VOTERS PREFER POE OVER ROXAS AS NOY'S ANNOINTED - SURVEY

Sen. Grace Poe will be chosen by more voters as president in 2016 over Interior Secretary Mar Roxas if endorsed by President Aquino, a recent Pulse Asia survey showed. Poe obtained 70 percent of the votes of 1,200 respondents, or a 19-point lead over Roxas’ 51 percent. Results of the poll conducted on June 24 to July 2 showed that 29 percent will vote for Poe while only 14 percent will go for Roxas if endorsed by the President. Even with a presidential endorsement, 24 percent said they would not vote for Poe compared to a bigger 42 percent who said they would not vote for Roxas. Roxas is a trusted ally of the President and the likely standard bearer of the administration Liberal Party in 2016. Without Aquino’s endorsement, however, Vice President Jejomar Binay will beat Poe hands down on the basis of “first choice presidential preference” for 2016. Binay obtained 41 percent of the votes with Poe way behind at 12 percent, followed by Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada with nine percent. Ranked fourth to sixth were Sen. Francis Escudero, Roxas and Sen. Miriam Defensor- Santiago with seven percent each. They were followed by Senators Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and Alan Peter Cayetano with five percent each. Sen. Ramon Revilla Jr., who is detained on plunder charges, got two percent, followed by Senate President Franklin Drilon and former senator Richard Gordon with one percent each. Preferred Senate bets--* READ MORE...

ALSO: House may scrap judiciary’s development fund  

The House of Representatives will most likely abolish the multibillion-peso Judiciary Development Fund (JDF), which congressmen call the Supreme Court’s pork barrel. Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone said yesterday he has consulted many House members and “there is consensus to scrap the fund and replace it with a similar appropriation with strict control measures, or reform its administration.” Evardone said he conducted the consultations as vice chairman of the House appropriations committee, which is expected to tackle two bills on the JDF jointly with the committee on justice. “I think I can safely say that we will remove absolute control and discretion over this fund from the Supreme Court and transfer it to another agency,” he said. “They frown upon what they describe as discretionary funds, like the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) and the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP). Their preaching should apply to their own discretionary fund,” Evardone added.

The SC has declared both the PDAF, the congressional pork barrel, and the DAP, the administration’s economic stimulus fund, as unconstitutional. Evardone said the House would consolidate the two bills on the JDF authored by Rep. Niel Tupas Jr., justice committee chairman, and his senior vice chairman Rep. Rodolfo Fariñas of Ilocos Norte. The Tupas bill seeks to abolish the JDF and replace it with the Judiciary Support Fund (JSF), while the Fariñas’ bill would retain the JDF. Both measures would remove control over the fund from the Supreme Court. Collections would be turned over to the national treasury and disbursements made pursuant to an appropriation by Congress as part of the judiciary’s budget. However, the fund would continue to be on top of the annual budget that the legislature appropriates for the Supreme Court and lower courts. * READ MORE...

ALSO: More justification for DAP 

Local government units (LGUs) throughout the country will have to stop the financial assistance they give to courts as a consequence of the Supreme Court (SC)’s ruling on the controversial Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), a senior lawmaker said yesterday. Rep. Elpidio Barzaga Jr. of Dasmariñas City in Cavite, who is former mayor of his city, said LGUs would also have to withdraw whatever assistance they extend to the Commission on Elections (Comelec) and the Commission on Audit (COA). Such financial aid could be considered as “cross-border” transfer of funds, which the SC ruling on DAP prohibits, Barzaga said. He warned the high court that the withdrawal of such assistance could cripple local courts. “The financial assistance from LGUs include construction of courtrooms and buildings, additional allowances for judges, procurement of computers, equipment and office supplies, and payment for casual workers assigned to courts,” he said. He said courts are housed in buildings constructed with funds from LGUs and the executive branch. Barzaga said the impact of stopping such help would be huge on regional trial courts and metropolitan trial courts.

“As it is, the condition of our local courts is already deplorable, to say the least. Imagine how far it can get worse without a shot of financial aid from LGUs? Barring the local courts from receiving funds from LGUs is obviously not in the interest of ensuring quick dispensation of justice,” he stressed. He pointed out that if the SC ruling on DAP were followed, the entire judiciary, including local courts, would have to reject assistance from outside its sphere as this would be cross-border transfer of funds. “There has to be a clarification from the Supreme Court because no one would want to be held criminally liable for simply trying to help the judiciary meet its financial needs and ease some of its burden,” he added. In a motion asking the SC to reconsider its decision declaring parts of DAP unconstitutional, the administration said the high court itself made cross-border fund transfers at least twice before it prohibited such practice. * READ MORE...

(ALSO) DAP: 900 Saros for lawmakers 

2 sources from DBM divulge figures on controversial fund. The Department of Budget and Management issued a thousand special allotment release orders to facilitate the release of funds to the spending agencies for its Disbursement Acceleration Program from 2011 to 2013, the Inquirer has learned. Budget Secretary Florencio Abad (pictured) declined to confirm these figures, claiming that “more research” was needed. Two separate sources from the DBM, who declined to be named for lack of authority to speak for the agency, revealed that the lawmakers accounted for 90 percent, or roughly 900, of the DAP-Saros but they could not verify the exact amount that went to legislators on top of their pork barrel funds as the agency had yet to complete its full accounting review.
The sources said that the DAP-Saros received by legislators, worth between P95,000 and P10 million each, from 2011, when the facility was started with little fanfare, to 2013, when the economic stimulus program was questioned in the Supreme Court, which on July 1 ruled the facility as unconstitutional.

