MANILA, OCTOBER 7, 2013 (PHILSTAR) Malacañang and the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) laid down yesterday what they called constitutional and legal bases for the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), considered by critics as a disguised pork barrel fund of the administration.

The government posted on the websites of the DBM and the Official Gazette what it held were legal justifications for the controversial scheme.

But Ricky Carandang of the Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office admitted that DAP may need fine-tuning.

“I think it’s very clear that there is a problem,” Carandang told reporters covering the 21st Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Bali, Indonesia.

“We have conceded and we have acceded that there are things that need to be fixed and we are fixing them,” he said.

The postings were made apparently to quash arguments that President Aquino had committed an impeachable offense by allowing the distribution of DAP funds to lawmakers months after the Senate voted to impeach former chief justice Renato Corona.

Administration critics said Aquino may have abused his power over lump sum funds when he allowed the disbursements.

But various government agencies have released statements showing DAP’s role in speeding up projects and pump-priming the economy.

Based on a primer released by the DBM and the Official Gazette, DAP covers high-impact budgetary programs and projects funded mainly from savings generated in a specific year.

DBM Secretary Florencio Abad said the government had to recall its advice to lawmakers late last year and early this year that they identify projects to be funded by DAP, as funds would be needed for the rehabilitation of Zamboanga City laid siege for weeks by Moro National Liberation Front forces loyal to Nur Misuari, as well as for assistance to victims of Typhoon Pablo last year.

According to the DBM, funds used for programs and projects identified through DAP were sourced from government savings, the realignment of which was subject to the approval of the President.

DAP may also draw from unprogrammed funds usually from windfall revenue collections, dividends from government-owned and controlled corporations as well as from proceeds of sale of government assets.

The DBM also said that under Section 25 (5), Article 6 of the Constitution, the president, the senate president, the speaker, the chief justice and the heads of constitutional commissions may be authorized to augment any item in the general appropriations law for their respective offices from savings in other items of their respective budgets.

Section 49, Chapter 5, Book 6 of the 1987 Administrative Code also allows the use of savings in the General Appropriations Act for certain purposes.

Savings may also be used to cover any deficiency in peso counterpart funding for foreign-assisted projects, as may be approved by the president, as well as “priority activities” aimed at promoting the economic well-being of the nation, including food production, agrarian reform, and energy development, among others.

The DBM also said Section 38, Chapter 5, Book 6 of EO 292 or the “Suspension of Expenditure of Appropriations” provides a legal basis for the “Authority to Withdraw Unobligated Balances.”

“Except as otherwise provided in the General Appropriations Act and whenever in his judgment the public interest so requires, the President, upon notice to the head of office concerned, is authorized to suspend or otherwise stop further expenditure of funds allotted for any agency, or any other expenditure authorized in the General Appropriations Act, except for personal services appropriations used for permanent officials and employees,” the DBM said.

DAR’s piece

Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) Secretary Virgilio de los Reyes, meanwhile, also defended DAP, saying they had sought funding assistance through the scheme for projects implemented in partnership with the Asian Development Bank (ADB) in 2011.

“DAP is not PDAF. Not all DAP is bad. In this case, we have line items we need to augment using DAP. And this is under the General Appropriations Act,” the DAR chief said in a phone patch interview on ANC yesterday afternoon.

He said P1.29 billion under DAP was used for building several farm-to-market roads and other infrastructure projects in more than 100 agrarian reform communities in 19 provinces.

He also bared that in December 2011 and January the following year, representatives of some senators went to DAR to offer funding under DAP.

De los Reyes recalled being offered P400 million under DAP for agrarian reform beneficiaries. The lawmakers, he said, did not pursue the offer after he told them that he wanted the projects to undergo bidding.

“After that, they didn’t pursue us anymore, and we heard the fund was given to another agency,” he said.

He said he only learned from newspaper reports that the funds were turned over to the National Livelihood Development Corp.

“If this is true, I can’t speak for them as to what projects these funds were used, or what non-government organizations were able to access said funding,” De Los Reyes said.

The Department of Science and Technology also defended DAP saying an attached agency, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA), received P425 million in 2011 under the scheme.

PAGASA used the funds to upgrade its weather forecasting and flood warning capabilities.

In a statement, DOST said P275 million had been earmarked for the building of PAGASA’s first National Meteorological and Climate Center. The remaining P150 million was used for the upgrade of the agency’s Doppler radar network.

“With these accelerated efforts being done, the DOST is confident of fulfilling its target to put in place an integrated flood early warning system by July 2014. What has not been accomplished in the past four decades, the DOST is poised to finish in two years,” DOST Secretary Mario Montejo said in a statement.

Valenzuela City Rep. Sherwin Gatchalian, meanwhile, urged Malacañang to tap the regional development councils (RDCs) for its DAP-funded programs.

“The RDCs have already in their sleeves development projects that can positively accelerate growth with quantifiable economic benefits,” he said.

