AQUINO FACES 3rd IMPEACHMENT OVER US DEFENSE DEAL (EDCA)

President Aquino faces another impeachment complaint, this time for the supposed unconstitutionality of the Philippines' recently forged defense agreement with the United States. The impeachment complaint, signed by left-wing groups and party-lists, was filed Thursday before the House of Representatives. It argued that Aquino allowed the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) without the approval of Congress. The complainants, which include representatives from the Gabriela Women's Party-list, ACT Teachers Party-list and Bayan Muna, said that EDCA is by nature a treaty, as it allowed foreign forces to establish bases in the country—a move which requires Congress' ratification. "However, the President passed it off as a mere executive agreement and bypassed entirely the Senate and the House of Representatives," ACT Teachers Party-List Rep. Antontio Tinio said in an interview over ANC on Thursday. * READ MORE...

ALSO: AFP chief defends EDCA amid pleas, impeachment rap

The military maintained that the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) with the United States would be beneficial to the country even as President Aquino is facing an impeachment complaint over the bilateral deal. Armed Forces chief Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang said EDCA would enhance their humanitarian assistance and disaster response (HADR) operations. "If [EDCA] is delayed, we might not be able to respond immediately if there are strong typhoons. We want to pre-position HADR equipment, airplanes and boats. There will be a big effect if we do not [implement it]," he told reporters at the Navy headquarters in Manila on Friday. Catapang believes the delayed implementation of the agreement can delay efforts to protect the public and the state. "It's really urgent. It is really urgent. And it should be implemented as soon as possible," he said. Catapang was asked to react to the move of militant groups to file an impeachment complaint against the President over EDCA, a deal that will provide the US greater access to Philippine bases. The legality of the defense deal has also been challenged before the Supreme Court. "This is a free country. You can talk. You can file cases and hopefully it will be decided upon by the Supreme Court. We'll just await the Supreme Court decision," Catapang said. * READ MORE...

(ALSO) Palace: Up to congressmen to discern on impeachment rap vs Aquino 

PHOTO: IMPEACH AQUINO RAPS: MALACANANG said Monday that it would be up to the House of Representatives to assess the impeachment complaints filed against President Benigno Aquino III amid the absence of pork barrel. "I think the Congress people have their own discernment on the allegations of the complaint and we will let them use their own discernment as to judge the allegations of the complaint," Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said in a press briefing when asked how the Palace could get support from the lawmakers from not endorsing the impeachment complaint against Aquino now that the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) has been scrapped. During the previous administration, pork barrel funds were allegedly being released to lawmakers whenever there were impeachment complaints filed against then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. At least three impeachment raps were already filed against Aquino following the Supreme Court's decision declaring parts of the administration's Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) as unconstitutional. A first valid impeachment complaint was endorsed in the House on Monday against the President for alleged betrayal of public trust and culpable violation of the Constitution. Lacierda insisted that the House is an independent body and it has its own rules. "We will defer to the House. They have the House rules to deal with such an impeachment complaint," he said. * READ MORE..

ALSO: Nancy B says Abad must account for missing P90B 

The question remains: There is still that unexplained and unaccounted P90-billion “savings” pooled by the Aquino administration that were neither declared nor placed under the economic stimulus package scheme the Palace calls the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP). And Budget Secretary Florencio “Butch” Abad must be compelled to account for these missing billions. Sen. Nancy Binay, who has been receiving a lot of praises for her hard-hitting questions to Abad and the Cabinet secretaries during Thursday’s Senate hearing while her colleagues acted like a Franklin Drilon led-cheering squad of Abad and the Palace aides, yesterday pointed this out following the admission made by Department of
Budget and Management (DBM) chief Abad before the Senate finance committee Thursday that a total of P237 billion in savings was pooled by the government since 2010 and only P167 billion went to the DAP.


Detained Sen. Jinggoy Estrada mocked the Senate for behaving like a “rah-rah” squad for Abad during the Senate’s DAP hearing. “I watched the proceedings (Thursday) in its entirety. Lucky for Secretary Abad, there were a lot of members of the Senate who made it their task of explaining the rationale and defending the implementation of the DAP easy for him,” Estrada said in a statement. “At times, all he (Abad) had to do was to concur and merely agree with the defense prepared by the administration allies,” said the senator.
Estrada said the hearing “looked like a well scripted and rehearsed production.”
“Unfortunately, the Senate has lost another chance to redeem itself and to rise above partisan politics,” he said.
“Save for a few colleagues, like Senator Nancy Binay who may be a neophyte lawmaker and is not a lawyer, she studied the DAP issue and facts lengthily, asked the tough questions and pressed for straight answers, unlike the Senate allies,” he said. The DAP hearing, he noted, was no different from the series of investigations conducted by the Senate blue ribbon committee on the “pork barrel” scandal where he said “the obvious bias and partiality of some of the members showed.”

Senator Binay, in demanding the proper accounting of government money said Abad is still not off the hook.
“Somebody must be held accountable. Remember that this is the people’s money we are talking about and there is still P90 billion missing in the government’s ‘savings’. Secretary Abad owes the Filipino people an explanation on where these funds went,” Binay said Senate probers were also told during the hearing of the said P167 billion, the government approved P157 billion proposed projects under the acceleration program yet only P144.3 billion was released under DAP. Binay pointed out during the hearing that some appropriations did not fall under the DBM’s list of projects funded by the controversial program. The DBM listed 116 projects funded by the DAP. During the Senate hearing on the DAP, Binay was surprised to learn from Abad that the P4.1 billion given to Comelec did not come from DAP and it appeared that—aside from the list of projects whose funds came from the DAP—there is another savings mechanism where funds for other government projects are sourced. “The funding released to Comelec and CoA were not listed under the 116 projects funded by DAP. It appears that there is another list of projects—projects that the DBM funds coming from regular savings,” the senator said. “Secretary Abad failed to answer where these funds were sourced. If these were not taken from DAP, where did these funds come from? * READ MORE...

(ALSO) Abad: Aquino not ill-advised on DAP 

Embattled Budget Secretary Florencio Abad on Thursday defended before senators the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) that has been declared unconstitutional in part by the Supreme Court. Maintaining that the DAP benefited the public, Abad denied during a Senate finance committee hearing that President Aquino was ill-advised on the controversial fund scheme. "Hindi ko po alam kung ating pangulo ang ill-advised. Kasi kung titignan niyo ang resulta ng DAP, ang mismong Korte Suprema sinabi, indisputably, the DAP has served the country well," Abad told Senator JV Ejercito. "Isa na po siya sa mga pinakamapanuri at masinop na kumikilatis sa budget.

By himself, the President is able to scrutinize the issues regarding budget. Hindi po ganoon kalaki ang pangangailangan niya ng advice," Abad also said. During the hearing, Abad said the DAP was conceived as an urgent response to government underspending that posed a significant threat to the country's economic development. Abad said the DAP supported programs that could stimulate the economy or ensure the delivery of important social services to the poorest Filipinos. He cited anew the projects and services funded under the DAP that benefited the nation such as the construction of roads and bridges, Project NOAH, the electrification of communities, among others. The budget chief also reiterated that due to the DAP, the country's gross domestic product rose by 6.8 percent and 7.23 percent in 2012 and 2013, respectively. Abad, who is considered the chief architect of the DAP, echoed Aquino's statement last week that the Supreme Court ruling declaring important acts under the DAP as unconstitutional will have an impact to the economy. "While I bow to the Supreme Court's wisdom, I must say, with all due respect, that its decision on these issues may undo progress we've been making," Abad said. THIS IS THE FULL REPORT.

(ALSO) Abad at the Senate: The law allowed DAP  

With nearly the entire Cabinet in tow, embattled Budget Secretary Florencio Abad faced the Senate yesterday and insisted that the law allowed the administration to implement the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP). At yesterday’s hearing conducted by the Senate committee on finance, Abad said he could not comprehend the furor over the DAP, considering that the scheme was never kept under wraps as alleged by its critics. “Not only has it been done before; we knew that we could implement DAP because the law permitted it,” Abad said. He said the use of savings by the executive branch has been a practice in every administration since the time of Corazon Aquino.

Even the cross-border transfer of funds from one branch of government to another, which was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court (SC), was also something that the executive branch had been doing since 1992, he said. “As the honorable senators must recall, we presented DAP to the Senate finance committee in October 2011 as a viable solution for accelerating government expenditures. We knew that this could be done. After all, the generation and use of savings – of which DAP is an example – is not a new practice,” Abad said. Abad noted that the use of savings for various projects and programs was called by a different name by previous administrations and the current administration only chose to call it DAP. Deficit management * READ MORE...

