The Philippines: Ombudsman indicts Benigno Aquino III over DAP

  • The Office of the Ombudsman has reversed its earlier ruling clearing former president Benigno Aquino III of criminal liability in connection with the allegedly anomalous implementation of his administration’s Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) involving PHP72bn in executive funds.
  • In a statement released on 20 Jun 18, the ombudsman said its special panel, in a resolution dated 22 May 18, found probable cause to charge Aquino before the Sandiganbayan with usurpation of legislative powers, reversing its 7 Mar 17 resolution where only former budget secretary Florencio Abad was charged.
  • Sought for reaction, Aquino said he has not seen an official copy of the ombudsman’s case against him and that he will study it with his lawyers once they have received a copy. Abad, for his part, said he respected the ombudsman’s decision and would act accordingly.
  • The ombudsman said the special panel found merit on the joint motion for reconsideration of the complainants led by Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate. The resolution was approved by outgoing Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales on 14 Jun 18.
  • In its new resolution, the ombudsman denied the motion for reconsideration of Abad, but partially granted the joint motion for reconsideration of the complainants.
  • The ombudsman said Abad could not have acted on his own in issuing National Budget Circular 541, which allowed the withdrawal of a total of PHP72bn worth of unobligated funds of government agencies under the executive department. The funds were transferred to agencies outside the executive department for supposed implementation of various infrastructure and other revenue-generating projects.
  • The ombudsman said Aquino and Abad unlawfully encroached on the powers of Congress by effectively modifying the provisions on savings under 2012 General Appropriations Act (GAA).
  • The Supreme Court, in 2014, found several acts under DAP as “unconstitutional” – including the declaration of unobligated funds as “savings” and the funds’ cross-border transfer to other offices outside the executive.
  • In a statement, Zarate welcomed the ombudsman’s new ruling but maintained their position in their motion for reconsideration that Aquino and Abad must be also charged with heavier offenses of graft and technical malversation.

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