COA RETURNS P65-M IN UNUSED DAP TO NATIONAL TREASURY 

SEPT 2 --The Commission on Audit (COA) has returned to the national treasury P65.1 million in unused allocation from the controversial Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP). COA Chairman Grace Pulido-Tan told the House of Representatives appropriations committee chaired by Davao City Rep. Isidro Ungab on Monday night that her agency received P136.5 million in additional funds from Malacañang in 2011. She said the funds were intended mostly for information technology (IT) equipment, including closed-circuit television cameras. She said they were able to use only half of the money.

Responding to questions raised by Rep. Jonathan dela Cruz of party-list group Abakada, Tan revealed that they did not know that the funds came from DAP. She said they learned that the allocation was sourced from the controversial program only when the Palace disclosed funding details following the Supreme Court decision declaring certain DAP practices as unconstitutional. Dela Cruz asked the COA to check why P2.9 billion released through DAP was paid to Swiss customs inspection firm Societe Generale de Surveillance (SGS) through the Philippine Deposit Insurance Corp. and who was behind the payment. SGS used to inspect goods coming into the country at their ports of origin. The government had already ended its engagement with the Swiss firm. Dela Cruz also asked the audit commission to investigate why P1.2 billion from DAP was infused into the Home Guarantee Corp. (HGC) despite the fact that the state firm is a losing entity. *CONTINUE READING...

ALSO: COA expects special audit to clarify alleged overpricing in Makati City Hall Building II  

SEPT 5 --Commission on Audit (Updated 1:29 p.m.) The Commission on Audit expects to get a better picture of the alleged overpricing issue involving the Makati City Hall Building II with its upcoming special audit of the facility. COA Chairperson Grace Pulido-Tan indicated Friday they will also focus on the so-called red flags surrounding the building. She said they have to take into account the complaints about the building that had been lodged before the Office of the Ombudsman. "Lahat-lahat ang titingnan namin... (L)ahat ng itong circumstances na ito, kailangan naming bigyan pansin. Kaya kailangan bigyan namin ng pansin. We have to take a look at what happened before," she said in an interview on GMA News' Unang Balita. Tan also said they have already gotten in touch with some experts for the special audit, but did not elaborate.

In a separate interview with News To Go, also on Friday, Tan said they will "definitely invest every effort ... to finish" the audit either "by the end of the year or within the period of six months." She, however, said that "it could take a little while" because the process is "very technical." On Wednesday, Pulido-Tan said her agency will conduct another audit of the allegedly overpriced 11-story building. The alleged irregularities involving the building had become a basis for a plunder complaint against Vice President Jejomar Binay, who was mayor when the construction of the building was approved in 2007.

Binay's son, incumbent Mayor Jejomar Erwin "JunJun" Binay Jr., had claimed an internal audit specialist from COA already cleared the project of irregularities, but Tan said the COA had not issued any clearance for the building. "Wala namang ganu'ng proseso na kini-clear ng COA," she said. "Saka sabi ko nga sa hearing noon, 'yung memo na 'yun ay internal—nagre-report lang sa akin 'yung aming auditor kung anong nangyari," she told News to Go. Red flags Tan said they will consider the red flags involving the building, one of which is the P2.3-billion price tag for an 11-story building. "Kung susumahin mo ang... kung P2.3 billion ang nabayad para sa 11-palapag na building na hindi kalakihan, lumalabas na at least P200 million ang kada floor. Tapos hindi lahat 'yan opisina. I think lima sa palapag na 'yan ay parking floors so doon pa lang para sa amin red flag na 'yan. Ganoon ba kamahal e palapag pa lang pinag-uusapan natin?" she said. *READ MORE...

ALSO: SC defers final DAP ruling as 4 justices out on leave  

SEPT 3 --THE Supreme Court did not tackle the case of the controversial Disbursement Acceleration Program during its full-court session on Tuesday because four of its justices, including Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, were on wellness leave. Sereno aside, Associate Justices Arturo Brion and Jose Mendoza were also on official leave while the newly appointed 15th associate justice, Francis Jardeleza, earlier requested a two-week leave to give him time to wind up his affairs at the Office of the Solicitor General. Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio has been designated acting Chief Justice until Sereno returns on Sept. 16. A high court insider said the DAP will be included in the agenda when all four justices return for the full session on Sept 16. The full court-deliberation on the DAP will have to be called again to give the justices more time to study the various issues raised by Malacañang, through the Office of the Solicitor General, in its motion seeking a reversal of its decision declaring some parts of the DAP unconstitutional, the source told Manila Standard.