(ALSO) SC VS AQUINO: No cross-border fund transfer – SC 

Contrary to the claims of President Aquino, the Supreme Court (SC) did not implement a cross-border transfer of funds for the construction of justice halls in the cities of Manila and Malabon. Documents released by the high court yesterday debunked the insinuation of Aquino that the high tribunal itself committed the same act under the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), which it declared unconstitutional. In his speech during the commemoration of the 150th birth anniversary of hero Apolinario Mabini in Batangas on Wednesday, Aquino cited the SC’s own DAP-like cross-border fund transfers involving P1.865 billion for projects of the executive branch.

It was the same argument used by the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) in appealing the SC ruling last week. But a July 17, 2012 resolution of the high tribunal showed the P1.865-billion funding for the construction of the Manila hall of justice housing 120 courts came “from existing savings of the Court.”  The SC had also allocated P266.95 million and P251.27 million from its savings for construction costs of buildings for the Cebu Court of Appeals and Cagayan de Oro Court of Appeals, respectively. In its ruling on the DAP last July 1, the high court specifically declared as illegal the cross-border transfer of savings of the executive to augment funds of agencies outside the department. An insider at the high court said there was no cross-border funding of the Manila project, which is under the Justice System Infrastructure Program (JUSIP), and explained that it just so happened that the item was listed under the Department of Justice (DOJ) of the executive branch in the General Appropriations Act for 2012. “Maybe the essential question should be: Why is the money for the courts with the DOJ, which is not part of the judiciary?” said the court official who spoke on condition of anonymity. “It’s a project under the JUSIP, which is a joint program by the SC and the DOJ,” the court official said, referring to the hall of justice project for Manila. The official citied a memorandum of agreement made in 2000. * READ MORE...

(ALSO) Sen. Ejercito: Abad treated with kid gloves during DAP hearing 

Senator Joseph Victor “JV” Ejercito on Thursday criticized the way other lawmakers treated Budget Secretary Florencio Abad with kid gloves during the Senate finance committee hearing on the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) controversy. Senator JV Ejercito said minorities treated Budget Secretary Florencio Abad with kid gloves during DAP hearing. “There are only two of us in the minority and mostly from the majority. It is expected that members of the majority will be defending or will be nice to their ally, in this case Abad,” Ejercito said in a text message. “I don’t want to attack my colleagues. But I can say that I really felt how it is to be in the minority in this hearing. Outnumbered, totally,” he added. Meanwhile, Ejercito said the current administration must respect the decision of the Supreme Court (SC) rather than justifying technical malversation with its DAP arguments. “They are challenging the SC.

This is arrogance or overconfidence on the part of the administration,” Ejercito said.
Ejercito said the administration should face the consequences of their actions. He added that they could have passed an appropriation measure from Congress but they ignored the co-equal branch of government. Ejercito said a declaration of good intentions is not enough. “The road to hell is paved with good intentions. That’s the intent of passage of the law against technical malversation, to tell people like him that one cannot jungle funds, no matter how good the intention,” Ejercito said. Frustrated, Ejercito left the hearing before it adjourned. THIS IS THE FULL REPORT.

ALSO: SC says it rejected DAP offer 

PHOTO: JULY 24 --Budget Secretary Florencio “Butch” Abad holds a copy of the DAP as he faces questioning during a hearing conducted by the Senate finance committee on Thursday. THE Supreme Court (SC) on Thursday denied receiving any fund under the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), noting that it turned down an offer from Malacañang to provide P100 million of pooled savings early this year. The tribunal issued a resolution on March 5, 2013 approving the transfer of a P100-million budget that was included in the Department of Justice-Justice System Infrastructure Program (DOJ-JUSIP) for the construction of the Malabon Hall of Justice but it was not acted upon by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM). On December 23, 2013, Justice Presbitero Velasco ordered the withdrawal of the request. But on January 10, 2014, Budget Secretary Florencio “Butch” Abad informed the High Court that its request for extension of the validity of the P100-million appropriation for another year has been denied. * READ MORE...

ALSO Manila Times commentary: A shameless Senate licks Abad’s boots 

JULY 24 --The Senate hearing yesterday where Budget Secretary Florencio Abad was supposed to enlighten our people on what the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) was all about turned out to be a bootlicking show. Since the time the DAP was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, the Filipino people have been waiting for a proper explanation from the executive, alongside the appropriate “checking and balancing” by the Senate. Instead, Filipinos saw a scripted show that was obviously intended to deodorize that scandalous unconstitutional hijacking of taxpayers’ money.

Except for Senators Grace Poe and Nancy Binay who asked very revealing questions, all the senators proved to be mouthpieces of Abad and Aquino. The incarceration of three opposition senators, and Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago’s illness, certainly proved helpful for Abad.

Remember the names of the senators yesterday who spoke like marionettes – you don’t want a dummy for your next president, vice president, or senator. The following senators do not care where your hard-earned tax money are going: Drilon, Trillanes, Bam Aquino, Angara, Guingona, Recto, Osmena. Senators Ralph Recto and Sergio Osmena asked the right questions that revealed how the DAP created Aquino’s own budget beyond the scrutiny of Congress, but only to conclude that a “future president” could abuse such a DAP-scheme. The senator-puppets talked for and on behalf of Abad that all Abad needed to say was, “That’s correct.” The only senators who had balls: Senators Nancy Binay and Grace Poe * PLEASE READ THE ENTIRE COMMENTARY...


ALSO from the Manila Times: From start, Aquino bypassed the Senate on EDCA

Let’s not beat around the bush on the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) that the Aquino administration surreptitiously negotiated and sealed with the Obama administration on April 28. From the very beginning, President Aquino, on the advice of his foreign affairs and defense secretaries and his legal team, never planned to consult the Senate on his decision to discuss with the US government the feasibility of a defense cooperation agreement to strengthen security relations between our two countries, and expand on the understandings regarding the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty.

Why unilateral and no consultations Aquino was impelled to take a unilateral approach to this major policy initiative for a number of reasons, some of which were totally craven and misguided: First, he felt handcuffed by the strict provision of the Philippine Constitution, Article XVIII, Section 25, that “foreign military bases, troops or facilities shall not be allowed in the Philippines except under a treaty duly concurred in by the Senate, and recognized as a treaty by the other contracting party.” The crushing defeat in the Senate of his mother, President Corazon Aquino, in her efforts to renew the RP-US military bases agreement in 1991, weighed heavily on his mind. He did not want to risk emboldening the present Senate to demand bribes to toe the line and suddenly adopt a principled stand. Second, having boxed himself into a corner by adopting a provocative, noisy and hostile stance toward China in regard to disputed shoals and islets in the South China Sea, Aquino needed to back up his position with rhetoric, however hollow, that his government was prepared to fight to the last Filipino for these shoals and islets.
* READ MORE... 

ALSO: COMMENTARY | 6 things we learned from Senate hearing on DAP  

(Last July 24, the Senate Committee on Finance, chaired by Sen. Chiz Escudero, held a marathon hearing lasting over six hours on the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), with the declared intent of getting key officials like Budget Sec. Florencio “Butch” Abad to explain the controversial economic stimulus scheme. Abad, who had avoided the press and had taken awhile to give data even to the Supreme Court that declared DAP’s four anchor practices as unconstitutional, was the main resource person – but got able support from practically the entire Cabinet in the gallery and from LP partymate Senate President Frank Drilon.

Here's one postscript to that hearing).1. Speed isn't everything, after all DAP seems to not have been accurately named because "acceleration" - the raison d'etre of this strange creature - turns out was not necessarily always the basis for choosing which project to fund. Secretaries Butch Abad and Emilio Abaya, for example, were hard put to explain to Sen. Nancy Binay why P549 million to rehabilitate the airport - including its notorious toilets - was withdrawn. First, they said there were structural issues, then they said they had decided to centralize the contract for renovating all toilets in all DOTC-supervised facilities like airports, seaports nationwide. To which Nancy Binay asked, "I thought you were in a hurry?" Abad then said that, well, under DAP, speed isn't really the only consideration; cost efficiency was also a factor.

But what was so hard about just fixing the toilets? Abad and Abaya could only mumble a reply when Sen. Binay reminded them of last weekend's septic tank leak that sent a stink through the airport. 2. The Senate still has some tough senators - particularly among the new ones Even in the absence of minority stalwarts, the younger senators can, if they wanted to, muster the intelligence, interrogatory skills and the spunk to grill the obviously very adept advocates of DAP like Senate President Franklin Drilon and Budget Secretary Butch Abad. * CONTINUE READING...


