OUTRIGHT BRIBERY AT PALACE DOORSTEP / HOUSE MEMBERS GIVEN EXTRA P15M


MANILA, SEPTEMBER 30, 2013 (INQUIRER) By Michael Lim Ubac - Former Sen. Joker Arroyo (photo) on Sunday accused Malacañang of attempting to deceive the public by lumping him together with 19 senators who received additional pork barrel amounting to P1.107 billion a few months after the Senate voted to convict then Chief Justice Renato Corona last year.

Arroyo found it strange that Budget Secretary Florencio Abad would now claim that the former senator’s office received P47 million worth of projects in February, eight months after Corona was ousted by the Senate sitting as an impeachment court.

Along with Senators Miriam Defensor-Santiago and Ferdinand Marcos Jr., Arroyo voted to acquit Corona of charges of betrayal of public trust and culpable violation of the Constitution for dishonesty in his statements of assets, liabilities and net worth.

“The accusation that Malacañang ‘rewarded’ the senators who voted to convict (Corona) puts Malacañang on a slippery slope, placing the charge of at least impropriety, if not outright bribery, right at the presidential doorstep,” he said.

Of the 20 senators who voted to convict Corona, only then Sen. Panfilo Lacson did not accept the additional pork from the executive larder, according to Abad. Two of the three senators who voted to acquit Corona—
Marcos and Santiago—got nothing, Abad said.

Arroyo called the Inquirer to deny the claim of the budget secretary that his office received P47 million worth of projects from the so-called Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).

“These allocations, amounting to P47 million, were amendments introduced in the General Appropriation Act (GAA) of 2013 and not PDAF (Priority Development Assistance Fund) by any language,” Arroyo said.

Arroyo has claimed that he did not use his PDAF allocations during his two terms as senator and earlier as Makati representative. He disclosed that the P47 million was secured under the GAA and went directly to the Department of Education to fund the construction of school buildings in three Bicol state colleges, and the rest to state-run hospitals for medical assistance to indigents.

The Inquirer tried but failed to get any comment from Malacañang officials.

In speaking out against the Palace, Arroyo finally ended his self-imposed silence since his second consecutive term as senator expired in June. A human rights lawyer, he had served as executive secretary of President Aquino’s mother, Corazon, but was not in speaking terms with Aquino even when both were still senators.

‘Economic expansion’

In a statement on Saturday, Abad said 20 senators had received additional fund releases, but pointed out that these came from the DAP that was introduced in 2011 to “ramp up spending and help accelerate economic expansion.”

He was responding to a privilege speech on Wednesday by Sen. Jinggoy Estrada who spoke about a P50-million additional pork as “bribe” to the senators for voting to convict Corona. On questioning, he said the amount was an “incentive,” but did not elaborate.

“In the interest of transparency, we want to set the record straight on releases made to support projects that were proposed by senators on top of their regular PDAF allocation toward the end of 2012,” Abad said.

“These fund releases have recently been touted as ‘bribes,’ ‘rewards,’ or ‘incentives.’ They were not. The releases, which were mostly for infrastructure projects, were part of what is called the Disbursement Acceleration Program designed by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to ramp up spending and help accelerate economic expansion,” Abad said.

But then Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and Senators Franklin Drilon and Francis Escudero received double helpings of the additional funding.

Falsification

Arroyo said Abad had opened himself to liability for falsification of legislative documents under Articles 170 and 171 of the Revised Penal Code.

He said these articles penalizes “any public officer … who, taking advantage of his official position, shall falsify a document by … causing it to appear that persons have participated in any act or proceeding when they did not in fact so participate … (or) making untruthful statement in the narration of facts….”

“That is exactly what Mr. Abad did when he issued a deceptively crafted press release (on Saturday) that made it appear that, although I voted to acquit Chief Justice Corona, I was, nonetheless, given P47 million along with other senators who allegedly received P50 million each over and above their PDAF allocations, which is now perceived to be a gratuity for their vote of conviction,” Arroyo said.

Explaining the circumstances surrounding the P47-million fund releases, Arroyo said that over the years, during budget deliberations on the GAA, he would introduce amendments to favor state-run specialty hospitals and state universities.
“I occasionally introduce, upon requests, amendments that gave direct assistance to indigent patients in Philippine General Hospital, Philippine Heart Center, Lung Center of the Philippines, National Kidney and Transplant Institute, and lately, to Bicol Medical Center. These funds were directly allocated and paid out to these named medical institutions,” he said.

DBM hat trick

“As I was going to retire, three schools in my province asked for financial assistance for the construction of school buildings, the funds for which were directed to the Department of Education for implementation,” Arroyo said.

“Secretary Abad maliciously bundled the budgetary amendments I introduced for medical and educational provisions in the 2013 General Appropriations Act together with the questioned 2012 releases,” Arroyo said.

“Secretary Abad took pains to massage the information regarding these amendments/appropriations in the budget as if they were part and parcel of the lump-sum appropriation for the (DAP), which he mentioned, if only to deodorize the stink of the accusation against them that they ‘rewarded’ the senators who voted to convict in the Corona impeachment trial.”

Arroyo also questioned the DBM’s power to “invent” yet another lump-sum appropriation in the national budget which includes the PDAF, a source of kickbacks for lawmakers and government officials from funds intended to ease rural poverty in the agriculture sector.