“There are supervening issues that the magistrates will have to discuss when they deliberate on the motion for reconsideration filed by Malacañang and the appeal of the petitioners for partial reconsideration seeking to expand the coverage of illegal DAP expenditures,” the source said. The petitioners are asking the Supreme Court to deny the Palace’s plea but at the same time want the Court to also declare as unconstitutional and illegal the DAP expenditures used for the programs, activities and projects or PAP not deemed deficient. In a 23-page motion, the petitioners led by former Manila Councilor Greco Belgica urged the high court to partially reconsider its decision by declaring illegal the DAP expenditures intended to augment the PAP items with sufficient allocations. The group, through UP law professor Harry Roque Jr., its counsel, says the high court should expand its ruling that prohibited the withdrawal of unobligated allotments from implementing agencies and their use as savings prior to the end of the fiscal year, cross-border transfers of savings of the executive to augment the funds of agencies outside the department, and the funding of the PAPs not covered by the General Appropriations Act. The petitioners say the high court failed to declare that the “augmentations can only be made to cover deficient appropriation items up to the extent of the maximum recommendation of the President for the PAPs subject of the augmentation.”  * READ MORE...

ALSO: Chief Justice Sereno accused of manipulating JBC selection process 

SEPT 5 --Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno has been accused by one of her associate justices of allegedly manipulating the selection process of the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) to make sure that Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza won’t sit in the Supreme Court. In his 36-page separate concurring opinion, Associate Justice Arturo Brion said given the facts in the case of Jardeleza, it was clear that there was someone who didn’t want him to be named associate justice. Jardeleza has since been appointed to the Supreme Court but he nearly didn’t make it because he wasn’t included in the shortlist of candidates submitted by the JBC to President Benigno Aquino III despite getting the required number of votes to be shortlisted. Sereno chairs the JBC. A copy of the Supreme Court ruling was released Friday, including Brion’s separate concurring opinion: “I strongly believe, too, based on the circumstances … that CJ Sereno manipulated the JBC processes to exclude Jardeleza as a nominee. The manipulation was a purposive campaign to discredit and deal Jardeleza a mortal blow at the JBC level to remove him as a contender at the presidential level of the appointing process,” Brion said.

First, Brion said Sereno’s objection was made at the last moment and not earlier when the shortlist was still being drafted. Second, Brion said, Sereno raised her objection to Jardeleza’s inclusion in the shortlist after “it became obvious that Jardeleza would get the required votes unless an overt objection was made.” Brion said even the Supreme Court appeared to have been manipulated when it was not given the chance to vote for its recommendees. The high court, who has overall supervision of the JBC, always voted for their preferred candidates in the shortlist.
In this case, however, Sereno submitted a letter to the high court dated May 29, 2014, saying she represented several justices who requested that the court do away with the voting for its recommendees. “When subsequently confronted on who these justices were, the Chief Justice failed to name anyone. As a result, applicants who could have been recommended by the Court (Jardeleza, among them), missed their chance to be nominees,” Brion said.*READ MORE

ALSO: DAP ‘choice cuts’ doled out to LPs  

SEPT 2 --PHOTO: LP HONCHOS ROXAS, DRILON: RULING Liberal Party stalwarts Senate President Franklin Drilon, Interior and Local Government Secretary Manuel Roxas II and their allies received the “presidential choice cuts” from the P35.5 billion channeled to legislators through the Disbursement Acceleration Program, opposition lawmakers said Monday. As early as 2011, DAP funds doled out to Roxas amounted to P1.8 billion for LRT1 and LRT2 while Drilon got P450 million for his pet project Jalaur Dam in Iloilo, said House Deputy Minority Leader and Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares and his fellow Bayan Muna Rep. Isagani Carlos Zarate. LP chairman President Aquino himself granted P2 billion to his home province Tarlac out of the DAP funds, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan secretary general Renato Reyes said. Abakada Rep. Jonathan dela Cruz, a member of the House independent minority bloc, said some P8.2 billion was released to Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao Governor Mujib Hataman, also an LP stalwart. These disclosures came on eve of Supreme Court deliberations on DAP, parts of which it had already struck down as unconstitutional. The administration, however, has appealed the ruling.