READ FULL REPORT HERE:

Aquino faces impeachment over US defense deal (EDCA)


Philippine Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, left, and U.S. Ambassador Philip Goldberg sign the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement at Camp Aguinaldo, Philippine military headquarters in Quezon City on Monday, April 28, 2014. The U.S. military will have greater access to bases across the Philippines under the new 10-year agreement signed Monday in conjunction with President Barack Obama's visit and seen as an effort by Washington to counter Chinese aggression in the region. AP/Aaron Favila

MANILA, JULY 28, 2014 (PHILSTAR) JULY 24, 2014  By Camille Diola - President Aquino faces another impeachment complaint, this time for the supposed unconstitutionality of the Philippines' recently forged defense agreement with the United States.

The impeachment complaint, signed by left-wing groups and party-lists, was filed Thursday before the House of Representatives. It argued that Aquino allowed the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) without the approval of Congress.

The complainants, which include representatives from the Gabriela Women's Party-list, ACT Teachers Party-list and Bayan Muna, said that EDCA is by nature a treaty, as it allowed foreign forces to establish bases in the country—a move which requires Congress' ratification.

"However, the President passed it off as a mere executive agreement and bypassed entirely the Senate and the House of Representatives," ACT Teachers Party-List Rep. Antontio Tinio said in an interview over ANC on Thursday.

* American Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg, however, defended criticisms on EDCA, a key part of the US' agenda to modernize its Asia-Pacific alliances as the Obama administration pivots its foreign policy to the region.

"EDCA does not represent new bases, [as American troops] will be in Armed Forces of the Philippines' facilities with access to Filipinos," Goldberg said on Wednesday in an interview over Radyo Singko.

"We don't think this crosses the line or anything and we're not interested in new bases," he added.

Goldberg explained that the US can neither afford having new military bases around the world, even in the Philippines, its longtime defense ally.

A separate group has petitioned the Supreme Court to declare the EDCA unconstitutional weeks after it was signed in April this year. The high court, however, has not released a resolution on the matter.

AFP chief defends EDCA amid pleas, impeachment rap By Alexis Romero (philstar.com) | Updated July 26, 2014 - 4:34pm 2 36 googleplus0 0


The 45th Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, General Gregorio Pio P. Catapang Jr. receives his fourth star in a donning of ranks ceremony held at the Department of National Defense on Friday, June 25, 2014. AFP

MANILA, Philippines — The military maintained that the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) with the United States would be beneficial to the country even as President Aquino is facing an impeachment complaint over the bilateral deal.

Armed Forces chief Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang said EDCA would enhance their humanitarian assistance and disaster response (HADR) operations.

"If [EDCA] is delayed, we might not be able to respond immediately if there are strong typhoons. We want to pre-position HADR equipment, airplanes and boats. There will be a big effect if we do not [implement it]," he told reporters at the Navy headquarters in Manila on Friday.

Catapang believes the delayed implementation of the agreement can delay efforts to protect the public and the state.

"It's really urgent. It is really urgent. And it should be implemented as soon as possible," he said.

Catapang was asked to react to the move of militant groups to file an impeachment complaint against the President over EDCA, a deal that will provide the US greater access to Philippine bases.

The legality of the defense deal has also been challenged before the Supreme Court.

"This is a free country. You can talk. You can file cases and hopefully it will be decided upon by the Supreme Court. We'll just await the Supreme Court decision," Catapang said.

* The Philippines and the US signed the EDCA last April in a move widely seen as a strategy to counter China's aggressive expansion in the region. Officials said the 10-year deal would help modernize the Philippine military, one of the weakest in the region.

The agreement will allow the US to construct temporary facilities and to store equipment in Philippine military bases. Officials are now determining what bases will be covered by the agreement, which was negotiated for eight months.

Last Thursday, an impeachment complaint against the President was filed by militant groups who believe that the signing of EDCA constituted a culpable violation of the constitution and betrayal of public trust.

Three petitions questioning the constitutionality of EDCA have also been filed before the Supreme Court.

The first petition was filed by former Senators Rene Saguisag and Wigberto Tañada, two of the twelve lawmakers who favored the shutdown of US bases in the Philippines in 1991.

They claimed that EDCA has no legal basis because the Mutual Defense Treaty between the Philippines and the US has been superseded by the 1987 Constitution, which renounces war as a national policy.

The second petition was filed by lawmakers who belong to the Makabayan bloc of the House of Representatives and leaders of different groups.They argue that EDCA would only benefit the US and could lead to "a derogation of our country's dignity and an unconscionable sellout of our sovereignty."

The third petition, filed by the Kilusang Mayo Uno and the Confederation for Unity, Recognition and Advancement, claimed that the deal violated constitutional provisions on national sovereignty, territorial integrity and interests, freedom from nuclear weapons and autonomy of local government units. – with a report from I. Bongcales

FROM SUNSTAR.COM

Palace: Up to congressmen to discern on impeachment rap vs Aquino Monday, July 21, 2014


IMPEACH AQUINO RAPS

MALACANANG said Monday that it would be up to the House of Representatives to assess the impeachment complaints filed against President Benigno Aquino III amid the absence of pork barrel.

"I think the Congress people have their own discernment on the allegations of the complaint and we will let them use their own discernment as to judge the allegations of the complaint," Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said in a press briefing when asked how the Palace could get support from the lawmakers from not endorsing the impeachment complaint against Aquino now that the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) has been scrapped.

During the previous administration, pork barrel funds were allegedly being released to lawmakers whenever there were impeachment complaints filed against then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

At least three impeachment raps were already filed against Aquino following the Supreme Court's decision declaring parts of the administration's Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) as unconstitutional.

A first valid impeachment complaint was endorsed in the House on Monday against the President for alleged betrayal of public trust and culpable violation of the Constitution.

Lacierda insisted that the House is an independent body and it has its own rules.

"We will defer to the House. They have the House rules to deal with such an impeachment complaint," he said.

* Lacierda refused to give further comments on the impeachment raps against the President.

"If we make any statement as to conclusion, then there will be implications to that," he said.

Contrary to the claim of a militant group that DAP is a "presidential pork," the Palace official said it was not.

"Well, you know we have a difference in opinion on that. The Supreme Court has already mentioned on the positive effects of this. But is this Presidential pork? No, this is our understanding of how we can use savings. Make sure that savings are used effectively," he said.

"We obviously have a difference in opinion with the impeachment complainant," Lacierda added. (SDR/Sunnex)

FROM THE TRIBUNE

Nancy B says Abad must account for missing P90B Written by Angie M. Rosales Saturday, 26 July 2014 00:00

The question remains: There is still that unexplained and unaccounted P90-billion “savings” pooled by the Aquino administration that were neither declared nor placed under the economic stimulus package scheme the Palace calls the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP). And Budget Secretary Florencio “Butch” Abad must be compelled to account for these missing billions.

Sen. Nancy Binay, who has been receiving a lot of praises for her hard-hitting questions to Abad and the Cabinet secretaries during Thursday’s Senate hearing while her colleagues acted like a Franklin Drilon led-cheering squad of Abad and the Palace aides, yesterday pointed this out following the admission made by Department of
Budget and Management (DBM) chief Abad before the Senate finance committee Thursday that a total of P237 billion in savings was pooled by the government since 2010 and only P167 billion went to the DAP.


PHOTO COURTESY OF THE INQUIRER

Detained Sen. Jinggoy Estrada mocked the Senate for behaving like a “rah-rah” squad for Abad during the Senate’s DAP hearing.

“I watched the proceedings (Thursday) in its entirety. Lucky for Secretary Abad, there were a lot of members of the Senate who made it their task of explaining the rationale and defending the implementation of the DAP easy for him,” Estrada said in a statement.

“At times, all he (Abad) had to do was to concur and merely agree with the defense prepared by the administration allies,” said the senator.

Estrada said the hearing “looked like a well scripted and rehearsed production.”

“Unfortunately, the Senate has lost another chance to redeem itself and to rise above partisan politics,” he said.

“Save for a few colleagues, like Senator Nancy Binay who may be a neophyte lawmaker and is not a lawyer, she studied the DAP issue and facts lengthily, asked the tough questions and pressed for straight answers, unlike the Senate allies,” he said.

The DAP hearing, he noted, was no different from the series of investigations conducted by the Senate blue ribbon committee on the “pork barrel” scandal where he said “the obvious bias and partiality of some of the members showed.”
Senator Binay, in demanding the proper accounting of government money said Abad is still not off the hook.

