Benigno Aquino

Benigno Aquino faces impeachment action over economic stimulus fund

PUBLISHED : Monday, 21 July, 2014, 10:49pm
UPDATED : Monday, 27 April, 2015, 5:21pm

Political opponents of Philippine President Benigno Aquino have filed an impeachment complaint against him, alleging his controversial economic stimulus package represents a "culpable violation of the constitution" and "betrayal of public trust".

The complaint, filed yesterday, is also backed by some members of the Catholic clergy, academics and other individuals.

Lawyer Neri Colmenares of the left-wing Bayan Muna Party said the complaint had grounds because "President Aquino admitted he knew DAP was wrong and yet he did it." The DAP is Aquino's 144 billion peso (HK$25.5 billion) Disbursement Acceleration Programme, an economic stimulus package which Aquino said spurred the Philippines' 7 per cent GDP growth.

The Supreme Court recently declared parts of DAP unconstitutional, saying Aquino had no power to undertake "cross border transfers" or approve funding requests from the legislative branch and the Commission of Audit, a constitutionally independent body.

However, Aquino filed an appeal on Friday. He said he was empowered to set up the DAP by a law crafted by his mother, Corazon, when she was president.

He also stated that the court had engaged in "cross-border transfers" by asking for additional funds to build courthouses. His congressional allies threatened to investigate the court's use of the Judiciary Development Fund.

Aquino softened his tone yesterday, calling on everyone to "love one another".

Some senior Catholic clerics are unlikely to heed his call, however. Archbishop Ramon Arguelles said last week: "We do not have to wait for 2016 [presidential elections]. We must create a temporary government today."

Political analyst Ramon Casiple, the executive director of the Institute for Political and Electoral Reform, cast doubt on whether the impeachment would succeed because "while Aquino has diminishing popularity, he is not unpopular" and still controlled the congress.

A senior official said efforts to destabilise the Aquino government were under way.

Casiple agreed: "Of course there's destabilisation going on... but they don't have the political mass for that."

Lieutenant Colonel Ramon Zagala, public affairs chief of the army, said coup attempts were unlikely because the military had benefited from 85 billion pesos worth of new assets, including ships and aircraft, under Aquino.

"He [Aquino] helped modernise the armed forces. If not for him we won't attain a minimum credible defence, which in the past was not implemented."