All DAP, including impeach incentives, OK’d by Aquino

By Angie M. Rosales
The Daily Tribune 


Chiz7All releases in the obscure Palace creation called the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), that accumulated to a total P150 billion, needed the knowledge and approval of President Aquino, which is a process that directly implicates the President in the distribution of the so-called “incentives” given to senator-judges who had voted to convict former Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona in the 2012 impeachment trial.

Sen. Francis Escudero, chairman of the Senate finance committee, said the Department of Budget Management (DBM) representatives said during yesterday’s hearing regarding the special allotment release orders (SAROs) which were the source of the alleged diversion of Priority Development Assistance Funds (PDAF) that funds are known to be part of DAP since all releases from it carried the signature of Aquino.

“I was asking them who identifies funds which are part of the DAP, and according to the DBM, DAP releases needed the signature of President Aquino,” he said.

In a privilege speech last September, Sen. Jinggoy Estrada revealed that P50 million was distributed to members of the Senate court who had issued a guilty verdict on Corona that led to magistrate’s ouster. It was Aquino himself who led the move to oust Corona through his impeachment at the House of Representatives which was controlled by an alliance of Aquino’s Liberal Party (LP).

Described by Estrada as an “incentive”, the money was later found and admitted by Budget Secretary Florencio Abad as having been sourced from the DAP which was described as a pool of funds intended to accelerate government spending.

It was just among the series of alleged payouts, supposedly in the form of additional pork barrel which was strikingly similar in purpose to the PDAF. Similar allotments were allegedly offered to lawmakers in deciding on the issues, such as the impeachment of former Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez, the sin tax bill and the controversial Reproductive Health (RH) bill.

In the case supposedly of the aborted impeachment trial of former Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez, Abad also sent senators a threatening text message to certain congressmen led by then Liberal Party Rep. Joseph Emilio Abaya, who is now Transportation and Communications Secretary on the possibility of impounding their pork allocations should they vote against the impeachment of the former Ombudsman.

“According to the DBM, DAP releases need the signature of the President, so that’s what determines it. I asked the question since we don’t know how they classify the DAP. I can’t accept that what they classify as DAP are what constitutes it, we have no basis to verify and to check,” Escudero said.

“So according to them, the check valve, the identifying mark or signature would be the endorsement of the Office of the President,” Escudero added.

The DAP is being challenged, in terms of its constitutionality, with the Supreme Court and the tribunal has been holding oral arguments on it. Todate, the SC has not bothered to rule on the DAP issue.

“We’re trying to get information from them about DAP, in spite and despite and pendency of the Supreme Court case so at least while we are waiting, we can gather information, raw data, on the DAP releases,” Escudero added.

Escudero said his committee is trying to gather data first while awaiting the Supreme Court’s decision, since we might be investigating something that does not constitute any anomaly. That depends on the Supreme Court, so if the High Court ruled it as an anomaly, then at least we have details, Escudero added.

So either way, at least we are not delaying the committee’s inquiry into the DAP as filed by Senator JV (Ejercito), Escudero said.

In case it is ruled unconstitutional, we will cntinue with the inquiry to look into each expenditure made under the program, except if the court rules that the decision is prospective, meaning to say, in which case there’s no further cause to look into it.

Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. who first revealed about the existence of DAP, following a report from the Commission on Audit (CoA) on its 2007 to 2009 special audit report as being the alleged source of P100 million in funds supposedly tapped for the projects of bogus non-government organizations (NGOs), immediately raised alarm over the implication of such revelations from the DBM.

“That’s new,” he commented, adding that “there’s a very large legal question that has been asked to the SC” by some stakeholders.

“That’s the reason it’s being questioned before the SC, if such tact is feasible. I think (the issue on savings) is not for other purposes, the realignment without appropriation. They can’t do that. The purse strings are with Congress. That’s one of the powers and functions of both Houses. So all expenditures must be appropriated and the only ones who can do the appropriating is Congress,” he said.

While there are exceptions in the use of unspent budget appropriations, such as realignment within the department or concerned agency before the year ends or before it’s declared as “savings”, it cannot be realigned to other government offices, Marcos emphasized.

DBM director for legal service Rowena Candice Ruiz was asked to explain by Escudero as to how the budget department accounts the funds released by the Executive from DAP or what control mechanism being followed to make government savings impounded for the said program.

“We have a consolidation of the list approved by the President,” Ruiz replied.

“So the President approves this?” Escudero asked to which he was given an affirmative answer, with Ruiz underscoring the fact that those funded by savings “goes to the Office of the President for approval.”

While some unprogrammed funds would have the certification from the national treasurer, since the funding source is not included under the budget expenditures and sources of financing (BESF), there are those tapped from DAP through unprogrammed funds and “it comes with the approval of the President.”

“Because the DAP is a program of the Aquino administration to quickly disperse slow-moving projects,” Ruiz said.

“So you mean to say that there’s actually a document signed by the President that enumerates all of the availments of DAP from savings and from the unprogrammed funds?” the senator further inquired.

“Yes your honor and we submitted that to the SC,” the DBM executive retorted.

Escudero then asked that his committee be furnished with the same submissons made before the high tribunal currently deliberating on filed petitions concerning the legality of the now controversial DAP.

“So all availments of unpro-grammed with national treasurer certification would be under DAP or not ”, he asked.

The Senate panel was also told that there exists a supposed list on all fund releases under DAP, based on the approval of the President, that the DBM prepared or included under the said program. “How will we know if it’s DAP or not?” Escudero asked.

“I was informed that some of the SARO (special allotment release order) may include under the notes, ‘under the DAP’ but only the notes. There’s a portion sir below the SARO where there are notes for additional remarks,” Ruiz said.

“Only those fast and quick disbursing programs and projects are included under the DAP,” she also said.
When asked whether the Executive used savings for other purposes not necessarily under DAP, senators received a positive response.

“My understanding of DAP was that it’s a program on the utilization of savings. So it’s not. You use savings for other purposes not under DAP?” Escudero asked.

“Yes your honor. In fact, there are various funding sources for the DAP. Only one of them is savings. So DAP is not a mechanism to use savings,” Ruiz said, adding that unprogrammed funds are also a source of resources for the said program.

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