“Somebody must be held accountable. Remember that this is the people’s money we are talking about and there is still P90 billion missing in the government’s ‘savings’. Secretary Abad owes the Filipino people an explanation on where these funds went,” Binay said

Senate probers were also told during the hearing of the said P167 billion, the government approved P157 billion proposed projects under the acceleration program yet only P144.3 billion was released under DAP.

Binay pointed out during the hearing that some appropriations did not fall under the DBM’s list of projects funded by the controversial program.

The DBM listed 116 projects funded by the DAP.

During the Senate hearing on the DAP, Binay was surprised to learn from Abad that the P4.1 billion given to Comelec did not come from DAP and it appeared that—aside from the list of projects whose funds came from the DAP—there is another savings mechanism where funds for other government projects are sourced.

“The funding released to Comelec and CoA were not listed under the 116 projects funded by DAP. It appears that there is another list of projects—projects that the DBM funds coming from regular savings,” the senator said.

“Secretary Abad failed to answer where these funds were sourced. If these were not taken from DAP, where did these funds come from?

* Secretary Abad and the DBM must be compelled to account for these funds. Where did they go and who benefited from these funds?.” Binay stressed.

Senate President Drilon acted as Abad and the Cabinet’s lawyer, defending the DAP, saying all the acts by Abad and the Palace are legal and constitutional.

Senators Estrada and Bong Revilla expressed disgust over their colleagues’ manner of handling the Senate proceedings on the DAP.

“It was quite observable that with the present composition of the committee and the chamber in general, the hearing looked like a well scripted and rehearsed production...Unfortunately, the Senate has lost another chance to redeem itself and to rise above partisan politics.

Revilla, in his press statement, shared the sentiment aired by Estrada and noted the absence of several others which he felt was a lost opportunity to clarify the issue on DAP, especially on some who were alluded to as being among the beneficiaries of its funds.

Sen. Francis “Chiz” Escudero, chairman of the Senate finance committee and presiding officer during the hearing, defended his colleagues from critics, saying it can only be expected that some would be displeased with the manner of questioning of some of his panel members.

“That is to be expected since most of our hearings are often criticized by those who were disappointed as to how things went. I cannot dictate upon my colleagues as to their manner of posing their questions on the resource person or what they can or cannot ask,” Escudero said.

Admittedly, Escudero said even in previous hearings there will be those who, by way of throwing their questions on the resource persons, would prove to be an ally or otherwise.

“What is important is that it’s a public hearing, we were able to require their attendance and submission of documents,” the senator said.

Escudero, however, is urging Malacañang to attend instead on the issue of how to address the projects affected by the Supreme Court’s ruling as unconstitutional insofar as the use of DAP funds are concerned.

Presidential Deputy spokesman Abigail Valte denied that the “question and answer” Senate hearing attended by Abad was scripted by the Liberal Party senators and political allies of President Aquino.

“I was there. I sat there for seven hours during the duration of the entire hearing. There were portions where Secretary Abad was saying yes to the senator, there were also prolonged portions when Secretary Abad was the one giving the answers because he was the resource person,” Valte said.

Drilon was observed to have guided Abad on how to answer his questions which Abad had his comfort.

Valte said any outside observation has no bearing with them for as long as Abad was given ample time to explain the DAP.

“That kind of observation (is not important), what is important to us is that a Cabinet member has been given the chance to talk, “ Valte said.

Valte said “Senator Drilon is a good lawyer. That is called cross examination where you give questions that are answerable either by yes or no. So maybe the style of how Senator Drilon was the issue,” Valte said.

Valte denied that Malacañang had anything to do with the Drilon-style of questioning Abad, neither did they have a Drilon-Abad script.

“There was no rehearsal. Preparations. I know that the team that supported Secretary Abad was up several nights in a row to help the Secretary not just prepare for the budget hearing but also prepare for the submission of the budget the day after Sona,” Valte said.

An ally of Malacañang yesterday blasted critics of the Aquino administration for trying to discredit the accomplishments of the government with the use of the outlawed Disbursement Acceleration Program.

According to Iloilo Rep. Jerry Trenas the controversy over the DAP bears no weight on the accomplishments of President Aquino who has steered the country to its present status as one of the best performing economies in Asia.

Treñas said that there has not been an administration in the country’s history that has undertaken so many infrastructure projects as the Aquino administration.

Treñas also underscored the economic performance of the administration which led to “a series of credit rating upgrades” that his predecessors failed to do.

“The President’s critics are doing everything to downplay his accomplishments and use the DAP issue to discredit his leadership. Certainly, he is right on track in fulfilling his promises to our people but other people are moving heaven and earth in making sure that he will not succeed because this would spell doom to their political agenda now and until 2016,” Trenas said.

According to Reps. Francisco Ashley Acedillo and Gary Alejano, the overall performance of the Aquino government would be at 6.8 in a scale of 1 (lowest) to 10 (highest).

Acedillo and Alejano, said that a “performance metrics” culled from the 2013 Sona Technical Report prepared by the Office of the President, would show that the Aquino government has among others, institutionalized and sustained good governance reforms by promoting public accountability, transparency, enhanced citizen participation in governance and has upheld National Peace, Security, and Integrity.

The lawmakers also noted that the increase in the budget for the CCT (Conditional Cash Transfer) or 4P’s have provided a significant social safety net for millions of poor Filipinos.
With Gerry Baldoand Paul Atienza

Abad: Aquino not ill-advised on DAP (philstar.com) | Updated July 24, 2014 - 12:47pm 6 85 googleplus0 0


Malacanang file photo

MANILA, Philippines — Embattled Budget Secretary Florencio Abad on Thursday defended before senators the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) that has been declared unconstitutional in part by the Supreme Court.

Maintaining that the DAP benefited the public, Abad denied during a Senate finance committee hearing that President Aquino was ill-advised on the controversial fund scheme.

"Hindi ko po alam kung ating pangulo ang ill-advised. Kasi kung titignan niyo ang resulta ng DAP, ang mismong Korte Suprema sinabi, indisputably, the DAP has served the country well," Abad told Senator JV Ejercito.

"Isa na po siya sa mga pinakamapanuri at masinop na kumikilatis sa budget. By himself, the President is able to scrutinize the issues regarding budget. Hindi po ganoon kalaki ang pangangailangan niya ng advice," Abad also said.

During the hearing, Abad said the DAP was conceived as an urgent response to government underspending that posed a significant threat to the country's economic development.

Abad said the DAP supported programs that could stimulate the economy or ensure the delivery of important social services to the poorest Filipinos.

He cited anew the projects and services funded under the DAP that benefited the nation such as the construction of roads and bridges, Project NOAH, the electrification of communities, among others.

The budget chief also reiterated that due to the DAP, the country's gross domestic product rose by 6.8 percent and 7.23 percent in 2012 and 2013, respectively.

Abad, who is considered the chief architect of the DAP, echoed Aquino's statement last week that the Supreme Court ruling declaring important acts under the DAP as unconstitutional will have an impact to the economy.

"While I bow to the Supreme Court's wisdom, I must say, with all due respect, that its decision on these issues may undo progress we've been making," Abad said. - Louis Bacani

Abad: The law allowed DAP By Marvin Sy (The Philippine Star) | Updated July 25, 2014 - 12:00am 0 0 googleplus0 0


Budget Secretary Florencio Abad answers questions from senators during a hearing on the Disbursement Acceleration Program yesterday. Beside him is Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima. MANNY MARCELO

MANILA, Philippines - With nearly the entire Cabinet in tow, embattled Budget Secretary Florencio Abad faced the Senate yesterday and insisted that the law allowed the administration to implement the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).

At yesterday’s hearing conducted by the Senate committee on finance, Abad said he could not comprehend the furor over the DAP, considering that the scheme was never kept under wraps as alleged by its critics.

“Not only has it been done before; we knew that we could implement DAP because the law permitted it,” Abad said.

He said the use of savings by the executive branch has been a practice in every administration since the time of Corazon Aquino.

Even the cross-border transfer of funds from one branch of government to another, which was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court (SC), was also something that the executive branch had been doing since 1992, he said.

“As the honorable senators must recall, we presented DAP to the Senate finance committee in October 2011 as a viable solution for accelerating government expenditures. We knew that this could be done. After all, the generation and use of savings – of which DAP is an example – is not a new practice,” Abad said.

Abad noted that the use of savings for various projects and programs was called by a different name by previous administrations and the current administration only chose to call it DAP.

Deficit management

* During the first Aquino administration, Abad pointed out that the use of savings took the form of the imposition of reserves, where allocations were withheld as security against unwieldy fiscal deficit. The scheme was called the Reserve Control Account.