In the House, the committee on justice prepares to vote on whether two impeachment complaints against President Aquino, based on the DAP ruling, are sufficient in substance. “We want to remind the Supreme Court and House panel members that President Aquino and his lackeys must be held accountable for DAP,” said Reyes, whose Bayan was among the complainants in the impeach-ment proceedings against the President. The panel, chaired by another LP party whip Iloilo Rep. Niel Tupas Jr., earlier found three impeachment complaints sufficient in form. “The DAP was really used as a presidential pork barrel by doling out the first and choicest portions of the unconstitutional and illegal funds to close presidential allies like Drilon and Roxas,” Colmenares said. “Among those projects that were first funded by DAP were the Jalaur Dam in Iloilo and the supposed LRT 1 and 2 rehabilitation, which ran counter to Budget Secretary Florencio Abad’s claim that DAP is used to fund fast-disbursing projects to spur economic growth because these projects are obviously are not,” Colmenares said. “How can the Jalaur Dam pet project of Senator Drilon be fast disbursing when it would take years to complete?” Colmenares said. The lawmakers also found the deal “anomalous and illegal.” * READ MORE...

ALSO: Missing P5-B CCTs, P644-M DAP transfers uncovered in Philpost  

SEPT 4 --From the Department of Agriculture (DA), it is now the low-profile Philippine Postal Corp.
Philpost) that has become the favorite venue for the diversion of public funds as several anomalies of plunder proportions were uncovered, including unaccounted funds for doleouts for the poor under the government’s conditional cash transfer (CCT) coursed through the postal agency. Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago filed a resolution yesterday calling for an investigation on the reports that the Philpost has accumulated P5 billion in unliquidated cash advances from the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD). “The question we need to ask Philpost and DSWD is what happened to the P5 billion?” Santiago said. On top of the missing CCT funds, the Commission on Audit (CoA) in its 2013 annual audit report for the Philpost, CoA said the agency received a total of P644 million in DAP funds in 2011 and spent P479 million of the amount to repurchase its Quezon City post office property from a commercial bank that foreclosed it.

Another P100 million from DAP was used for the franking privileges of members of Congress. A franking privilege refers to the right of congressmen to send mail to their constituents at government’s expense.
Of the total amount it received from the DAP, Philpost also allotted P65 million to cover employers contributions to the Government Service Insurance System and the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (Philhealth).
Santiago, meanwhile, said that based on news reports, CCT cash advances were meant for distribution to a million beneficiaries of the government’s Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) in 9,657 municipalities.
Philpost is one of the monetary conduits used by the DSWD for the CCT component of its 4Ps which provides cash incentives to marginalized families to encourage them to send their children to school and get regular maternal checkups. The CoA found that these unliquidated funds in the hands of Philpost postmasters “exposed these funds to malversation, theft, or other risks.” “It appears that the DSWD is either lackadaisical in implementing the CCT program or complicit with the abuse of these public funds,” Santiago said. “These monetary conduits should be investigated for their failure in executing one of the administration’s flagship programs. I would not be surprised if Philpost is not the only monetary conduit at fault,” Santiago said. *READ MORE...

ALSO: ‘PhlPost only has P1.6 B in unliquidated cash advances from CCT’ 

SEPT 5 --Records from the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) show that the Philippine Postal Corp. (PhlPost) only has P1.6 billion in unliquidated cash advances from the conditional cash transfer (CCT) program as of Dec. 31 last year. Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman said that the figure is based on a report from the Land Bank of the Philippines (Landbank). The clarification came after a media report mentioned that the latest annual audit report of the Commission on Audit (COA) showed PhlPost had accumulated P5 billion in unliquidated advances. “It is now unclear with DSWD if the P5 billion is all CCT funds or it also covers other activities of the postal agency,” she said. “Based on our records, it is only P1.6 billion. And they are continuing to liquidate this amount.”