Budget Secretary Florencio Abad declined to confirm these figures, claiming that “more research” was needed.
Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. said that he himself had yet to get a full accounting of DAP funds that went to his members. Malacañang has claimed that legislators, in terms of value received, only accounted for 9 percent of the P150 billion to P167 billion worth of DAP funds handed out from 2011 to 2013, but it has so far refused to go into specifics, such as the names of legislators, the amount they received and project beneficiaries.
Late last year, Abad confirmed that P1.107 billion in DAP funds were given to 20 senators to dispel accusations by Sen. Jinggoy Estrada that DAP funds were used to bribe senators to ensure the conviction of Chief Justice Renato Corona during his impeachment trial in the Senate. Aborted release --* READ MORE...

(ALSO) Impeach rap: DAP for landlords 

An impeachment complaint to be filed Monday by a peasant group will take President Aquino to task for the P5.4 billion from the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) that was allegedly used to pay his family for Hacienda Luisita and other landowners under the agrarian reform program. “It will be part of the whole DAP complaint,” Rafael Mariano, chair of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), said in a text message on Sunday.
The Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) website carries an “admission” by its head, Virgilio de los Reyes, that the agency had received the DAP funds for landowners’ compensation, according to Mariano.

De los Reyes explained that his agency implemented the Agrarian Reform Communities Project 2 (ARCP2) that benefited 738,505 farmers using the DAP, which the Supreme Court in a unanimous ruling July 1 declared unconstitutional. “In October 2011, a notice of cash allocation in the amount of P7.932 billion corresponding to appropriations in the General Appropriations Act (GAA) of both 2010 and 2011 was released to Landbank (Land Bank of the Philippines). A part of this amount, P5.4 billion, was through the Disbursement Acceleration Program. P5.4 billion of the cash release was indicated as part of the disbursement strategy,” the secretary said on the DAR post.
“I wish to emphasize that this P5.432 billion was not an augmentation of the fund for landowners’ compensation,” De los Reyes said, arguing that “the entire P7.932 billion corresponds to the 2010 and 2011 appropriation for landowners’ compensation in the GAA for those years.” ‘Damning evidence’  --* READ MORE...

ALSO: Palace refuses to give info on 116 projects funded by DAP, eyes SC appeal 

A day after asking senators to account for funds they had received from the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), Malacañang rejected calls on Tuesday that it release its own list of 116 projects funded by the facility, which the Supreme Court last week declared unconstitutional. Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma insisted that the Palace was “not withholding” the list earlier submitted by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to the Supreme Court during its deliberations on the DAP and before the magistrates by a 13-0 vote struck it down. “We are just saying that we are conducting a comprehensive review of the [court] decision,” Coloma told reporters who spent much of the Malacañang press briefing asking why the Palace had not released the list.
“It is our view that the discussion of the projects is part of the active case and we observe certain rules whenever there is still an active case,” he added. Despite this so-called “active” case, presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda last week maintained that the “unconstitutionality” of the practices under the DAP did not necessarily mean that the executive branch had committed a “criminal” act.

Lacierda insisted that DAP funds—basically government savings pooled by the DBM—were “beneficial” to the public, citing such projects as school buildings and the purchase of Doppler radars to improve weather forecasting. On Monday, he said “it would be in the best interest of everyone to see how [senators] spent their funds if they did receive the DAP.” Even if Malacañang refused to release the list of DAP projects so far, Coloma said it continued to “abide by the principle of accountability of public officials.” He said the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) received a copy of the high court’s decision only on July 4. Under the rules, he said the government had 15 days to file a motion for reconsideration. Asked if the Palace was still confident that the high court would re-consider its 13-0 decision against the DAP, Coloma said: “We’re not expressing any view or suggestion.” “What we’re only saying is that we have a right under the law… to file a motion for reconsideration,” he added. Budget Secretary Florencio Abad earlier admitted that “9 percent” (or P12.8 billion) of DAP funds had been coursed through legislators, a move akin to how congressional pork barrel had been used before. * READ MORE...

ALSO: Give back P1.1B DAP funds’ 

What happens to the additional pork barrel enjoyed by 20 senators through the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP)? They have to return the money after the Supreme Court on Tuesday struck down as unconstitutional the Aquino administration’s savings-impounding mechanism otherwise known as the DAP. “If the expenditure is illegal, you have to return it. There has to be restitution,” former National Treasurer Leonor Briones said, adding that 20 senators would have to return a total of P1.107 billion in lump-sum appropriations. Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, said to be the chief architect of the stimulus program, earlier admitted that the senators had received the amount six months after they convicted impeached Chief Justice Renato Corona in May 2012.