“This way of using savings continued on in the Ramos and Estrada administrations. Under the Arroyo administration, the practice was plainly dubbed the ‘use of Overall Savings.’ The practice of generating and using savings bore different names because each administration faced its own unique set of economic and fiscal challenges,” Abad said.

In the case of cross-border transfers, Abad noted that this has been done over the last 22 years.

“Savings have been used to augment the budgets of Congress, the judiciary and other constitutional bodies independent from all three branches of government,” Abad said.

Reiterating the statements made by President Aquino over the past week, Abad cited Sections 38 and 39 of the Administrative Code, which authorizes the President to suspend or stop the use of funds allotted to an agency, if the public interest so requires.

It also allows the use of savings to cover a deficit in any other item in the national budget upon approval of the President.

He said the administration launched the DAP in 2011 with an announcement by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), which was even picked up by several news agencies.

Malacañang also made its own announcement of the program’s launch, he said.

A total of P237.5 billion was determined as savings by the administration in 2011 and readied for DAP.

However, Abad pointed out that the proposed projects considered for funding amounted to only P167.6 billion.

What was eventually approved by the President and released was a total of P144 billion, which was the working figure being used by the DBM for the DAP.

Abad said that 37 percent of DAP funds were used to support economic services, 34 percent went to infrastructure projects, 21 percent to social services, five percent for defense, security and disaster management, and three percent for other expenditures.

“These figures are fairly impressive, but the public may perhaps be more interested in finding out how DAP benefited the Filipino people. Because we implemented DAP without pomp and circumstance, most of the public are unaware that some of the services we’ve been delivering were made possible by DAP,” Abad said.

These include the payment of unremitted GSIS premiums for public school teachers, sitio electrification projects and Technical Education and Skills Development Authority training for work scholarships.

“The acceleration of these expenditures played a sure role in the expansion of our economy, and ultimately, in the consistent socio-economic growth that we have enjoyed over the last four years,” Abad said.

He said the administration finds disturbing the Supreme Court’s ruling that “the doctrine of operative fact and its attendant presumption of good faith cannot apply to the authors, proponents and implementers of the DAP, unless they prove otherwise.”

“More troubling is the chilling effect of those two stray paragraphs on the Aquino administration’s momentum for reform. Because if public servants are presumed to have acted in bad faith in the course of their reform efforts, we can only expect a bureaucracy that second-guesses itself before taking creative action, a bureaucracy which shakes in its boots while performing just the bare minimum of its duties,” Abad said.

“While I bow to the wisdom of the Supreme Court, I must say, with all due respect, that its decision on these issues may undo the progress we have achieved so far,” Abad said.

With legal basis

Senate President Franklin Drilon said he agreed with Abad that the DAP was implemented in accordance with law.

He also said DAP did not only benefit allies of the President.

Abad noted that every senator at the time the DAP was implemented, except for Panfilo Lacson, nominated projects for inclusion in the program.

He said that the same was true for the House of Representatives because everyone, including Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Neri Colmenares, who endorsed the impeachment complaint against the President, nominated projects under the DAP.

“It is not as if this is a program of allies of the President. It has something to do on whether or not it is a valid request for funding of a particular project,” Drilon said.

Based on the explanation of Abad, the DAP was a spending reform measure for speeding up public expenditure to catalyze economic growth.

Some questions were asked about the selection of programs and projects that were included in the DAP, such as the P40 billion that went to the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas and the P4.1 billion that went to the Commission on Elections.

Critics of the DAP questioned the inclusion of these because it was not clear what role they had played in stimulating the economy.

Abad said the actual amount that went to the BSP under the DAP was only P30 billion and this was part of the obligation of the national government under the Charter of the BSP.

He added that the BSP has been instrumental in the growth and stability of the economy.

As for the Comelec, Abad explained that the funds were used for the purchase of the precinct count optical scan machines, which were previously leased by the poll body.

Abad said that the Comelec did not have the budget for purchasing the PCOS machines and with the 2013 elections around the corner at the time, Chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. warned that failure to complete the transaction could result in a return to manual counting of votes.

Wrong projects

Sen. Nancy Binay said DAP funds should have been used for regular projects such as the rehabilitation of toilets at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA I).

Binay grilled Abad on the shelving of the P549.188-million budget for the NAIA I in 2012 which eventually ended up as part of the pooled savings that went to the DAP in the later part of the same year.

Binay also questioned the allocation of P70 million for stem cell research coursed through the Department of Health (DOH) when the amount would have benefited more if spent for the purchase of more beds in government hospitals.

Transportation and Communications Secretary Joseph Abaya and Health Secretary Enrique Ona, who were seated at the VIP gallery section, were called to the inquiry to explain the DAP allocations given to their respective departments.

For the DOTC alone, the agency’s savings reached P14.5 billion in 2011 and 2012. Abad did not rule out that the P14.5-billion savings could have been pooled as part of government savings and eventually ended up in the DAP.

Abaya said the NAIA restrooms were not recipients of DAP. He said the rehabilitation project for NAIA was scrapped when he was still congressman.

“In terms of service, there would have been many who will benefit from this project… why ask this amount from Congress? The budget of P549 million was approved and then in the middle of the year, it was scrapped,” Binay said.

“Hindi ninyo po nakikita ang pangangailangan ng mga banyo nationwide (Can’t you see the need for toilets nationwide)?” Binay added.

Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. joined Binay in asking the Senate panel to direct the budget chief to submit a list of amounts impounded per agency and pooled to be part of DAP.

Misleading

Former budget chief Benjamin Diokno said Abad and Drilon were misleading the public with their claims that the previous administrations also had their own versions of the DAP.

In a statement, Diokno pointed out that the use of savings by the previous administrations was different from what the current administration is doing with the DAP.

“Abad’s DAP and past presidents’ use of savings are not the same. Having reserves does not necessarily mean savings,” Diokno said.

He said the Reserve Control Account “was used as tool for impoundment, not for funding new programs, projects and activities not in GAA (General Appropriations Act).”

“In the past, reserve control account was used for impoundment of funds for fear of unmanageable fiscal deficit,” Diokno said.

“This is not the same as generating ‘contrived’ savings and applying the same for programs, projects, and activities not authorized in the GAA,” he said.

On the issue of cross-border transfers of funds, Diokno argued that the example given by Sen. Francis Escudero about local government units providing funds to the courts situated in their respective jurisdictions do not fall into that classification.

“The SC declared cross-border transfers with respect to augmentation of SC budget from savings of other branches of government. When LGUs directly appropriate money for building court houses, procuring computers and other equipment, or for hiring contractual personnel assigned to courts, these do not constitute cross-border use of savings,” Diokno said.

Meanwhile, the DBM launched yesterday a web page dedicated to all matters relating to DAP.

The web page, (http://www.dbm.gov.ph/?page_id=9796), contains all relevant information on the Aquino administration’s spending acceleration program, launched in October 2011.

The web page provides memos and issuances, the full and complete list of DAP projects, the assessment of DAP and all press releases previously issued by the DBM about the program, among other important information.

Details include project names, their respective descriptions, as well as the proposed funding and allotment releases made to each project.

“It took us several months to collect all the DAP-related data, verify all details and figures, and ensure the accuracy of all our numbers. The DBM also had to work closely with other implementing agencies in the course of completing the DAP project list,” Abad said. - With Christina Mendez, Zinnia dela Peña

No cross-border fund transfer – SC By Edu Punay (The Philippine Star) | Updated July 25, 2014 - 12:00am 0 0 googleplus0 0

MANILA, Philippines - Contrary to the claims of President Aquino, the Supreme Court (SC) did not implement a cross-border transfer of funds for the construction of justice halls in the cities of Manila and Malabon.

Documents released by the high court yesterday debunked the insinuation of Aquino that the high tribunal itself committed the same act under the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), which it declared unconstitutional.

In his speech during the commemoration of the 150th birth anniversary of hero Apolinario Mabini in Batangas on Wednesday, Aquino cited the SC’s own DAP-like cross-border fund transfers involving P1.865 billion for projects of the executive branch.

It was the same argument used by the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) in appealing the SC ruling last week.

But a July 17, 2012 resolution of the high tribunal showed the P1.865-billion funding for the construction of the Manila hall of justice housing 120 courts came “from existing savings of the Court.”

The SC had also allocated P266.95 million and P251.27 million from its savings for construction costs of buildings for the Cebu Court of Appeals and Cagayan de Oro Court of Appeals, respectively.

In its ruling on the DAP last July 1, the high court specifically declared as illegal the cross-border transfer of savings of the executive to augment funds of agencies outside the department.