Soliman said the Landbank had contracted PhlPost to become one of its conduits for the distribution of cash grants. PhlPost liquidates the funds with Landbank, which then furnishes them with liquidation reports, she added. Soliman said reasons for the delay are the lack of manpower due to PhlPost’s rationalization program and the unexpected increase in the volume of transactions. “PhlPost was chosen as conduit because it has the capacity to distribute the cash grants even to beneficiaries living in remote barangays,” she said. “With PhlPost going to their areas, the beneficiaries would just have to spend a maximum of P100 to claim their cash grants.” Due to the increasing unliquidated amounts, the Landbank has terminated its engagement with PhlPost in June this year. Soliman said the CCT program continues to improve and strengthen its operations to ensure that cash grants go to the rightful beneficiaries. It has a Beneficiary Data Management System which ensures that information about the households is regularly updated and verified if there are duplicate entries, she added. *READ MORE...

ALSO: Sandigan drops 8 raps vs DBM staff over ‘pork’  

TSEPT 3 --HE Sandiganbayan has dropped eight of the 16 counts of graft charges filed against Budget Undersecretary Mario Relampagos and three other Budget Department employees linked to the P10-billion pork-barrel scam. In a decision it handed down on Aug. 28, the anti-graft court’s First Division said there was no probable cause to indict Relampagos, Rosario Nuñez, Lalaine Paule and Marilou Bare. “It might not be amiss to state that had the Court known from the outset that a [Sub-Allotment Release Order or Sub-ARO] was not issued by the DBM [Department of Budget and Management], no probable cause finding would have been issued against Relampagos et al in the first place,” the court said in a resolution. The Sub-ARO was not issued by the Budget Department but by the central office or regional office of an implementing agency. Only the department could issue a special allotment release order or SARO. The Sandiganbayan also lifted the warrants of arrest against Relampagos and the other accused. It ordered the prosecutors to produce additional evidence within five days to establish the existence of probable cause against Relampagos, Nuñez, Paule and Bare on the other eight graft suits. “Their arraignment on these cases is therefore deferred,” the resolution said. *READ MORE...


READ FULL REPORT HERE:

COA returns P65-M DAP to national treasury

MANILA, SEPTEMBER 8, 2014 (PHILSTAR) By Jess Diaz - The Commission on Audit (COA) has returned to the national treasury P65.1 million in unused allocation from the controversial Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).

COA Chairman Grace Pulido-Tan told the House of Representatives appropriations committee chaired by Davao City Rep. Isidro Ungab on Monday night that her agency received P136.5 million in additional funds from Malacañang in 2011.

She said the funds were intended mostly for information technology (IT) equipment, including closed-circuit television cameras.

She said they were able to use only half of the money.

Responding to questions raised by Rep. Jonathan dela Cruz of party-list group Abakada, Tan revealed that they did not know that the funds came from DAP.

She said they learned that the allocation was sourced from the controversial program only when the Palace disclosed funding details following the Supreme Court decision declaring certain DAP practices as unconstitutional.

Dela Cruz asked the COA to check why P2.9 billion released through DAP was paid to Swiss customs inspection firm Societe Generale de Surveillance (SGS) through the Philippine Deposit Insurance Corp. and who was behind the payment.

SGS used to inspect goods coming into the country at their ports of origin. The government had already ended its engagement with the Swiss firm.

Dela Cruz also asked the audit commission to investigate why P1.2 billion from DAP was infused into the Home Guarantee Corp. (HGC) despite the fact that the state firm is a losing entity.

* He has initiated an inquiry by the committee on good government and public accountability into billions in HGC losses and into what he called the state corporation’s “anomalous” lease of the huge Commonwealth public market on Commonwealth Avenue in Quezon City to a private company.

He said the market was leased for P2 million a month for 25 years, when it was already earning P12 million a month from more than 2,000 stall renters.