“The RDC has under its wings all key government agencies, including LGUs and the private sector, which are all closely working in the implementation of short- and long-term regional projects. – With Jess Diaz, Rainier Allan Ronda, Rhodina Villanueva, Delon Porcalla

Palace wrong to invoke Administrative Code to justify DAP By TJ Burgonio Philippine Daily Inquirer 2:29 pm | Sunday, October 6th, 2013

Former Senator Joker Arroyo INQUIRER.net FILE PHOTO

While his four predecessors didn’t toy with it, President Benigno Aquino III invoked the Administrative Code to create the “patently illegal’’ Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), and for that alone, Malacañang should hale itself to court, former Senator Joker Arroyo said Sunday.

But given the President’s immunity from suit, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad Jr. should take the rap for his boss, Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago said.

Arroyo said the late President Corazon C. Aquino, former Presidents Fidel V. Ramos, Joseph Estrada and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo never invoked the Administrative Code to realign funds in the national budget since it was passed in 1987.

But this administration was now invoking it to justify the DAP and fund releases to pet projects of senators and representatives after the conviction of Chief Justice Renato Corona in May 2012 “without regard for guidelines,’’ said Arroyo, who was Executive Secretary in the Corazon Aquino administration.

“Twenty-four years after it was enacted, it’s now being used for a patently illegal program. Why is this administration so aggressive to use it without regard for guidelines, or standards? The four Presidents never used it,’’ he said in a radio interview.

Arroyo insisted that the DAP was illegal because its creation was never authorized by Congress or by law.

“There should be a law. No money shall be paid out of Treasury without congressional authority. Otherwise, we’re a dictatorship,’’ he said. “This is worse than PDAF (priority development assistance fund) because there is no law.’’
Popularity, he added, doesn’t give anyone license to commit a crime.

Malacañang said the releases were legal, citing provisions of the Constitution and the Administrative Code that authorize the President to realign savings.

Constitutional law expert Fr. Joaquin Bernas and former Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno said Malacañang was not authorized under the law to transfer items in the General Appropriations Act from one department to another.

Before filing the next set of charges against key players of the P10-billion pork barrel scam allegedly orchestrated by power-broker Janet Lim-Napoles, Malacañang officials should think about filing charges against themselves, Arroyo said.
“The problem with Malacañang is that it has no feelings. It doesn’t care whoever gets run over. That’s not good because each one of us has a reputation to protect. Now, they’ve been filing cases, but these have never been heard in court. They should file cases against themselves,’’ he said.

The former senator had cried foul over an attempt by the administration to “deodorize’’ the DAP by including him as among the recipients. But in reality, he said he requested funds for projects from regular items in the General Appropriations Act, not from DAP.

Following Sen. Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada’s revelation on the release of P50-million “incentive’’ to senators, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad confirmed that 20 senators received a total of P1.107 billion in additional pork after Corona’s trial.

In May 2012, the senators voted 20 to three to convict Corona for dishonesty in his statement of assets, liabilities and net worth. Senators Santiago, Arroyo and Ferdinand Marcos Jr. voted against his conviction.

After filing a flurry of charges against Napoles, senators, former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her Cabinet officials over the pork barrel scam and misuse of the Malampaya Fund, the Aquino administration has found itself fending off accusations that it was guilty too of political patronage by dangling DAP funds to lawmakers.

Meanwhile, Santiago said the Executive Department’s claim that it was the lawmakers who requested DAP funds does not exclude them from charges.

And since the President is immune from suit, she said Abad should be the one charged for the DAP and the releases, which she said were unconstitutional and constituted bribery.

“Absolutely, you could see the criminal mind of the one who thought of this,’’ she said in a radio interview when asked if the DAP releases were a bribe. “He didn’t think that this would be uncovered in the future… The problem is, it was uncovered.’’

Theoretically, Abad would have to face criminal liability “because this involves public funds, and it qualifies as a crime of malversation’’ under the Penal Code, the senator said.

If it reaches the threshold amount of P50 million, then it qualifies as plunder, she added.

Even if the President was the brains of the DAP “scam,” “it is the Secretary who has to assume criminal liability because you cannot sue the President criminally until his term is over,’’ the former trial court judge said.

Sought for comment on this, deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said the government should first determine if the DAP was misused.

“What is important in this case is not just the fund, but if there is misuse,’’ she said over government-run dzRB. She said lawmakers’ nominations for projects to be funded with DAP had been suspended, but DAP fund releases to agencies continued.

Santiago also cautioned the public against using anti-pork street protests to call for the President’s resignation. She said the two were different matters.

“Filipinos are against that. We don’t like illegal or unconstitutional mode of regime change in our country. We prefer to wait for the elections. So the power of the voice of these demonstrations will be diluted once these are used in politics,’’ she said.


Money flowed at Corona trial By Macon Ramos-Araneta | Posted on October 02, 2013 at 12:02am | 4,950 views

Joker says P500m in pork last year, P1b more from DAP

Contrary to the Palace claims, money flowed at the height of the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona last year, former senator Joker Arroyo (photo) said Tuesday.