An insider at the high court said there was no cross-border funding of the Manila project, which is under the Justice System Infrastructure Program (JUSIP), and explained that it just so happened that the item was listed under the Department of Justice (DOJ) of the executive branch in the General Appropriations Act for 2012.

“Maybe the essential question should be: Why is the money for the courts with the DOJ, which is not part of the judiciary?” said the court official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

“It’s a project under the JUSIP, which is a joint program by the SC and the DOJ,” the court official said, referring to the hall of justice project for Manila.

The official citied a memorandum of agreement made in 2000.

* Under the JUSIP, local governments donate parcels of land for use of the trial court and DOJ offices. Under the agreement, the DOJ constructs a hall of justice and turns over all pertinent documents to the court and the ownership of both the land and the hall of justice is consolidated with the Court, which is then tasked to maintain the same.

In his tirade against the high court, Aquino also cited an SC resolution on March 5 last year requesting the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to approve the transfer of P100 million – included in the JUSIP budget for 2012 for the Manila City Hall of Justice – to the budget of the judiciary “to be used for the construction of the Malabon hall of justice.”

FROM THE MANILA BULLETIN

Ejercito: Abad treated with kid gloves during DAP hearing by Mary Rose A. Hogaza July 24, 2014


Florencio Abad, Butch Abad & JV Ejercito: (DBM) Disbursement Acceleration Program, Manila Bulletin, mb.com.ph/ Senator JV Ejercito said minorities treated Budget Secretary Florencio Abad with kid gloves during DAP hearing.

Senator Joseph Victor “JV” Ejercito on Thursday criticized the way other lawmakers treated Budget Secretary Florencio Abad with kid gloves during the Senate finance committee hearing on the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) controversy.

Senator JV Ejercito said minorities treated Budget Secretary Florencio Abad with kid gloves during DAP hearing.
“There are only two of us in the minority and mostly from the majority. It is expected that members of the majority will be defending or will be nice to their ally, in this case Abad,” Ejercito said in a text message.

“I don’t want to attack my colleagues. But I can say that I really felt how it is to be in the minority in this hearing. Outnumbered, totally,” he added.

Meanwhile, Ejercito said the current administration must respect the decision of the Supreme Court (SC) rather than justifying technical malversation with its DAP arguments.

“They are challenging the SC. This is arrogance or overconfidence on the part of the administration,” Ejercito said.

Ejercito said the administration should face the consequences of their actions. He added that they could have passed an appropriation measure from Congress but they ignored the co-equal branch of government.

Ejercito said a declaration of good intentions is not enough.

“The road to hell is paved with good intentions. That’s the intent of passage of the law against technical malversation, to tell people like him that one cannot jungle funds, no matter how good the intention,” Ejercito said.

Frustrated, Ejercito left the hearing before it adjourned.

FROM THE MANILA TIMES

SC says it rejected DAP offer July 24, 2014 10:30 pm by Jomar Canlas Senior Reporter


Budget Secretary Florencio "Butch" Abad holds a copy of the DAP as he faces questioning during a hearing conducted by the Senate finance committee on Thursday. PHOTO BY EDWIN MULI

THE Supreme Court (SC) on Thursday denied receiving any fund under the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), noting that it turned down an offer from Malacañang to provide P100 million of pooled savings early this year.

The tribunal issued a resolution on March 5, 2013 approving the transfer of a P100-million budget that was included in the Department of Justice-Justice System Infrastructure Program (DOJ-JUSIP) for the construction of the Malabon Hall of Justice but it was not acted upon by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).

On December 23, 2013, Justice Presbitero Velasco ordered the withdrawal of the request.

But on January 10, 2014, Budget Secretary Florencio “Butch” Abad informed the High Court that its request for extension of the validity of the P100-million appropriation for another year has been denied.

* He, however, told the court of the availability of a portion of the pooled savings to augment the judiciary’s capital outlay.

Abad said the fund has been processed for release to the judiciary.

But the SC rejected the offer upon Velasco’s recommendation.

President Benigno Aquino 3rd on Wednesday accused the High Court of transferring funds to the DOJ similar to what was done under the DAP, which the tribunal said was illegal.

In its July 1 DAP ruling, the tribunal ruled that apart from barring cross-border transfer of funds from one branch of government to another, the Constitution also prohibits the “withdrawal of unobligated allotments from the implementing agencies, and the declaration of the withdrawn unobligated allotments and unreleased appropriations as savings prior to the end of the fiscal year and without complying with the statutory definition of savings contained in the General Appropriations Acts.”

A shameless Senate licks Abad’s boots  by RIGOBERTO D. TIGLAO
 July 24, 2014 10:22 pm MANILA TIMES


RIGOBERTO D. TIGLAO

The Senate hearing yesterday where Budget Secretary Florencio Abad was supposed to enlighten our people on what the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) was all about turned out to be a bootlicking show.

Since the time the DAP was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, the Filipino people have been waiting for a proper explanation from the executive, alongside the appropriate “checking and balancing” by the Senate. Instead, Filipinos saw a scripted show that was obviously intended to deodorize that scandalous unconstitutional hijacking of taxpayers’ money.

Except for Senators Grace Poe and Nancy Binay who asked very revealing questions, all the senators proved to be mouthpieces of Abad and Aquino. The incarceration of three opposition senators, and Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago’s illness, certainly proved helpful for Abad.

Remember the names of the senators yesterday who spoke like marionettes – you don’t want a dummy for your next president, vice president, or senator. The following senators do not care where your hard-earned tax money are going: Drilon, Trillanes, Bam Aquino, Angara, Guingona, Recto, Osmena.

Senators Ralph Recto and Sergio Osmena asked the right questions that revealed how the DAP created Aquino’s own budget beyond the scrutiny of Congress, but only to conclude that a “future president” could abuse such a DAP-scheme.

The senator-puppets talked for and on behalf of Abad that all Abad needed to say was, “That’s correct.”


The only senators who had balls: Senators Nancy Binay and Grace Poe

* We know now where Abad has been spending the past several days since the Court declared DAP unconstitutional:

Preparing himself, the other secretaries, and even their favorite senators, for yesterday’s moro-moro.

It is shocking how senators even seemed to clap and applaud over details of how President Aquino disregarded the Senate’s role over the country’s purse.

How obsequious is that?

It is the legislative department, which has the power of the purse. The strict limits set on the executive from interfering with that power is even discussed at length in the Constitution’s Article VI, which is devoted to “The Legislative Department.”

But in yesterday’s hearing, it is the Senate that supported the President’s hijacking of its role over the budget.

Well-paid prostitute

Former Senator Joker Arroyo’s analogy was that the Senate has become a willing rape victim in the DAP issue. He is wrong. Rather, the Senate led by its President Franklin Drilon has become a well-paid prostitute under Aquino, willing to do any perverted sex act before the public as long as it gets its pork barrel money.

Our country has moved into dangerous territory. The Supreme Court stands alone in enforcing the rule of law—or an enlightened people’s armed forces.

After asking only the most inane questions, Senator Antonio Trillanes blamed Abad and the administration for one thing:
“You do not have a good communications program.”

Senator Edgardo Angara, Jr., whose home province, Quezon, got a P750-million windfall from DAP, after saying how happy he was over DAP, asked Abad to advertise his purported reforms at his department.

Senator Teofisto Guingona III even told Abad—a point most probably fed to him in a note—how to get the Court to reverse its ruling.

I could write a list of questions triple the length of this column on what a real, genuine Senate could have asked Abad.

Among the most important questions that the brown-nosing senators failed to ask:

• How much in new pork barrel funds, that is, not in the 2011 budget law, especially those given to Congress shortly before and after the Senate decision to remove Chief Justice Renato Corona in 2011, came from the DAP? How much in new funds under the sole discretionary control of Aquino, Abad, and Mar Roxas were raised through it?

• If the DAP was so important to the economy as Abad and Aquino claimed, why had they kept it secret, why wasn’t it even mentioned in the President’s budget messages from 2011, 2012, and 2103? If the DAP-funded projects were so important, why didn’t Aquino and Abad propose these in the appropriations bill for these years?

• If the DAP was intended to stimulate the economy, how were these projects determined? To her credit, Senator Grace Poe asked this question, and she got only a vague reply from a stammering Abad, that such projects “could have been proposed” by Cabinet secretaries.

• Why is it that over half of the P144 billion DAP funds released were not, by any stretch of the imagination, designed to stimulate the economy? Among these: the distribution of P9 billion to politicians in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, P8 billion for “livelihood” projects that would benefit rebels with whom Aquino has been undertaking peace talks, P14 billion for “local projects” disbursed under the discretion of Mar Roxas, P30 billion to build up the central bank’s capitalization, which actually takes that much money out of the economy; and P500 million spent for advertisements abroad for the tourism slogan, “It’s more fun in the Philippines.”