In a landmark ruling, the Supreme Court on Tuesday declared unconstitutional the DAP, striking down the presidential budgetary prerogative, including a circular allowing the release of savings of the executive branch to agencies and projects outside the annual government budget approved by Congress. In a unanimous vote, the high tribunal decided in favor of nine petitioners that decried the “presidential pork barrel,” the “National Budget Circular No. 541 and related executive issuances as unconstitutional.”

Thirteen magistrates voted to declare several acts under the DAP unconstitutional, while one member of the tribunal, Associate Justice Teresita de Castro, inhibited from the ruling penned by Justice Lucas Bersamin. Several justices are expected to issue separate concurring opinions on the decision in the coming days, said court spokesman Theodore Te, who read the dispositive portion of the decision on Tuesday. The full decision, which came some six months since oral arguments were held on the consolidated case in January, has not been released. The decision came as another blow to discretionary funds in government after the court nullified in November last year the controversial Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) in the midst of allegations the congressional pork barrel allocations went to ghost projects and kickbacks. * READ MORE...


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Survey: Voters prefer Poe over Roxas as Noy’s ‘anointed’


POE

MANILA, JULY 21, 2014 (PHILSTAR)  By Christina Mendez - Sen. Grace Poe will be chosen by more voters as president in 2016 over Interior Secretary Mar Roxas if endorsed by President Aquino, a recent Pulse Asia survey showed.

Poe obtained 70 percent of the votes of 1,200 respondents, or a 19-point lead over Roxas’ 51 percent.

Results of the poll conducted on June 24 to July 2 showed that 29 percent will vote for Poe while only 14 percent will go for Roxas if endorsed by the President.

Even with a presidential endorsement, 24 percent said they would not vote for Poe compared to a bigger 42 percent who said they would not vote for Roxas.

Roxas is a trusted ally of the President and the likely standard bearer of the administration Liberal Party in 2016.

Without Aquino’s endorsement, however, Vice President Jejomar Binay will beat Poe hands down on the basis of “first choice presidential preference” for 2016.

Binay obtained 41 percent of the votes with Poe way behind at 12 percent, followed by Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada with nine percent.

Ranked fourth to sixth were Sen. Francis Escudero, Roxas and Sen. Miriam Defensor- Santiago with seven percent each.

They were followed by Senators Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and Alan Peter Cayetano with five percent each.

Sen. Ramon Revilla Jr., who is detained on plunder charges, got two percent, followed by Senate President Franklin Drilon and former senator Richard Gordon with one percent each.

Preferred Senate bets

* Former senator Francis Pangilinan, presidential adviser for food security and agriculture, topped the list of winning senatorial candidates for 2016.

Pangilinan obtained 54.7 percent of the votes in the senatorial race, placing him in rank one to three, along with Sen. Vicente Sotto III who got 53.8 percent.

With this development, sources said Pangilinan is being eyed as a possible contender for vice president in 2016.

House may scrap judiciary’s development fund By Jess Diaz (The Philippine Star) | Updated July 21, 2014 - 12:00am 1 6 googleplus0 0

MANILA, Philippines - The House of Representatives will most likely abolish the multibillion-peso Judiciary Development Fund (JDF), which congressmen call the Supreme Court’s pork barrel.

Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone said yesterday he has consulted many House members and “there is consensus to scrap the fund and replace it with a similar appropriation with strict control measures, or reform its administration.”

Evardone said he conducted the consultations as vice chairman of the House appropriations committee, which is expected to tackle two bills on the JDF jointly with the committee on justice.

“I think I can safely say that we will remove absolute control and discretion over this fund from the Supreme Court and transfer it to another agency,” he said.

“They frown upon what they describe as discretionary funds, like the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) and the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP). Their preaching should apply to their own discretionary fund,” Evardone added.

The SC has declared both the PDAF, the congressional pork barrel, and the DAP, the administration’s economic stimulus fund, as unconstitutional.

Evardone said the House would consolidate the two bills on the JDF authored by Rep. Niel Tupas Jr., justice committee chairman, and his senior vice chairman Rep. Rodolfo Fariñas of Ilocos Norte.

The Tupas bill seeks to abolish the JDF and replace it with the Judiciary Support Fund (JSF), while the Fariñas’ bill would retain the JDF.

Both measures would remove control over the fund from the Supreme Court. Collections would be turned over to the national treasury and disbursements made pursuant to an appropriation by Congress as part of the judiciary’s budget.

However, the fund would continue to be on top of the annual budget that the legislature appropriates for the Supreme Court and lower courts.

* The Bureau of Treasury, instead of the SC, would administer the JDF.

The Supreme Court’s resident auditor would be required to audit JDF receipts, revenues, uses, disbursements, and expenditures every quarter, and would submit a report to the SC, the Senate, the House of Representatives, and the Commission on Audit.

During budget deliberations in Congress, the chief justice would be asked to submit a report on funding and support received by the judiciary from external sources, such as from local government units, including buildings, facilities, vehicles, equipment, and additional allowances.

The JDF is a source of allowances for justices, judges and other personnel of the judiciary. Under Presidential Decree 1949, 80 percent of collections would be set aside for allowances and 20 percent for facilities. The Fariñas bill would not disturb such distribution.