The government thus stands to lose at least P2.5 billion from the deal over the length of the lease, he said.

Dela Cruz also asked the COA to submit a detailed report on its own finding that there were gaps in the numbering of 3,200 SAROs (special allotment release orders) the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) had issued during the Arroyo administration until 2011.

“These gaps put into question all the 42,000 SAROs issued covering a total of P2 trillion of public funds,” he said.

COA officials said the DBM has informed them that the gaps were just “systems errors.”

During the hearing, Tan asked the Ungab committee for P838 million for IT projects for next year, including the establishment of a computerized central data center.

FROM GMA NEWS NETWORK

COA expects special audit to clarify alleged overpricing in Makati City Hall Building II September 5, 2014 9:59am 458 12 0 483 Tags:


SCREENGRAB FROM GMANEWS VIDEO

Commission on Audit (Updated 1:29 p.m.) The Commission on Audit expects to get a better picture of the alleged overpricing issue involving the Makati City Hall Building II with its upcoming special audit of the facility.

COA Chairperson Grace Pulido-Tan indicated Friday they will also focus on the so-called red flags surrounding the building.

She said they have to take into account the complaints about the building that had been lodged before the Office of the Ombudsman.

"Lahat-lahat ang titingnan namin... (L)ahat ng itong circumstances na ito, kailangan naming bigyan pansin. Kaya kailangan bigyan namin ng pansin. We have to take a look at what happened before," she said in an interview on GMA News' Unang Balita.

Tan also said they have already gotten in touch with some experts for the special audit, but did not elaborate.

In a separate interview with News To Go, also on Friday, Tan said they will "definitely invest every effort ... to finish" the audit either "by the end of the year or within the period of six months."

She, however, said that "it could take a little while" because the process is "very technical."

On Wednesday, Pulido-Tan said her agency will conduct another audit of the allegedly overpriced 11-story building.

The alleged irregularities involving the building had become a basis for a plunder complaint against Vice President Jejomar Binay, who was mayor when the construction of the building was approved in 2007.

Binay's son, incumbent Mayor Jejomar Erwin "JunJun" Binay Jr., had claimed an internal audit specialist from COA already cleared the project of irregularities, but Tan said the COA had not issued any clearance for the building.

"Wala namang ganu'ng proseso na kini-clear ng COA," she said. "Saka sabi ko nga sa hearing noon, 'yung memo na 'yun ay internal—nagre-report lang sa akin 'yung aming auditor kung anong nangyari," she told News to Go.

Red flags

Tan said they will consider the red flags involving the building, one of which is the P2.3-billion price tag for an 11-story building.

"Kung susumahin mo ang... kung P2.3 billion ang nabayad para sa 11-palapag na building na hindi kalakihan, lumalabas na at least P200 million ang kada floor. Tapos hindi lahat 'yan opisina. I think lima sa palapag na 'yan ay parking floors so doon pa lang para sa amin red flag na 'yan. Ganoon ba kamahal e palapag pa lang pinag-uusapan natin?" she said.

* A second red flag involved some aspects of the bidding process where the bidding for one phase took place in November 2007 but the awarding took place in mid-January of 2008.

She said they are not discounting the possibility that some shortcuts may have taken place in parts of the bidding.

"Napakabilis noon. Sabi ko nga, kung dahil sa efficiency, napakagaling. Pero kung dahil nag-shortcut sa proseso, medyo red flag din 'yan," she said.

She said the normal process under the Procurement Act may usually take about 130-plus days or about four months. Yet, this particular case took just two-and-a-half months.

"'Yan ang aming tinitingnan. 'Yan ang ibig sabihin ng red flag. They raised questions. Kailangan natin i-analyze o tingnan," she said.

Tan also said that it was possible that those involved in the construction of the building did it phase by phase without a vision of what the structure as a whole would be.