“You can imagine the kind of money that the Department of Budget and Management just tossed around,” said Arroyo, who told a press conference he knew of at least two cash releases before and after the Senate voted to convict Corona, whom President Benigno Aquino III had vowed to remove from office.

In April 2012, more than P500 million in Presidential Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or pork barrel was distributed to 11 senators, whom Arroyo did not identify.

After the conviction, another P1 billion from the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) was distributed to senators who voted to convict Corona, he said.

Senator J.V. Ejercito, who was a congressman last year, admitted that pork barrel was used to win support for Corona’s impeachment.

Before the impeachment complaint was circulated for signatures, an emissary from the Palace warned him that his pork barrel would not be released if he did not support the bid to remove the chief justice, Ejercito said.

On Monday, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad admitted that millions were disbursed from the DAP to senators and congressmen after the Corona trial, but denied that these were rewards for the magistrate’s ouster.

But Arroyo described the DAP as “criminal, illegal and unconstitutional,” noting that even the senators who appropriate the money didn’t know about it.

The Budget Department has no business issuing funds from the DAP because it cannot do so without a supporting law, Arroyo said.

“DAP involves money so to disburse that, they must have the authority. Nowhere in any of our laws or the General Appropriations Act would it appear that DAP was created at all with the sanction and support of Congress,” he added.

He added that nobody knew about the DAP until last week’s revelation that each senator who voted to convict Corona received P50 million in extra funding.

“The PDAF has been there for a long time. Whether it’s good or not, whether it’s legal or not, it has been accepted over time… But we have never heard about DAP.”

Arroyo raised a howl of protest after Abad said he was among the 20 senators who received pork barrel funds from DAP after Corona’s conviction.

Referring apparently to some senators who said they could not remember the disbursements, Arroyo said: “We cannot just forget them. We can’t say there’s nothing.”

In a privilege speech last week before Congress adjourned, Senator Jinggoy Estrada, (photo) who has been accused of plunder over the alleged misuse of pork barrel, disclosed that each senator who voted to convict Corona received P50 million in extra disbursements.

He said the notice for the extra funds came in a “private and confidential letter’ from then Senate finance committee chairman and now Senate President Franklin Drilon.

Estrada later admitted to accepting his P50 million allocation.

“This has opened a can of worms,” Arroyo said, noting that he was leading “a tranquil life” after serving as senator for 12 years until his name was dragged into the pork barrel mess.

Asked about the assertions of presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda that there was enough legal basis for the administration to distribute the savings from various agencies, Arroyo turned acerbic.

“I don’t want to entertain anything from him… mahina e (he’s slow). My golly, he is… I thought that he would be educated as time goes by, but no, he’s not progressing!”

Dismissing Lacierda’s explanations, Arroyo said DAP should be stopped and those liable for its creation should be charged.

“It is a crime releasing money without any legal support,” he said.

Arroyo said he didn’t know if the President was involved in the creation of the DAP, but said Abad was his alter ego.

“I can’t read the mind of the President. I would be happy if he is not involved,” said Arroyo, who said Mr. Aquino already had his hands full with the territorial dispute with China, the pork barrel scandal, and the fighting in Mindanao.

“These are issues that cannot be solved overnight. That is why the idea is to help,” Arroyo said.

But he said the people around the President – whom he referred to as “the student council in Malacanang – were not helping Mr. Aquino by perpetuating a system that promotes quarreling and conflict.

“Anyone who disagrees with the government is tagged as non-conformist and therefore an enemy of the administration, which is not correct. I think that we should wake up,” he said.

Arroyo said he was dragged into the DAP mess because of the P47 million that he requested last year, during the 2013 budget hearings.

At the time, he said, he introduced an amendment for seven hospitals and three schools. But he learned later that the amendment, which went through Drilon, was never carried.

Drilon (photo) on Tuesday said “there was nothing wrong, illegal, or immoral” with his receiving P100 million worth of funding for infrastructure projects under the DAP.

He issued the statement in response to a social media post from actor Robin Padilla calling on Drilon to resign.

“I think Padilla got it all wrong,” Drilon said. “It’s not like I pocketed P100 million in kickbacks. The DAP allocation is not cold cash and but was merely a list of infrastructure projects recommended by legislators and local government officials to be implemented by the Department of Public Works and Highways.”

“We were only asked to list down a number of projects which were immediately implementable at that time in order to accelerate government spending and boost the economy,” Drilon said.

“That I admitted receiving P100 million in DAP funds was not like I admitted committing a crime. On the contrary, I was only doing my role in helping prime the economy that was needed at that time.”

“The public indignation that we are experiencing now is because of allegations that certain lawmakers pocketed these funds instead of utilizing them for public projects,” Drilon said, adding that his P100 million funding went to the construction of the Iloilo Convention Center. With Joyce Pangco Panares

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

All rights reserved