DAP: A premeditated crime

ON DISTANT SHORE
By Val G. Abelgas

DBM Chief Florencio Abad and President Aquino

DBM Chief Florencio Abad and President Aquino

“Clearly… while it is the President who proposes the national budget, it is the Congress that prescribes the form, content and manner of budget preparation albeit subject to the limitations found in the Constitution. Hence, as the ‘power of the sword’ belongs to the President, the ‘power of the purse’ resides in Congress.”

“While its constitutional conferment is not expressed, the Administrative Code has given the President specific authority, when in his judgment the public interest requires and upon due notice to the head of office concerned, to suspend or otherwise stop further expenditure of funds allotted for any agency.”

“Of recent times however, this presidential prerogative has been misused and abused, and has emasculated Congress’ authority to check the President’s discretionary power to spend public funds. In effect, the President seems to have a vast and unbridled control over the national budget.”

These were the words of then Senator Benigno S. Aquino III in the explanatory note of his Senate Bill 3121 entitled “The Budget Impoundment Control Act” in 2008 that sought to limit the discretionary powers of the President to realign and defer releases of funds. The bill sought to prohibit the President from “usurping Congress’ power of the purse.”

On June 30 — six years later – now President Aquino was stopped from doing the very acts that his Senate bill sought to prevent when the Supreme Court ruled as unconstitutional parts of his Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), particularly the realignment of government savings to other projects outside the approved national budget and without certification from the state treasury.”

Based on this apparent knowledge by Aquino of the unconstitutionality and illegality of converting funds into “savings” in mid-year or realigning them outside of the congressional appropriations law, Aquino critics dismissed claims by Malacanang that the President established the DAP “on good faith.”

“What Aquino denounced then as immoral, abuse and misuse of powers, Aquino was also doing now in the case of the illegal DAP,” Bayan Muna party list Rep. Nilo Colmenares said. “President Aquino from the start knew that the DAP was illegal.”

So what Aquino considered then wrong under the Arroyo administration, he now believes is right under his presidency? Malacañang argues that funds released through DAP had benefited the economy and uplifted the lives of ordinary Filipinos. And yet, Malacanang rejects calls for the independent audit of DAP disbursements, saying that the administration has been “transparent” on the use of the DAP.

If the disbursements indeed pass the tests of transparency and accountability, why avoid the audit?

The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) says only about P136.75 billion was released in DAP funds from 2011 to 2012 – not P352.7 million as claimed by critics – but still doubts has to be cleared on that huge amount. In the first place, Malacanang still has to explain why it released from P50 million to P100 million to each senators a few weeks after the Senate voted 20-3 to convict Chief Justice Renato Corona in his impeachment trial in 2012.

Was it just coincidental that the three senators who voted against conviction — Senators Bongbong Marcos, Miriam Santiago and Joker Arroyo – did not get a single centavo from the DAP? Or perhaps the three didn’t have urgent projects that merited an ‘accelerated disbursement”?

Looking back now, the DAP can explain why the Aquino administration slowed down government spending in his first two years, resulting in several public works and several other projects being cancelled or delayed. Indeed, the budget surplus that Malacanang boasted of in the first two years enabled the administration to generate savings that it re-aligned and spent without congressional appropriation through the DAP.

Two DBM memos issued on October 12, 2011 and on December 12, 2011 attest to this. The memos show that the President declared as “savings” some P21.544 billion in unreleased appropriations for “slow-moving projects and programs for discontinuance” and authorized the DBM to use these funds for “priority projects,” which turned out to be the DAP.

One memo stated that the “savings” were intended to “provide for new activities which have not been anticipated during the preparation of the budget” and to “provide for deficiencies under the Special Purpose Funds, e.g. PDAF, Calamity Fund and Contingent Fund.”