Under the Tupas proposal, 70 percent of the JSF would be reserved for allowances, 15 percent for new facilities, buildings or equipment, and 15 percent for the repair of existing Halls of Justice buildings.

The Tupas bill also enumerates the sources of funds for the proposed JSF.

Both Tupas and Fariñas have accused the SC of illegally expanding the JDF by identifying additional fees and income that accrue to the fund.

Court employees, however, protested the move to remove the JDF.

Joel Guerrero, leader of the 3,000-strong Supreme Court Employees Association, said they are ready to shield the judiciary from attacks from other branches of government, even if it would bring them to the streets.

Guerrero specifically questioned the proposals in Congress seeking to abolish the JDF.

Employees of the Sandiganbayan, on the other hand, are protesting against the Bureau of Internal Revenue over what they called “oppressive” taxes on their allowances and financial benefits.

They said they would be wearing red shirts and black armbands today to denounce the BIR.

Employees of the anti-graft court earlier staged a 30-minute walkout denouncing the BIR for preying on their allowances and other financial perks that are supposed to be non-taxable. –Michael Punongbayan

More justification for DAP By Jess Diaz (The Philippine Star) | Updated July 21, 2014 - 12:00am 1 7 googleplus0 0


Members of the #ScrapThePork Alliance tie peach ribbons on a gate to support the filing of an impeachment complaint against President Aquino today. EDD GUMBAN

MANILA, Philippines - Local government units (LGUs) throughout the country will have to stop the financial assistance they give to courts as a consequence of the Supreme Court (SC)’s ruling on the controversial Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), a senior lawmaker said yesterday.

Rep. Elpidio Barzaga Jr. of Dasmariñas City in Cavite, who is former mayor of his city, said LGUs would also have to withdraw whatever assistance they extend to the Commission on Elections (Comelec) and the Commission on Audit (COA).

Such financial aid could be considered as “cross-border” transfer of funds, which the SC ruling on DAP prohibits, Barzaga said.

He warned the high court that the withdrawal of such assistance could cripple local courts.

“The financial assistance from LGUs include construction of courtrooms and buildings, additional allowances for judges, procurement of computers, equipment and office supplies, and payment for casual workers assigned to courts,” he said.

He said courts are housed in buildings constructed with funds from LGUs and the executive branch.

Barzaga said the impact of stopping such help would be huge on regional trial courts and metropolitan trial courts.

“As it is, the condition of our local courts is already deplorable, to say the least. Imagine how far it can get worse without a shot of financial aid from LGUs? Barring the local courts from receiving funds from LGUs is obviously not in the interest of ensuring quick dispensation of justice,” he stressed.

He pointed out that if the SC ruling on DAP were followed, the entire judiciary, including local courts, would have to reject assistance from outside its sphere as this would be cross-border transfer of funds.

“There has to be a clarification from the Supreme Court because no one would want to be held criminally liable for simply trying to help the judiciary meet its financial needs and ease some of its burden,” he added.

In a motion asking the SC to reconsider its decision declaring parts of DAP unconstitutional, the administration said the high court itself made cross-border fund transfers at least twice before it prohibited such practice.

* One instance was when it augmented funds of the Department of Justice for the court building in Manila.

The judiciary had received fund augmentations or realignments from the Department of Budget and Management.

The latest realignment amounted to P10.133 million and released on June 6, 2013 to the Court of Appeals for “additional funding requirements for travelling and other expenses.”

It is not clear if the money was sourced from DAP, which the Aquino administration implemented from 2011 to 2013.

In 2010, the appellate court received P35 million for its “zero backlog activities,” while P13.5 million was given to the Court of Tax Appeals for its “operational requirements.” The funds were released on Dec. 13.

That same year, P50 million was released to the Commission on Appointments for “operating requirements.” The independent commission is the congressional body that screens Cabinet appointees.

In 2006, the SC received an additional P134.185 million from Malacañang. The Court of Appeals was given P35 million.

That same year, P200 million was released to Congress on top of its appropriations.

There had been similar fund realignments to the Comelec, COA and the Office of the Ombudsman.

Such transfers would now be banned under the SC ruling on DAP.

PNP got P4-B DAP

Meanwhile, the Philippine National Police (PNP) has received some P4 billion in DAP funds on top of its P7.8-billion budget last year.

Department of Budget and Management (DBM) records submitted to the SC showed allocation of seven items to the PNP funded by the economic stimulus program that was declared unconstitutional by the high court.

An allocation of P45 million was spent for the construction of the PNP Maritime Group Training Facility in Mabini, Batangas to enhance the rescue capabilities of the police force.

Another P8.722 million was earmarked for the construction of the PNP Crisis Action Force Building at Camp Crame.

One big-ticket allocation is P115.556 million for the implementation of the “P1,000 per capita/personnel for every police station pursuant to Special Provision No. 8 of Fiscal Year 2011 GAA RA 10147.”

Another P100 million was set aside to support the requirements of the Department of the Interior and Local Government transfer to the National Police Commission building in Quezon City.