"Ang nangyari dito, mukhang sa unang phase pa lang, hindi nila nakita kung ano 'yung binubuo nilang building," she told News to Go. "[Sinabi ng] resource person [sa Senate hearing] na Phase One lang 'yung subject doon sa bidding nu'ng 2008, and parang hindi nila nakita kung ano 'yung magiging kabuuan. Mahirap intindihin 'yun." —Joel Locsin and Rose-an Jessica Dioquino/KG, GMA News

FROM THE MANILA STANDARD

SC defers final DAP ruling as 4 justices out on leave By Rey E. Requejo | Sep. 03, 2014 at 12:01am


Sereno

THE Supreme Court did not tackle the case of the controversial Disbursement Acceleration Program during its full-court session on Tuesday because four of its justices, including Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, were on wellness leave.

Sereno aside, Associate Justices Arturo Brion and Jose Mendoza were also on official leave while the newly appointed 15th associate justice, Francis Jardeleza, earlier requested a two-week leave to give him time to wind up his affairs at the Office of the Solicitor General.

Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio has been designated acting Chief Justice until Sereno returns on Sept. 16.

A high court insider said the DAP will be included in the agenda when all four justices return for the full session on Sept 16.

The full court-deliberation on the DAP will have to be called again to give the justices more time to study the various issues raised by Malacañang, through the Office of the Solicitor General, in its motion seeking a reversal of its decision declaring some parts of the DAP unconstitutional, the source told Manila Standard.

“There are supervening issues that the magistrates will have to discuss when they deliberate on the motion for reconsideration filed by Malacañang and the appeal of the petitioners for partial reconsideration seeking to expand the coverage of illegal DAP expenditures,” the source said.

The petitioners are asking the Supreme Court to deny the Palace’s plea but at the same time want the Court to also declare as unconstitutional and illegal the DAP expenditures used for the programs, activities and projects or PAP not deemed deficient.

In a 23-page motion, the petitioners led by former Manila Councilor Greco Belgica urged the high court to partially reconsider its decision by declaring illegal the DAP expenditures intended to augment the PAP items with sufficient allocations.

The group, through UP law professor Harry Roque Jr., its counsel, says the high court should expand its ruling that prohibited the withdrawal of unobligated allotments from implementing agencies and their use as savings prior to the end of the fiscal year, cross-border transfers of savings of the executive to augment the funds of agencies outside the department, and the funding of the PAPs not covered by the General Appropriations Act.

The petitioners say the high court failed to declare that the “augmentations can only be made to cover deficient appropriation items up to the extent of the maximum recommendation of the President for the PAPs subject of the augmentation.”

* They say there is a need for a definitive ruling from the Supreme Court on the power of the President to augment the funds to cover a deficit in a program for which public funds had been earmarked under the annual appropriations law.

They note that under the DAP, President Aquino in many occasions augmented or added funds from the government savings for the projects in amounts that exceeded many times the original funding for them under the GAA.

“To do so would mean giving the President more money for a project that he failed to properly assess and evaluate how much it would cost to implement. To allow him to use more money than he initially determined would be required for a certain project would be to disregard the process of budgeting required to be observed under the law,” the petitioners argued.

Among the projects cited by petitioners as proof of this scheme is the Dream project of the Department of Science and Technology, which received P1.6 billion in 2011 on top of its P537.9 million budget under the maintenance and other operating expenses category in the GAA.

They also question the augmentation of over P3.2 billion for the “conduct of operation and other related confidential activities against dissidents, subversives, lawless elements and organized crime syndicates.” The item was for operational activity under the GAA but the augmentation was for capital outlay.

They reject defense of the Palace that the DAP may be justified under Section 49 of Book VI of the Administrative Code of 1987.

They point out that the very same provision requires that the obligations being funded from savings be “incurred during a current fiscal year or previous fiscal years.”

“Overall, the concept of the DAP as a stimulus package does not simply hold water. This is so because in public finance, a stimulus package requires congressional enactment over and above the regular budget of the government,” the petitioners claimed.

“It requires Congressional approval and cannot be done solely by the executive considering that no money shall be paid out of the Treasury except in pursuance of an appropriation made by law.”

In its motion for reconsideration, the Palace insisted on the legality of the DAP, arguing that it was an economic stimulus program designed to accelerate public spending and did not violate the Constitution.

In justifying good faith behind DAP, Malacañang asked the high court to consider institutional competence and the value of bureaucratic practices in understanding the constitutional role of the Executive in managing the economy, the authority of Congress to define savings, the shared role of the political departments in preparing the budget, and the limited role of the high court on these matters.

