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Philippine president’s funding plan declared unconstitutional

Supreme Court ruling may lead to Aquino's impeachment, say critics

Philippine president’s funding plan declared unconstitutional

Demonstrators march in Manila on Monday to express anger over alleged government funding scandals (picture: Vincent Go)

Joe Torres, Manila

July 1, 2014

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The Philippines Supreme Court on Tuesday declared a government spending mechanism known as the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) "unconstitutional".

The mechanism, which was established by president Benigno Aquino in 2011, aimed to provide government funds in the form of "fast-track disbursements in light of the global slowdown and the onslaught of recent calamities".

The Supreme Court's decision states that certain "acts and practices" performed under the auspices of the DAP are in violation of the 1987 constitution.

Voting unanimously, the justices ruled that the executive branch of the government overstepped its powers.

Their ruling indicated that the government's Department of Budget and Management allowed funds to be disbursed without correct authorization.

Critics of Aquino say the court decision could form the basis for his removal from office.

Representative Terry Ridon of the Youth Party said he will be "readying all necessary charges against officials involved in the implementation".

He added that the Supreme Court’s ruling is "solid ground" for proving culpable violation of the constitution and betrayal of public trust, both of which are impeachable offenses.

Under the 1987 constitution, a vote of one third of the House of Representatives is needed to impeach the president.

"It will greatly bolster the case against President Aquino," said Ridon, adding that it is "a daunting task, but we are prepared to fight."

Activists called for Aquino’s immediate resignation in light of the court decision.

"The president and his men clearly violated the constitution and facilitated corruption in government," said Vencer Crisostomo, national chairman of the group Anakbayan.

He added that calls for the president's removal "via impeachment or via a people’s uprising" is growing and is increasingly justified. 

The DAP came under fire last year after several senators complained that funds had been used as "incentives" for legislators who supported the 2012 impeachment of Renato Corona, former chief justice and a political foe of Aquino.

Government critics have maintained that since its inception the DAP is effectively illegal and no different from the notorious Priority Development Assistance Fund, commonly known as the ‘pork barrel’. 

Three senators, Juan Ponce-Enrile, Ramon "Bong" Revilla Jr and Jose "Jinggoy" Estrada, who were linked to the ‘pork barrel’ scandal, were arrested last week on a charge of plunder, the most serious of all corruption charges.

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