Two other big-ticket items were the construction of 20 new police stations, which cost the government P128.210 million, and the hiring of non-uniformed personnel at P860.705 million.

An additional budget of P2 billion was earmarked for the PNP modernization program. –With Edu Punay

FROM THE INQUIRER

DAP: 900 Saros for lawmakers By Gil C. Cabacungan |Philippine Daily Inquirer3:41 am | Monday, July 21st, 2014

2 sources from DBM divulge figures on controversial fund


The Department of Budget and Management issued a thousand special allotment release orders to facilitate the release of funds to the spending agencies for its Disbursement Acceleration Program from 2011 to 2013, the Inquirer has learned. Budget Secretary Florencio Abad (pictured) declined to confirm these figures, claiming that “more research” was needed. INQUIRER PHOTO / GRIG C. MONTEGRANDE

Two separate sources from the DBM, who declined to be named for lack of authority to speak for the agency, revealed that the lawmakers accounted for 90 percent, or roughly 900, of the DAP-Saros but they could not verify the exact amount that went to legislators on top of their pork barrel funds as the agency had yet to complete its full accounting review.

The sources said that the DAP-Saros received by legislators, worth between P95,000 and P10 million each, from 2011, when the facility was started with little fanfare, to 2013, when the economic stimulus program was questioned in the Supreme Court, which on July 1 ruled the facility as unconstitutional.

Budget Secretary Florencio Abad declined to confirm these figures, claiming that “more research” was needed.

Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. said that he himself had yet to get a full accounting of DAP funds that went to his members.

Malacañang has claimed that legislators, in terms of value received, only accounted for 9 percent of the P150 billion to P167 billion worth of DAP funds handed out from 2011 to 2013, but it has so far refused to go into specifics, such as the names of legislators, the amount they received and project beneficiaries.

Late last year, Abad confirmed that P1.107 billion in DAP funds were given to 20 senators to dispel accusations by Sen. Jinggoy Estrada that DAP funds were used to bribe senators to ensure the conviction of Chief Justice Renato Corona during his impeachment trial in the Senate.

Aborted release

* The Inquirer reported as early as last year about an aborted DBM plan to release P475 million to Senators Jinggoy Estrada, Juan Ponce Enrile, Ramon Revilla Jr., Vicente Sotto III, Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and Loren Legarda through the Department of Agrarian Reform, which refused to act as conduit. The funds were later rechanneled to the National Livelihood Development Corp. and local government units.

The DBM sources cited the P1.05-billion Saro issued to the Department of Agriculture in 2011 for farm-to-market roads as among the DAP funds that were showered on legislators.

Glaring omissions

The sources cited glaring omissions in the DBM’s DAP project list, such as the P230 million DAP-Saro for the National Dairy Authority and at least two DAP-Saros for P100 million and P260 million for the Technology Resource Center that they believe went to lawmakers.

“The devil is indeed in the details. The only way to dispel the public’s deepening suspicions on the DAP is to release the DAP-Saros,” said Navotas City Rep. Tobias Tiangco.

Renato Reyes, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan secretary general, whose group was set to file Monday an impeachment complaint against President Aquino on the DAP fiasco, questioned the lack of “good faith” on the part of the DBM when it released a DAP list. He said the move “raised more questions than answers” in the public’s thirst for transparency in the DAP.

COA audit awaited

Reyes pointed out that the DBM’s list of 116 DAP projects worth P167 billion as of July 14 this year included lump sum items with very general information, such as a P6.49 billion DAP allocations labeled as “other various local projects” disbursed not only to legislators but also to local government units and government agencies.

“This kind of reporting is meant to deceive and mislead the public. We want to know the truth about DAP and we will not stop until we have a full accounting of DAP,” Reyes said.

He pointed out that Commission on Audit (COA) Chair Grace Pulido-Tan had yet to live up to her commitment to reveal how much legislators received from the DAP.

He noted that as early as 10 months ago, Tan, in her reply to Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago’s call for a full audit of DAP funds disbursed to legislators, had promised to make a full report.

Tan’s reply is still on the website of the COA, which itself received P143 million in DAP funds in 2011 for its computer upgrade program. Tan admitted in a Senate hearing that part of these funds were used to buy new vehicles for COA commissioners.

Impeach rap: DAP for landlords By Tonette Orejas |Inquirer Central Luzon3:40 am | Monday, July 21st, 2014


Hacienda Luisita. E.I. REYMOND T. OREJAS

CITY OF SAN FERNANDO, Philippines—An impeachment complaint to be filed Monday by a peasant group will take President Aquino to task for the P5.4 billion from the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) that was allegedly used to pay his family for Hacienda Luisita and other landowners under the agrarian reform program.

“It will be part of the whole DAP complaint,” Rafael Mariano, chair of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), said in a text message on Sunday.

The Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) website carries an “admission” by its head, Virgilio de los Reyes, that the agency had received the DAP funds for landowners’ compensation, according to Mariano.

De los Reyes explained that his agency implemented the Agrarian Reform Communities Project 2 (ARCP2) that benefited 738,505 farmers using the DAP, which the Supreme Court in a unanimous ruling July 1 declared unconstitutional.