An additional P12.336 billion from the 2010 un-programmed funds were later added to what would become the DAP in October 2011. Also added to the DAP funds were P30 billion in unreleased personal services appropriations for 2011, and P482 million in unreleased appropriations for “slow moving” and discontinued projects for 2011. An additional P7.7 billion for realignment within agencies was included in the funds under the control of the President.

It was clearly a premeditated crime!

The Supreme Court ruling brings to question the sincerity of Aquino’s reform agenda. While he was quick to convict in the court of public opinion opposition leaders and critics, he refuses to even investigate the involvement of his most trusted adviser, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, in the P10-billion pork barrel scam that has already sent to detention opposition senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and Bong Revilla and possibly a fourth, Gringo Honasan.

Now, even after five justices stressed in their separate concurring opinions that Abad acted in bad faith and knew that the DAP was illegal, Malacanang continues to come to the defense of Abad, who, spokesmen said, must be considered “innocent until proven guilty,” a right Aquino himself could not give to Corona or the three senators, whom he has publicly declared guilty even before their trials could begin.

The SC rulings on the Priority Development Assistance Fund and the DAP should be enough grounds to impeach Aquino. But several lawmakers, including Speaker Sonny Belmonte, have made it clear that any impeachment attempt on Aquino would not see the light of day in the House of Representatives, who after all owe him a favor for the billions in PDAF and DAP funds (i.e. people’s money) that he has generously given out to them in the last four years.

But I’m sure Aquino is starting to shake in his boots. After all, his predecessor, Arroyo, also couldn’t be impeached during her term for the same reason that she had complete control of Congress after generously giving out people’s money to the lawmakers. But look at her now – devoid of freedom and pride.

Aquino cannot be impeached for as long as he has Congress on his leash, nor criminally charged because of his presidential immunity. But he can be sent to jail, just like Arroyo and former President Joseph Estrada, after his term in 2016.

This scary thought can change the political landscape in the remaining two years of Aquino’s term. Either he tries to find a very strong contender within his political party, or drop his party mates and support the most likely to win, at this time Vice President Jojo Binay, who is after all a longtime family friend, with a firm commitment that Aquino would not be prosecuted after his departure from Malacanang.

He has flup-flopped with his stand vis-à-vis the PDAF and the DAP, I see no reason why he can’t do it with his political affiliations. After all, such is the way with Philippine politics, of which the Aquino-Cojuangco clan long been a pillar.

(val.abelgas@aol.com)


5 Responses. Have your say.

  1. Terry Sarigumba says:

    Because it had been in my perception among the citadels of truth, Global Balita had been one of my best and most sought after sources of information and unbiased opinions. Lately, however, I have perceived breach in this affinity for truth. I compared Val Abelgas’ article with PNoy’s speech in October 2013 and other online reports and it appears to me that Mr. Abelgas had come to side with the corrupt politicians PNoy had been running after

  2. Becker says:

    President Aquino and Sec. of Budget Abad must be issued a direct letter from the Supreme court to reverse wha they did if not they should face the consequence. Its that simple.

  3. zeny says:

    Sad to say, it sounds as if nothing will ever change – politics will always be the source of corruption – no matter who becomes president. I’ve lost faith in the Philippines’ so-called democratic institutions – legislative, executive, judiciary – as they seem to base their actions on self-interests rather than the people’s welfare.

    • Bobby Bagos says:

      You’re right, the wheel of justice in our country seems to always roll the other way. Those that are caught committing petty crime are put in jail in no time while the most corrupt gets to bitch about how hot it is in their cell and how lousy the food is. I’ve said this often enough and still no one seems to understand that it’s really “us” who is responsible for what is ailing our country. We alone are responsible for creating all the monsters that are ruining our country and our quality of life. We do this every election day, and unless we pull our heads out of our asses and start using our common sense we are going to keep that coveted title as being one of the most corrupt country in the world.

  4. I love all the articles of Mr. Perry Diaz you are very lucky to have Perry at your service as well as to us all your readers and fans thank you

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