Former President of the Philippines Benigno Aquino (Source: AP)
 
Hanoi (VNA) – The Philippine anti-graft agency on June 20 recommended a criminal charge against former President Benigno Aquino for disbursing 72 billion pesos (1.35 billion USD) of state funds for major government projects without the required approval of the Congress.

The money became a source of controversy during Aquino's term from 2010-2016, with critics claiming that he used it to barter for favours from legislators. But, he has always denied any wrongdoing.

The charge, filed last week by a special anti-corruption prosecutor but only made public on June 20, alleges that Aquino violated the constitution's separation of powers, AFP reported.

In the indictment, prosecutor Conchita Morales alleged Aquino wrote a series of instructions to his budget minister to funnel 72 billion pesos into a special initiative in June 2012.

Aquino branded the initiative, the "Disbursement Allocation Programme", an attempt to speed up public spending in the notoriously bureaucratic nation in order to boost economic growth.

The scheme redirected money left unspent in agencies' budgets to other parts of the government that needed funding for projects.

The programme began in 2012 but Aquino was forced to halt it two years later, after the Supreme Court ruled it violated a constitutional provision which gives the legislature sole power to authorise government spending.

The prosecutor dropped the case in 2015, but reversed herself following an appeal by a group of legislators and anti-corruption campaigners. If convicted, Aquino could face up to two years and four months behind bars.

Former budget secretary Florencio Abad was also indicted for the same offence.-VNA