“In October 2011, a notice of cash allocation in the amount of P7.932 billion corresponding to appropriations in the General Appropriations Act (GAA) of both 2010 and 2011 was released to Landbank (Land Bank of the Philippines). A part of this amount, P5.4 billion, was through the Disbursement Acceleration Program. P5.4 billion of the cash release was indicated as part of the disbursement strategy,” the secretary said on the DAR post.

“I wish to emphasize that this P5.432 billion was not an augmentation of the fund for landowners’ compensation,” De los Reyes said, arguing that “the entire P7.932 billion corresponds to the 2010 and 2011 appropriation for landowners’ compensation in the GAA for those years.”

‘Damning evidence’

* He also said that “from 2011 to June 2014, Landbank disbursed P4.052 billion representing the cash portion of landowners’ compensation to more than 4,000 landowners whose lands were distributed to farmer-beneficiaries of the agrarian reform program.”

“The landowners of Apo Fruits Corp./Hijo Plantation and of Hacienda Luisita are but two of the more than 4,000 landowners paid by Landbank,” De los Reyes said.

Mariano described De los Reyes’ statement as “damning evidence against the President, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad and De los Reyes himself.”

“This is also indicative of a scheme by Mr. Aquino’s relatives to plunder the DAP funds,” Mariano added.

Retired Justice Harriet Demetriou, legal adviser of Hacienda Luisita Inc. (HLI), said the company did not benefit from the DAP because what was paid by Landbank “came from its own funds.”

“That’s part of the regular congressional appropriations as mandated by CARP (Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program) law in payment of just compensation to the affected landowners as required under the Constitution,” Demetriou said.

Cojuangcos in control

“Complying with the high court’s final ruling in April 2012, the DAR issued titles of 6,600-square farm lots to more than 6,000 farm workers who held stocks since 1989,” she said.

Mariano asked: “Why did the DAR use the DAP when it has a definite, regular and specific appropriation for 2010 and 2011 for landowner compensation? It should have pushed the release of the budget instead of utilizing the DAP.”

“Despite [P471.5 million] in compensation [for 4,500 hectares] using the DAP funds, Hacienda Luisita remains under the control of the Cojuangcos,” Mariano said of the President’s family that owns the estate straddling parts of Tarlac City, Concepcion and La Paz towns.

“That’s brazen plunder of the DAP funds,” he said.

De los Reyes said it was through the DAP that the DAR was able to subsidize local governments for equity in the ARCP2.

The Department of Budget and Management (DBM), he said, released more than P800 million in six installments to the ARCP2 from January 2012 to August 2013. These allowed the construction of 612.46 kilometers of roads, 31 postharvest facilities, 144 units of social infrastructure and nine units of potable water systems in 19 provinces.

Funding from regular budget

Alex Lorayes, Landbank first vice president, told the Inquirer that the “P7.9 billion credited to the Agrarian Reform Fund for the CARP landowners’ compensation, administered by Landbank, was appropriated by Congress and [was] covered by a notice of cash allocation issued by the DBM for Saros (special allotment release orders) covering calendar years 2010-2011.”

Farm workers have yet to receive their shares from the P1.3 billion that the Supreme Court had ordered HLI to pay to them from the sale of parts of the estate.

Contradicting statements

Bayan Muna Representatives Neri Colmenares and Carlos Zarate said in a statement Sunday that the DAR and the DBM had issued contradicting statements regarding the agrarian reform fund coursed through the DAP.

“Which is which now? The DBM claimed that DAP-released funds are an augmentation. Yet, De los Reyes is now saying that what his department received is not an augmentation but a part of appropriations under the General Appropriations Act. If so, why did the amount of P5.432 billion come from the DAP and not from the National Treasury?” Colmenares asked.

Renato Reyes Jr., secretary general of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, said in a text message on Sunday that the use of the DAP for landowners’ compensation belied “the claim that the DAP was beneficial for the poor.”

He said that in this case, “it was the already rich landowners who benefited” from the facility.–With a report from Gil C. Cabacungan

Palace refuses to give info on 116 projects funded by DAP, eyes SC appeal  By Christian V. Esguerra and Leila B. Salaverria |Philippine Daily Inquirer9:10 pm | Tuesday, July 8th, 2014


Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines—A day after asking senators to account for funds they had received from the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), Malacañang rejected calls on Tuesday that it release its own list of 116 projects funded by the facility, which the Supreme Court last week declared unconstitutional.

Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma insisted that the Palace was “not withholding” the list earlier submitted by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to the Supreme Court during its deliberations on the DAP and before the magistrates by a 13-0 vote struck it down.

“We are just saying that we are conducting a comprehensive review of the [court] decision,” Coloma told reporters who spent much of the Malacañang press briefing asking why the Palace had not released the list.

“It is our view that the discussion of the projects is part of the active case and we observe certain rules whenever there is still an active case,” he added.

Despite this so-called “active” case, presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda last week maintained that the “unconstitutionality” of the practices under the DAP did not necessarily mean that the executive branch had committed a “criminal” act.

Lacierda insisted that DAP funds—basically government savings pooled by the DBM—were “beneficial” to the public, citing such projects as school buildings and the purchase of Doppler radars to improve weather forecasting.