FROM THE INQUIRER

Chief Justice Sereno accused of manipulating JBC selection process By Tetch Torres-Tupas |INQUIRER.net6:42 pm | Friday, September 5th, 2014


Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno answers media questions during a press conference at the Bayleaf, Intramuros, Manila. RAFFY LERMA

MANILA, Philippines – Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno has been accused by one of her associate justices of allegedly manipulating the selection process of the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) to make sure that Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza won’t sit in the Supreme Court.

In his 36-page separate concurring opinion, Associate Justice Arturo Brion said given the facts in the case of Jardeleza, it was clear that there was someone who didn’t want him to be named associate justice.

Jardeleza has since been appointed to the Supreme Court but he nearly didn’t make it because he wasn’t included in the shortlist of candidates submitted by the JBC to President Benigno Aquino III despite getting the required number of votes to be shortlisted. Sereno chairs the JBC.

A copy of the Supreme Court ruling was released Friday, including Brion’s separate concurring opinion:

“I strongly believe, too, based on the circumstances … that CJ Sereno manipulated the JBC processes to exclude Jardeleza as a nominee. The manipulation was a purposive campaign to discredit and deal Jardeleza a mortal blow at the JBC level to remove him as a contender at the presidential level of the appointing process,” Brion said.

First, Brion said Sereno’s objection was made at the last moment and not earlier when the shortlist was still being drafted.

Second, Brion said, Sereno raised her objection to Jardeleza’s inclusion in the shortlist after “it became obvious that Jardeleza would get the required votes unless an overt objection was made.”

Brion said even the Supreme Court appeared to have been manipulated when it was not given the chance to vote for its recommendees. The high court, who has overall supervision of the JBC, always voted for their preferred candidates in the shortlist.

In this case, however, Sereno submitted a letter to the high court dated May 29, 2014, saying she represented several justices who requested that the court do away with the voting for its recommendees.

“When subsequently confronted on who these justices were, the Chief Justice failed to name anyone. As a result, applicants who could have been recommended by the Court (Jardeleza, among them), missed their chance to be nominees,” Brion said.

* Thirdly, Brion said the JBC did not require Sereno to put in writing her objections.

“Nothing was done, however, to fully specify what the objections were, or to provide for safeguards if the ground indeed should be highly confidential,” he said.

Fourth, Jardeleza’s letter-petition to the Supreme Court was not raffled off immediately but assigned to a justice only five days after it was filed.

Fifth, after Jardeleza filed his petition on July 18, a resolution ordering the JBC and the Palace to comment was issued only on August 1 or 19 days from Aquino’s deadline to appoint a new justice.

“Indeed from the seat of power and control, one may manipulate events with facility so that the moving hand remains unseen. But over time and when the dots are inevitably connected to one another, the pattern will show,” Brion said.

Jardeleza went to the high court after the JBC excluded him from the list. In his letter-petition, he said if a complaint was filed against a candidate, it must be made in writing and under oath. The concerned candidate, he said, should be given a copy in order to be able to file his comment.

The high court, in its August 19 ruling, granted Jardeleza’s prayer, paving the way for his inclusion in the shortlist. A day later, Aquino appointed him associate justice.

During Sereno’s press briefing last week, the chief justice refused to answer questions about Brion’s opinion.

DAP ‘choice cuts’ doled out to LPs By Christine F. Herrera, Maricel V. Cruz | Sep. 02, 2014 at 12:01am MANILA STANDARD

Party stalwarts, allies first to receive favored slices—solons


LP HONCHOS ROXAS AND DRILON

RULING Liberal Party stalwarts Senate President Franklin Drilon, Interior and Local Government Secretary Manuel Roxas II and their allies received the “presidential choice cuts” from the P35.5 billion channeled to legislators through the Disbursement Acceleration Program, opposition lawmakers said Monday.

As early as 2011, DAP funds doled out to Roxas amounted to P1.8 billion for LRT1 and LRT2 while Drilon got P450 million for his pet project Jalaur Dam in Iloilo, said House Deputy Minority

Leader and Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares and his fellow Bayan Muna Rep. Isagani Carlos Zarate.

