I’M starting to believe that we do have a rule of law, even if the axe falls on the mighty, and the rich.
Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission commissioner Greco Belgica and several other citizens have filed at the Office of the Ombudsman 274 counts of malversation against former President Benigno Aquino 3rd, his budget secretary Florencio Abad, and several other Liberal Party stalwarts for the massive hijacking of taxpayers’ money in 2012 and 2013 disguised as the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).
The DAP after all—next to the Aquino regime’s Dengvaxia abomination and the Mamasapano massacre of 44 of our elite police troops—was the Yellow Regime’s biggest, patent crime against our Republic.
However, Belgica and his associates are wrong. Aquino and his gang committed not 274 counts of malversation but seven times that: 1,997.
That’s the number of SAROs, or Special Allotment Release Orders, that the Aquino administration released to undertake the DAP, which amounted to a staggering P147 billion. These SAROs are the instructions by the budget secretary or his representatives for the National Treasury to release funds for specific programs and projects, which in the case of the DAP turned out to have been illegally disbursed.
The use of each peso and centavo of the government’s budget is authorized every year by a law called the General Appropriations Act passed by Congress, which is one of its most important functions in a democracy.
Aquino and Abad disregarded the budget laws for 2010, 2011, and 2012, by contriving the so-called DAP in order to channel taxpayers’ money for purposes the Yellow Regime, and not the Congress, chose. Their very lame excuse was that it was intended to speed up the disbursement of government funds in order to stimulate the economy, hence its name.
That was a blatant lie, even the World Bank noted, as P147 billion was too minuscule to affect a P15-trillion economy. However, in terms of a slush fund for the Yellow Regime, it was gargantuan – the biggest such kitty any administration in the past had the total discretion how to spend. This money actually explains why the Yellow Regime had so much political support at the peak of its power.
While part of these funds were used for what could pass as good intentions (such as additional funding for the cash dole-outs for the poor), the money were used primarily by the Yellow Regime to bribe Congress, especially the Senate that was an impeachment court in 2012, to remove Chief Justice Renato Corona; to fund its candidates, especially for the Senate, in the 2013 mid-term elections; and to build up a war chest for the more crucial 2016 presidential elections.
Aquino was a one-man dictator of government money: He even ordered P1.5 billion to be diverted from other uses the budget law had authorized to fund infrastructure projects in his home province of Tarlac, and I wouldn’t be surprised if these were around the Hacienda Luisita area.
I have written over a dozen columns documenting these findings beyond any doubt. (Just google “manilatimes.net Tiglao DAP”)
The Yellow Regime had managed to keep the DAP secret until Sen. Jinggoy Estrada exposed it in 2013, claiming that DAP funds were used to bribe senators to vote Chief Justice Corona guilty in his impeachment trial. According to Estrada, to bribe them, senators were given P100 million for their “projects,” which, he would only be told later, came from the DAP. After that, and to the credit of our media that did not let up on the issue, Aquino’s budget department was forced to disclose the details of the DAP.
Supreme Court ruling
The Supreme Court in 2014 ruled—and affirmed in 2015—that the DAP was patently unconstitutional, that it clearly violated Article IV, Section 29 of the Constitution: “No money shall be paid out of the Treasury except in pursuance of an appropriation made by law.” The projects the SAROs Aquino had ordered to be financed from the budget were not in any of the budget laws from 2010 to 2013.
The court even directed that “proper tribunals must determine the criminal, civil, administrative and other liabilities of its authors, proponents, and implementors.”
Of course, the Ombudsman until July 2018, Conchita Carpio Morales—appointed by Aquino whom he chose to swore him to office to humiliate Chief Justice Corona—dragged her feet on the case, and only on the eve of her retirement filed a very defective case of “usurpation of authority” against the Yellow President.
Morales’ move was an insult to our rule of law. A number of government officials had been convicted and given jail sentences—cases upheld by the Supreme Court—for using taxpayers’ money not authorized by Congress.
For example, a town mayor in Leyte in 2001 gave four sacks of rice and two boxes of sardines worth P3,400 to starving workers rebuilding houses destroyed by a typhoon. The food, though, was from the town’s Supplemental Feeding Program authorized by the Sangguniang Bayan (town council that approved the town’s budget). The mayor was charged with technical malversation. He appealed that the transfer was done in good faith and that it represented savings.
The Supreme Court upheld the decision of the Sandiganbayan finding the mayor guilty and pointed out: “Dura lex sed lex.” (The law may be harsh, but it is the law.) The mayor’s act—no matter how noble, or how minuscule the amount diverted—constituted the crime of technical malversation because he used the goods for a purpose other than what had been approved under the law.
While each of the DAP’s 1,997 SAROs were signed by Abad or his then deputy, Mario Relampagos, they were all authorized by Aquino himself through four memorandums he signed (image of one of these in this column). Aquino would therefore be the most accountable and criminally liable for the release of all the 1,977 illegal SAROs .
When Aquino and his cabal invented this DAP, he was at the peak of his popularity and political power. He thought he could get away with anything.
It turned out he was dead wrong. Even if he got to replace the Chief Justice with his handpicked choice (even if she was so very unqualified for the post), the court ruled the DAP unconstitutional in July 2014. His Yellow Cult then lost the presidency in 2016, unshackling our rule of law to make Aquino and his gang face justice finally.
Each of the 1,997 SAROs is an instance of malversation, and for each Aquino is liable under Article 220 of the Revised Penal Code:
“Any public officer who shall apply any public fund or property under his administration to any public use other than for which such fund or property were appropriated by law… shall suffer the penalty of prision correccional in its minimum period or a fine ranging from one half to the total of the sum misapplied…” Prision correccional in its minimum period means a jail term of six months to two years.
Note that the law specifies not just a jail term but a fine. Aquino and his clan face the prospect of bankruptcy if he loses even just a few of the technical malversation cases, since he would be required to reimburse government “from one half to the total of the sum misapplied.” Just 10 percent of the P147 billion misapplied DAP funds is P1.5 billion.