“Secretary Abad said the questionable funds given to the senators came from a newly minted program designed by the DBM, called the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), yet again, another one of those lump-sum appropriations yet unheard of, until he pulled it out from his hat,” he added.

Originally posted: 8:56 pm | Sunday, September 29th, 2013

House members also given extra P15MBy Gil C. CabacunganPhilippine Daily Inquirer
12:43 am | Monday, September 30th, 2013

Members of the House of Representatives received what senators got in extra lump sum funds from the Disbursement Allocation Program (DAP), albeit in smaller amounts.

Budget Secretary Florencio Abad said on Saturday that each representative received last year between P10 million and P15 million in DAP, a little known lump-sum budgetary item that pooled savings from unused budgetary items or lower-than-expected expenses of state agencies.

“The same accommodation we extended to the senators we also extended to the House representatives,” Abad said in a series of text messages to the Inquirer.

The budget secretary said the DAP was introduced in 2011 to ramp up spending and help accelerate economic expansion.
Last week, Sen. Jinggoy Estrada claimed in a privilege speech that senators who voted for the conviction of then Chief Justice Renato Corona at his impeachment trial in 2012 were each given P50 million in additional lump-sum funds.

Abad said 20 senators received a total of P1.107 billion in additional lump-sum funds, released in several installments from October to December 2012. Allocation to each senator ranged from a low of P30 million to a high of P100 million.

It turned out that then Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile got P92 million and Sen. Franklin Drilon, then chair of the Senate finance committee, received P100 million.

Sen. Francis Escudero, in an interview with dzBB radio, said representatives and even governors and mayors had tapped the DAP for additional pork barrel funds.

“I will not be surprised if congressmen and local government officials also got them. I think that every senator or congressman or mayor is asking for billions from the (Department of Budget and Management). Whether these requests will be granted is another story,” Escudero said.

He noted that releases from the DAP were not booked under the pork barrel of each lawmaker listed on the DBM website.
A senator and a representative get every year P200 million and P70 million, respectively, from the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), the formal name of the graft-ridden pork barrel.

Abad could not say how many representatives availed themselves of the DAP. “I cannot say for sure, I need to check the records. Marami-rami ang (There are many) House members,” he said.

Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. did not reply to the Inquirer’s inquiry.

In the 15th Congress, there were 285 representatives. If 200 got P10 million to P15 million each, the total amount would be P2 billion to P3 billion.

A total of 188 House members (or twice the minimum one-third vote or 95 signatures needed) impeached Corona on Dec. 12, 2011. Some lawmakers complained that Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II had told them to just put their name on the complaint although they hadn’t read the articles of impeachment against Corona.

Two days later, the Senate convened itself into an impeachment court. On May 29, 2012, 20 senators found Corona guilty of betrayal of public trust and culpable violation of the Constitution largely because he was untruthful in his financial declaration.

In his privilege speech on Sept. 25, Estrada insinuated that the P50 million that Abad gave to each senator who voted to convict Corona was a bribe.

He later called it an “incentive” as it was given months after the conviction. Estrada delivered his privilege speech after he and Senators Enrile and Bong Revilla were charged with plunder in the Office of the Ombudsman in connection with the P10-billion pork barrel scam. He was accused of pocketing P224.5 million in kickbacks from his PDAF.

‘Irresponsible’

In a statement, Abad said: “To suggest that these (DAP) funds were used as ‘bribes’ (in the impeachment trial) is inaccurate at best and irresponsible at worst.”

At least three senators backed up Abad’s claim that the DAP funds were not a bribe.

Former Sen. Panfilo Lacson said that if the DAP allocations were meant as a bribe, it should have been given before or immediately after Corona’s conviction and not months after his ouster.

Escudero said that if the accuser (Estrada) himself maintained that the DAP fund did not influence his vote, “what more the senators who did not raise a howl over this issue.”

He said the DAP would only become a bribe if the senators placed the funds in their pockets or endorsed Janet Lim-Napoles’ bogus NGOs that had a track record of ghost deliveries.

Napoles, who has been charged with plunder in the Office of the Ombudsman along with 37 others, is the alleged mastermind of the pork barrel scam.

Drilon, now the Senate President, said Estrada should clarify his statement on whether the additional allocation to senators was a bribe because the accusation had made matters worse for the Senate.

“All of us have our own responsibilities. What is unfortunate these days is that we are all seen as evil when we accept pork. That is why the Senate will totally give up the PDAF without any condition starting with the 2014 budget,” Drilon said.

He said that if the additional fund allocation were a bribe as insinuated by Estrada, then the latter’s ally, Enrile, was also bribed when he voted as then Senate President to convict Corona.

Both Drilon and Lacson noted that Estrada’s insinuation was illogical considering that then Sen. Joker Arroyo, who was one of three senators who voted to acquit Corona, obtained P47 million in DAP funds early this year. Arroyo bowed out of office on June 30.

Earlier, Abad confirmed an Inquirer report that the P475 million in extra pork coursed through the Department of Agrarian Reform for senators, including Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr., came from the DAP.

The DAR rejected the allocation as it was still reeling from the controversy surrounding its release of P900 million in Malampaya funds to Napoles’ dubious NGOs.

Abad claimed that Marcos had requested that his share be coursed through the National Livelihood Development Corp. instead of the DAR.

Marcos maintained that he did not ask for P100 million from this fund and that his signature was forged to facilitate its release.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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