• How could P12 billion given to local projects that members of Congress proposed be considered to be priority projects that would stimulate the economy? Look at the list, even of the small DAP projects, and they not only do not stimulate the economy, but only make the offices of top Cabinet secretaries as comfortable as they wanted, for instance, the P250 million move to the posh Makati district by the tourism department and certain offices of the interior and local government department.

• Some P65 billion or half of the DAP releases were lump-sum funds, in contrast to appropriations under the budget laws, which are minutely examined during the yearlong budget hearings of the Congress. How much of these are disbursed solely under the discretion of Aquino, Abad, and Roxas?

Grand scheme

And no senator asked the most important question to Abad:

How do you interpret Section 29 (Section 1) of Article VI of the Constitution: “No money shall be paid out of the Treasury except in pursuance of an appropriation made by law?”

This goes to the crux of the DAP controversy. It was a grand scheme to go around the Constitution, so Aquino would have his own budget he can use at his whim, by changing the definition of “savings.”

Why were there so many projects that were haphazardly chosen, like in a mad rush (stem cell project, spanking new offices anyone?). The reason is that the projects were a mere smoke-screen for DAP’s main purpose – to secretly raise bribe money for the Congress to take out Corona, and then to accumulate such a huge slush fund for the 2016 elections in a magnitude unprecedented in the history of this republic. Even the finance secretary said that they couldn’t get enough projects for DAP that he proposed settling a P2.5 debt of the Bureau of Customs to the Philippine Deposit Insurance Corp., which already had P85 billion in deposit insurance funds.

Instead of asking Abad probing questions such as why was Tarlac, of all provinces, given P2 billion in DAP funds (even if we assume these were for legitimate projects), instead of Samar or any other of the country’s poorest provinces, Senate President Franklin Drilon, instead presented, in the guise of asking questions, a legal defense of DAP, which I think he himself knows, so that all Abad had to do was to say, “That’s correct.”

I couldn’t believe how Drilon has prostituted his once brilliant legal mind. He said in the hearing that the DAP couldn’t be unconstitutional as it violated only the budget laws that defined what “savings” were, which funded the DAP. (And the Senate he heads was a part of the Congress that enacted those budget laws!)

But that’s precisely what the Supreme Court does, which is not only to declare certain government actions as directly violating the constitution, but that they violate laws, and therefore, are unconstitutional. A prime example of this was the Court’s decision declaring Hacienda Luisita’s scheme of land reform as violating agrarian reform laws.

Again, the big lie

As I pointed out in an earlier column (“World Bank backtracks on DAP,” The Manila Times, July 2014), Aquino and Abad’s big-lie propaganda technique in the DAP issue is to repeat again and again ad nauseam the fallacy that their hijacking of funds benefited the economy.

Abad repeated this lie again and again in yesterday’s hearing. The Aquino government’s claim of the DAP being good for the economy was based on the World Bank report of March 2012. However, subsequent reports of the World Bank showed that it backtracked on its original pronouncement.

In its July 2012 update, the World Bank pointed out that in the first place, the DAP meant only a “mere realignment of funds”. That is, the DAP were funds already in the budget but which Aquino and Abad hijacked to use for other projects.

Secondly, the World Bank pointed out that the DAP amounts were “miniscule (at less than 0.01 percentage point) relative to the size of the economy” to have any effect on its growth. In contrast, former President Arroyo’s program to stimulate the economy to weather the 2009 global financial crisis, involved P220 billion in new funds, mostly approved by Congress, and almost all devoted to infrastructure.

In its July 2012 update, the World Bank pointed out that in the first place, the DAP meant only a “mere realignment of funds”. That is, the DAP were funds already in the budget but which Aquino and Abad hijacked to use for other projects.

Secondly, the World Bank pointed out that the DAP amounts were “miniscule (at less than 0.01 percentage point) relative to the size of the economy” to have any effect on its growth. In contrast, former President Arroyo’s program to stimulate the economy to weather the 2009 global financial crisis, involved P220 billion in new funds disbursed in only one year and not three years as the DAP was, mostly approved by Congress, and almost all devoted to infrastructure.

Succeeding WB reports, especially its annual updates on the Philippine economy, didn’t bother to mention the DAP as it was so irrelevant to the country’s economic performance.

Even Abad yesterday unwittingly admitted how irrelevant the DAP was to economic growth when in his attempt to downplay its size, he claimed that it was only 2.7 percent of the budget for the three years. How could this stimulate the economy?

To realize the stupidity of the claim that the DAP stimulated the economy, consider this: DAP’s P144 billion from 2011 to 2013 is smaller than the P169 billion sales revenue of Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. in one year. San Miguel Corp’s revenue in 2012 is five times the total DAP, at P700 billion.

However, DAP money certainly would be gargantuan as bribes to members of the Senate and Congress.

And that’s not an understatement. It was a good “investment” for the Aquino government, as the senators certainly gave all a toady show.

Never have we had such a sycophantic Senate as we have now.

FROM THE MANILA TIMES

From start, Aquino bypassed the Senate on EDCA  April 30, 2014 10:34 pm by YEN MAKABENTA


YEN MAKABENTA

Let’s not beat around the bush on the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) that the Aquino administration surreptitiously negotiated and sealed with the Obama administration on April 28.

From the very beginning, President Aquino, on the advice of his foreign affairs and defense secretaries and his legal team, never planned to consult the Senate on his decision to discuss with the US government the feasibility of a defense cooperation agreement to strengthen security relations between our two countries, and expand on the understandings regarding the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty.

Why unilateral and no consultations

Aquino was impelled to take a unilateral approach to this major policy initiative for a number of reasons, some of which were totally craven and misguided:

First, he felt handcuffed by the strict provision of the Philippine Constitution, Article XVIII, Section 25, that “foreign military bases, troops or facilities shall not be allowed in the Philippines except under a treaty duly concurred in by the Senate, and recognized as a treaty by the other contracting party.”

The crushing defeat in the Senate of his mother, President Corazon Aquino, in her efforts to renew the RP-US military bases agreement in 1991, weighed heavily on his mind. He did not want to risk emboldening the present Senate to demand bribes to toe the line and suddenly adopt a principled stand.

Second, having boxed himself into a corner by adopting a provocative, noisy and hostile stance toward China in regard to disputed shoals and islets in the South China Sea, Aquino needed to back up his position with rhetoric, however hollow, that his government was prepared to fight to the last Filipino for these shoals and islets.

* His solution was to induce the United States to sign a defense cooperation agreement with our government, under which it would commit to recognize Philippine rights to the disputed territory and defend them accordingly.

Third, the decision of the Obama administration to adopt a rebalancing and pivot strategy toward Asia presented an opportunity for the Philippines to become a player in the unfolding security scenario in the Asia-Pacific.

By supporting America’s pivot strategy, Aquino could finesse a formula for modernizing the woeful state of the Philippine armed forces and its defense apparatus.

Fourth, Aquino and his advisers calculated that the Senate, having been battered senseless by the pork barrel scandal and the still unfolding bribery scandal surrounding the Corona impeachment trial, would not protest too much for being bypassed in the EDCA issue. The costs in terms of presidential largesse would be reasonable.

More wishful than realistic

The basic wishfulness of these calculations and expectations should have become manifest with a tough-minded assessment of the proposed Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, and the negotiating difficulties in getting a deal done. But the review never happened.

With hard-nosed negotiators batting for the American side, and amateurs negotiating for our side, a half-baked and one-sided agreement was fashioned. And its shortcomings have quickly come to light with the visit of President Obama and the fading of the hype manufactured by Palace propagandists.

Despite the dogged efforts of our panel, it did not succeed in inserting in the agreement US recognition of Philippine rights to the shoals and reefs in the South China Sea.

Obama himself administered the crushing blow when he declared that the US has no goal to counter or contain China.

Coming from Japan, where he unequivocally declared that the US would defend Japan’s interests in the disputed Senkaku Islands, he did not offer President Aquino an equivalent declaration regarding our interest in certain real estate in the South China Sea.

The most he allowed was a call on China not to use force in addressing territorial disputes.

The inequality of the deal quickly surfaced once hard-nosed analysts looked at the fine print of what the Philippines and the United States were giving away or getting.

For hosting US troops and military facilities in its bases, the Philippines does not receive in return any firm commitments from the US, be it in terms of assistance in modernizing its military or in defending national territory.