On Monday, he said “it would be in the best interest of everyone to see how [senators] spent their funds if they did receive the DAP.”

Even if Malacañang refused to release the list of DAP projects so far, Coloma said it continued to “abide by the principle of accountability of public officials.”

He said the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) received a copy of the high court’s decision only on July 4. Under the rules, he said the government had 15 days to file a motion for reconsideration.

Asked if the Palace was still confident that the high court would re-consider its 13-0 decision against the DAP, Coloma said: “We’re not expressing any view or suggestion.”

“What we’re only saying is that we have a right under the law… to file a motion for reconsideration,” he added.

Budget Secretary Florencio Abad earlier admitted that “9 percent” (or P12.8 billion) of DAP funds had been coursed through legislators, a move akin to how congressional pork barrel had been used before.

* Last year, President Aquino asserted that the DAP was different from the graft-ridden Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), a position Coloma echoed on Tuesday, by saying: “PDAF is different from DAP.”

Some of the DAP-funded projects were listed in the high tribunal’s 92-page decision against the program.

Among the big-ticket items were the Cordillera People’s Liberation Army, which supposedly got P1.5 billion, and the Moro National Liberation Front, which received P1.8 billion.

The list also included P10 billion for the National Housing Authority for the “relocation of families living along dangerous zones.” A similar amount was set aside for the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas on top of P20 billion in “equity infusion.”

Another P5.4 billion was realigned for “landowners’ compensation under the Department of Agrarian Reform,” P8.6 billion for a “comprehensive peace and development program” in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, and P6.5 billion to “augment” the internal revenue allotments of local government units.

A total of P4 billion was listed for the Department of Education’s “school infrastructure projects” under the public-private partnership scheme.

In the decision, the Supreme Court cited the OSG’s argument that the 116 DAP-funded projects “had appropriation covers and could be properly accounted for because the funds were released following and pursuant to the standard practices adopted by the DBM.”

But the court concluded that based on evidence submitted by the DBM, DAP funds had been allocated to projects that “were not covered by any appropriations in the pertinent GAAs [General Appropriations Act].”

In September 2013, Sen. Jinggoy Estrada revealed in a privilege speech that senators who voted to convict Chief Justice Renato Corona each received an additional PDAF allocation of P50 million as an “incentive.”

Abad subsequently confirmed that 20 senators had received the additional largesse—some as much as P100 million—and disclosed for the first time that this came from the little-known DAP. He denied the additional amounts were a “bribe.”

Senate President Franklin Drilon, who got the biggest amount from the DAP among the senators in the 15th Congress, reiterated on Tuesday that his DAP funds were spent properly, and released documents to show that the P100 million he had received was used to construct the Iloilo Convention Center.

“I believe that all projects which involve public funds should be disclosed to the public, and open to scrutiny anytime,” he said in a statement.

On Monday, Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV also released documents pertaining to the P50-million funding he received from projects, and which DBM documents stated came from the DAP.

He said that as far as his office was concerned, this was part of his PDAF. The projects consisted mostly of the construction, repair and rehabilitation of multipurpose buildings, fire stations, classrooms, school buildings, and transient quarters at Veterans Memorial Medical Center.

Sen. Francis Escudero has said his DAP funds went to hospitals, medical assistance for indigent patients, and the construction and rehabilitation of public markets, which were also projects funded by his PDAF.

But Escudero also said earlier he could not tell which of his projects were funded by the DAP, and which were funded by the PDAF.

Sen. Pia Cayetano also released a list of her recommended projects worth P50 million funded by the DAP, “in the interest of transparency.” The projects included the rehabilitation of the Ultra and UP track ovals, a cancer ward at Philippine Children’s Medical Center, construction and rehabilitation of classrooms and health centers, among others.

Give back P1.1B DAP funds’By Christian V. Esguerra, Tarra Quismundo |Philippine Daily Inquirer2:25 am | Wednesday, July 2nd, 2014

MANILA, Philippines–What happens to the additional pork barrel enjoyed by 20 senators through the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP)?

They have to return the money after the Supreme Court on Tuesday struck down as unconstitutional the Aquino administration’s savings-impounding mechanism otherwise known as the DAP.

“If the expenditure is illegal, you have to return it. There has to be restitution,” former National Treasurer Leonor Briones said, adding that 20 senators would have to return a total of P1.107 billion in lump-sum appropriations.

Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, said to be the chief architect of the stimulus program, earlier admitted that the senators had received the amount six months after they convicted impeached Chief Justice Renato Corona in May 2012.

In a landmark ruling, the Supreme Court on Tuesday declared unconstitutional the DAP, striking down the presidential budgetary prerogative, including a circular allowing the release of savings of the executive branch to agencies and projects outside the annual government budget approved by Congress.

In a unanimous vote, the high tribunal decided in favor of nine petitioners that decried the “presidential pork barrel,” the “National Budget Circular No. 541 and related executive issuances as unconstitutional.”

Thirteen magistrates voted to declare several acts under the DAP unconstitutional, while one member of the tribunal, Associate Justice Teresita de Castro, inhibited from the ruling penned by Justice Lucas Bersamin.

