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Aquino tirade vs SC decision not without basis

03:08 AM August 06, 2014

Media commentators, former and incumbent senators and House members, legal experts and columnists have had a field day attacking President Aquino for his outbursts against the Supreme Court’s decision on the Disbursement Acceleration Program. He was called a “spoiled brat,” “autocrat,” “arrogant,” “ignorant,” etc.

To be fair, I believe P-Noy is not entirely wrong on the DAP issue. He said he relied on Section 39 of the Administrative Code of 1987 (Executive Order No. 292), which was issued by President Corazon Aquino by virtue of her legislative authority under the Transitory Provisions of the 1987 Constitution.

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The provision states thus: “Section 39. Authority to Use Savings in Appropriations to Cover Deficits.—Except as otherwise provided in the General Appropriations Act, any savings in the regular appropriations authorized in the General Appropriations Act for programs and projects of any department, office or agency, may, with the approval of the President, be used to cover a deficit in any other item of the regular appropriations: provided, that the creation of new positions or increase of salaries shall not be allowed to be funded from budgetary savings except when specifically authorized by law: provided, further, that whenever authorized positions are transferred from one program or project to another within the same department, office or agency, the corresponding amounts appropriated for personal services are also deemed transferred, without, however, increasing the total outlay for personal services of the department, office or agency concerned.”

Clearly, under Section 39, the President is authorized to use any savings in the regular appropriations for programs and projects of any department, office or agency to cover deficits in any other item in the regular appropriations, without distinction as to whether the recipient of the funds is within the same branch of the government. In other words, the so-called cross border transfer of funds is allowed.

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To be sure, Section 39, in so far as it authorizes cross-border transfer of funds, may run counter to the provision of the Constitution (Section 25, Article VI). Be that as it may, the rule is that a statute is presumed valid unless expressly declared invalid or unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in an action or proceeding directly brought for the purpose. Section 39 has not been declared invalid or unconstitutional and it seems none of the DAP petitioners had directly challenged its validity or constitutionality before the Supreme Court. In fine, Section 39 is still a valid and existing law and the President was right when he said he acted within the bounds of the law when he implemented the DAP.

At any rate, even if the Supreme Court shall now say that the President made a mistake in relying on Section 39, he and his subordinates who acted for and in his behalf are at least entitled to the presumption of good faith. Their good faith stems from the legal presumption (under Section 3 (I) of Rule 131 of the Rules of Court) that the “official duty has been regularly performed.” The President may likewise invoke good faith because probably all his predecessors from President Cory to Gloria Arroyo, in their time, used budgetary savings pursuant to the same provision of law.

—ROMULO D. SAN JUAN,

Dacon Building, Makati City

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TAGS: Corazon Aquino, dap, Disbursement Acceleration Program, Gloria Arroyo, President Aquino, Supreme Court
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