The silence on the constitutional provision will surely be shattered because for sure any number of Filipino groups and individuals will go to the Supreme Court to challenge the constitutionality of EDCA.

Finally, the presumed quiescence of the Senate is a false hope. Resuming its session on May 5, the Senate will hear a good number of senators demanding a full review of the executive agreement. Already, Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations committee, has faulted the administration for bypassing the Senate.

Executive agreements

In criticizing or defending EDCA, it is important to keep in perspective how foreign policy is made under our democratic and constitutional system.

Under his executive powers, the president is the chief foreign policy maker. The foundation for it in the provision that he negotiates treaties and formal international agreements with other nations—with the approval of two-thirds of the Senate.

While the requirement of Senate approval for treaties is meant to check the president’s foreign policy power, the president can get around the senatorial check by issuing an executive agreement directly with the heads of state of other nations.

The executive agreement, in the US, in our country and other states, allows the president the flexibility of negotiating, often in secret, to set important international policy without creating controversy or stirring up opposition.

In the United States, for example, US military bases set up in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and other Gulf states were the result of executive agreements.

In our own recent experience, the visiting Forces Agreement with the US was an executive agreement.

One revealing research provided me this information. Executive agreement is used frequently by the US government. 10,620 executive agreements were issued between 1969 and 207,compared to just 946 treaties.

Significantly, our Constitution is more specific than most about the Senate’s power to advise and consent.

Constitutionalism is an issue here

When all the issues rise to the surface with the forthcoming debates, the nation will discover that what is finally at issue in this debate is not the threat of a rising and powerful China, or the fundamental security of our people and our country.

What is equally at stake is the principle of constitutionalism in the conduct of government in our country.

Constitutionalism, simply stated, means that Philippine governance is rooted in the words and meaning of our Constitution.

The president and Congress are restrained from doing anything they please by the essential and necessary conservatism of the Constitution. Neither is at liberty to interpret their mandates at will, because all their powers and prerogatives are specified by the Constitution. They cannot rise above the power that created them.

It is best that the issue of constitutionalism should come to light at this time, because the Aquino administration has shown a disturbing majoritarian tendency to embark on policy initiatives on its own, without regard to our system of separate powers and check and balance.

In his determined and laudable desire to forge lasting peace in Mindanao, he has taken a path that may lead to the dismemberment of the national territory with the creation of a Bangsamoro substate.

In his desire to have a Supreme Court that would act favorably on cases and issues vital to the success of his administration, Aquino has orchestrated the impeachment of a sitting chief justice.

Now, in his desire to find a figleaf for his posturing against China, he has embarked on the writing of an enhanced defense cooperation agreement with the United States.

President Aquino needs to be reminded of this important point: In May 2010, he was elected by a plurality of votes cast in the presidential elections of our republic. He did not become thereby the Philippine republic himself. And he did not rise above the Constitution, which he swore to honor and protect at his inauguration.

2 Responses to From start, Aquino bypassed the Senate on EDCA
Mark says:
May 1, 2014 at 7:48 am
If you dont agree with me, I will put you “on the list” !- Aquino will have a easy ride to 2016 and beyond by not exposing Napoles ‘list’ (if it does indeed exist), DAP was the carrot, now its stick time

P. Lorenzo. says:
April 30, 2014 at 10:57 pm
Perhaps, the President forgot that the PDAF was ruled unconstitutional and still hopes that the DAP will still be there to bribe the corrupt members of Congress.

FROM INTERAKSYON.COM

COMMENTARY | 6 things we learned from Senate hearing on DAP By: By Ernie Reyes and Chuchay Fernandez, InterAksyon.com July 26, 2014 1:45 PM InterAksyon.com
The online news portal of TV5


InterAksyon.com photograph by Bernard Testa

MANILA - (Last July 24, the Senate Committee on Finance, chaired by Sen. Chiz Escudero, held a marathon hearing lasting over six hours on the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), with the declared intent of getting key officials like Budget Sec. Florencio “Butch” Abad to explain the controversial economic stimulus scheme. Abad, who had avoided the press and had taken awhile to give data even to the Supreme Court that declared DAP’s four anchor practices as unconstitutional, was the main resource person – but got able support from practically the entire Cabinet in the gallery and from LP partymate Senate President Frank Drilon. Here's one postscript to that hearing).

1. Speed isn't everything, after all
DAP seems to not have been accurately named because "acceleration" - the raison d'etre of this strange creature - turns out was not necessarily always the basis for choosing which project to fund. Secretaries Butch Abad and Emilio Abaya, for example, were hard put to explain to Sen. Nancy Binay why P549 million to rehabilitate the airport - including its notorious toilets - was withdrawn. First, they said there were structural issues, then they said they had decided to centralize the contract for renovating all toilets in all DOTC-supervised facilities like airports, seaports nationwide. To which Nancy Binay asked, "I thought you were in a hurry?" Abad then said that, well, under DAP, speed isn't really the only consideration; cost efficiency was also a factor.
But what was so hard about just fixing the toilets?

Abad and Abaya could only mumble a reply when Sen. Binay reminded them of last weekend's septic tank leak that sent a stink through the airport.

2. The Senate still has some tough senators - particularly among the new ones
Even in the absence of minority stalwarts, the younger senators can, if they wanted to, muster the intelligence, interrogatory skills and the spunk to grill the obviously very adept advocates of DAP like Senate President Franklin Drilon and Budget Secretary Butch Abad.

* Sen. Nancy Binay, often derided as a poor shadow of her lawyer-dad, stunned Abad with her quick, pointed, follow-up questions. JV Ejercito was a class act on at least two issues: first, he asked Abad, given the popular President's near-total control of Congress, why he didn't just run to Congress for additional funds. Then, as Abad concluded his statement, Sen. Ejercito said, your good intentions are noted but that's why they came up with the statute defining the crime of technical malversation.

"The road to hell is paved with good intentions," intoned the senator. Abad, he said, is trying to justify technical malversation. They could have passed an appropriation measure from Congress to cover these supposedly crucial projects, but ignored the co-equal branch of government. "That's the intent of passage of the law against technical malversation - to tell people like him that one cannot juggle funds, no matter how good the intention."

Another neophyte senator who shone was Grace Poe, who, despite running under the administration slate, left the guests from the Executive squirming with her questions. She wanted them to explain why billions from DAP were given to the Customs Bureau for its obligations to the SGS. Given that the obligation must be honored, the question is: How did this fit into "priority" and "urgent" criteria for DAP?

3. At the Senate, you're not always speaking under oath. Abad (almost) wasn't.
The Senate should clarify its rules on putting witnesses under oath. Drilon didn't hide his dismay at being overruled by Finance panel chair Chiz Escudero on Binay's request to put Abad et al under oath. What lies were they peddling that needed protection from a possible perjury suit?

4. Youth is, sometimes, lost on the young - and wisdom on the old
If Nancy, Grace and JV behaved like this was really a forum for shining a light on DAP, other senators didn't seem to have the same interest. Trillanes tapped Abad with leading questions, and like Drilon, sought to elicit replies that would have brought out the beauty of DAP. The young Bam Aquino disappointed by behaving like, well, the President's first cousin.

At one point, Sen. Aquino even echoed PNoy's "excuse me!" moment in his July 14 national address, making a sweeping distinction between PDAF and DAP, i.e., PDAF was stolen by crooks; DAP wasn't stolen and benefited the people.

5. It wasn't Abad on the defensive
The Liberal Party heavyweights at the Senate hearing repeatedly deflected blame on lawmakers through whose offices DAP funds sought. They repeatedly reminded each other (Drilon and Abad mostly) that the lawmakers only made nombra, or "nominated" projects but "never received or handled [DAP] funds." Therefore, it's wrong to say the lawmakers received P100 million in DAP funds after delivering the Corona impeachment to the Executive. No, sir, they did not receive funds. They only made "nombra."

"Wala kaming natanggap ni piso nang nagnombra kami ng mga proyekto. Regardless whether they are affiliated with the President, or ally of the President or the opposition, puwedeng magnombra ng proyekto," declared the Senate President.

But wait, wasn't that the same defense used by the accused lawmakers in PDAF?

6. The Senate is the worst forum for expecting honest answers on DAP

Despite his admission of having received - er, "nominated" projects worth - P100 million from DAP, Senate President Franklin Drilon turned the hearing into a wholesale absolution for PNoy allies in Congress. He said that the Liberal Party members did not receive a single centavo from DAP, and that they only nominated millions worth of projects to be funded by the acceleration program. Abad affirmed all that Drilon testified to.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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