Several justices are expected to issue separate concurring opinions on the decision in the coming days, said court spokesman Theodore Te, who read the dispositive portion of the decision on Tuesday. The full decision, which came some six months since oral arguments were held on the consolidated case in January, has not been released.

The decision came as another blow to discretionary funds in government after the court nullified in November last year the controversial Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) in the midst of allegations the congressional pork barrel allocations went to ghost projects and kickbacks.

* In its decision, the Supreme Court said the DAP violated “the doctrine of separation of powers” and violated Section 25, Article 7 of the Constitution, which cited exemptions to the prohibition against the reappropriation of government funds.

‘Cross-border transfers’

The high court specified certain “acts and practices” under the DAP that were unconstitutional, including “the withdrawal of unobligated allotments from the implementing agencies, and the declaration of the withdrawn unobligated allotments and unreleased appropriations as savings” before the end of the fiscal year and outside the approved national budget.

The decision also voided the DAP provision allowing “cross-border transfers” of Malacañang’s savings “to augment the appropriations of other offices outside the executive.” It also barred the practice of “funding projects, activities and programs that were not covered by any appropriation in the General Appropriations Act.”

These acts constitute the gist of the nullified Department of Budget and Management Circular No. 541, which allowed the withdrawal of “unobligated allotments of agencies with low levels of obligations as of June 20, 2012, both for continuing and current allotments,” and the release of these funds to “augment existing programs and projects of any agency and to fund priority programs and projects not considered in the 2012 budget but expected to be started or implemented during the current year.”

The court also voided the practice of using “unprogrammed funds despite the absence of a certification by the National Treasurer that the revenue collections exceeded the revenue targets for noncompliance with the conditions provided in the GAA.”

Not a bribe

The petitioners vowed to hold President Aquino, Abad and other top officials accountable for budget releases under the DAP, even while Malacañang had earlier discontinued the fund.

In a privilege speech in September 2013 defending himself in the pork barrel scam, Sen. Jinggoy Estrada alleged that senators who had voted to convict Corona had been “allotted an additional P50 million.”

“Where did the amount come from? I’m sure Secretary Abad knows the answer to this question,” he said then.

Abad later pointed to government savings pooled under DAP as the source of the amounts. But he denied that they had been used to pay off senators who voted in favor of Malacañang’s move to oust Corona, who was convicted by a vote of 20-3 following the Senate impeachment trial last year.

Briones credits Estrada

Looking back, Briones said Estrada deserved credit for exposing the postimpeachment distribution of additional funds.

“Senator Jinggoy has been excoriated in public, mocked and laughed at,” she said. “But come to think of it, he actually did the public a favor by exposing the DAP and it did not obviously endear him with the administration.”

Estrada and Sen. Bong Revilla are under detention following charges they received PDAF kickbacks. Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile also has been indicted in connection with the PDAF scam.

Documents obtained by the Inquirer showed that DAP money jacked up the PDAF by P12.8 billion in 2011 and 2012. Congressional pork barrel amounted to around P24.8 billion in each of those fiscal years.

President defends DAP

Seeking to separate DAP money from PDAF, President Aquino said in October 2013 that legislator-identified projects implemented through the stimulus program amounted to a “mere 9 percent” of government savings pooled by the Department of Budget and Management. DAP savings were pegged at P142.23 billion.

“Why, then, is the DAP being made an issue?” Aquino protested then.

That same month, the Inquirer reported that six administration senators requested in 2011 the amount of P100 million each for “priority projects.” That year, legislators were told that Malacañang had some P6 billion in “savings” available for projects they could nominate.

Also in 2011, Estrada and Revilla, along with Senators Ferdinand Marcos Jr., and Vicente Sotto III each asked for the release of P100 million.

DAP funds to Napoles

But they allegedly channeled the amounts to nongovernment organizations identified with Janet Lim-Napoles, the supposed mastermind of the pork barrel scam, based on documents obtained by the Inquirer.

The backbone of the DAP is the little-known National Budget Circular No. 541, which enabled the DBM to collect “unobligated allotments of agencies with low levels of obligations as of June 20, 2012, both for continuing and current allotments.”

“This measure will allow the maximum utilization of available allotments to fund and undertake other priority expenditures of the national government,” Abad wrote in the circular.

Seizure of DAP funds

The petitioners, including former Technical Education and Skills Development Authority Director General Augusto Syjuco Jr., asked the court to file criminal charges against those who created the DAP and benefited from it.

The complaint by the Philippine Constitutional Association (Philconsa) wanted the court to order the police, military and National Bureau of Investigation to seize the funds, assets or properties acquired through the use of DAP funds and turn these over to the national treasurer.

The Philconsa also asked the court to order the NBI and the Office of the Solicitor General to file charges against all persons who participated in the establishment of DAP, in the release and use of funds; and the recipients or beneficiaries.

The Bagong Alyansang Makabayan complaint asked that the finance and budget departments report to coordinate and make available to the Commission on Audit all documents, revenues and assets, including the proceeds from the sale of government assets and the dividends remitted to the government.–With a report from Jerome Aning


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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