator, Aquino introduced a bill that “labeled the same actions under the watch of his economic teacher, then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, as misused and abused and has emasculated Congress’ authority to check the President’s discretionary powers.”
They also scored the President for his recent televised speech attacking the Supreme Court which they described as “not only unpresidential, disrespectful to and defiant against a coequal branch of government but betrays tyrannical abuse of power by the President.”
The House secretary general accepted the 80-page impeachment complaint after it was endorsed by Representatives Neri Colmenares and Carlos Zarate of Bayan Muna and Fernando Hicap of Anakpawis.
Two impeachment complaints were earlier filed by lawyer Oliver Lozano and former Technical Education and Skills Development Authority chief Augusto Syjuco Jr. but the House did not act on these for lack of any endorsement from a member.
Another impeachment complaint by the Kabatan party-list group and school organisations was scheduled for filing today.