LP chairman President Aquino himself granted P2 billion to his home province Tarlac out of the DAP funds, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan secretary general Renato Reyes said.

Abakada Rep. Jonathan dela Cruz, a member of the House independent minority bloc, said some P8.2 billion was released to Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao Governor Mujib Hataman, also an LP stalwart.

These disclosures came on eve of Supreme Court deliberations on DAP, parts of which it had already struck down as unconstitutional. The administration, however, has appealed the ruling.

In the House, the committee on justice prepares to vote on whether two impeachment complaints against President Aquino, based on the DAP ruling, are sufficient in substance.

“We want to remind the Supreme Court and House panel members that President Aquino and his lackeys must be held accountable for DAP,” said Reyes, whose Bayan was among the complainants in the impeach-ment proceedings against the President.

The panel, chaired by another LP party whip Iloilo Rep. Niel Tupas Jr., earlier found three impeachment complaints sufficient in form.

“The DAP was really used as a presidential pork barrel by doling out the first and choicest portions of the unconstitutional and illegal funds to close presidential allies like Drilon and Roxas,” Colmenares said.

“Among those projects that were first funded by DAP were the Jalaur Dam in Iloilo and the supposed LRT 1 and 2 rehabilitation, which ran counter to Budget Secretary Florencio Abad’s claim that DAP is used to fund fast-disbursing projects to spur economic growth because these projects are obviously are not,” Colmenares said.

“How can the Jalaur Dam pet project of Senator Drilon be fast disbursing when it would take years to complete?” Colmenares said.

The lawmakers also found the deal “anomalous and illegal.”

* They said the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) also questioned the Jalaur Dam deal and pointed out the agreement between the Philippine government and Export-Import Bank of Korea, which would fi-nance the dam with counterpart funds in the Philippines, was signed only on Aug. 9, 2012.

However, the KMP said the Jalaur Dam project was not in the 2011 General Appropriations Act.

“How come that on Dec.21, 2011 or at least seven months before the loan signing, President Aquino already approved the release of P450 million in DAP funds for the dam? It makes a big difference when you are close to the Palace. Even if you don’t have a contract, the Palace will release funds for your project right away,” Colmenares said.

Zarate pointed to the LRT Lines 1 and 2 Rehabilitation Projects funded under the DAP under then Transportation and Communications Secretary Roxas.

“LRT Lines 1 and 2 Rehabilitation are the very first projects funded under this illegal program. It was allotted P1.8 billion in October 2011, and almost three years have passed already but the project is not yet com-plete,” Zarate said.

Only about 40 percent of the fund or P889 million has been disbursed, Zarate said.

“Clearly, Secretary Abad is lying before us on national television. This, despite it being not appropriated in the 2011 GAA and the LRT commuters still suffer the same fate every day when they ride the LRT,” Zarate said.

Zarate also chided Drilon for acting as if it was just fine for Abad to violate the law for saying that, “Even assuming that the Supreme Court says that that is not savings, what you only violated is the GAA and not the Constitution.”

“For a Senate President to act like that is unparliamentary. He should have at least chided the DBM for violating the GAA. It is as if the Senate President willingly acted in complicity with the DBM for violating the GAA,” Zarate said.

“It is no wonder that Senator Drilon was the one coaching Secretary Abad during the DAP Senate hearing and that President Aquino’s Cabinet secretaries were there to defend the DAP because many of them were the ones who got the funds,” Colmenares said.

Reyes said apart from President Aquino’s P2-billion road projects in Tarlac, some P17.3 billion in DAP funds also went to various local projects for legislators, mostly allies, and P6.5 billion DILG support for local government units.

“The One More Term for PNoy call intensified just when the DAP ruling came out and the impeachment complaints were filed. It was meant to divert the public’s attention away from DAP and the President’s im-peachable offenses. The issue remains Aquino’s abuse of power and corruption,” said Reyes, whose group used the illegal DAP as ground to impeach the President.

“These are the same issues that render any talk of a term extension ludicrous. The impeachment aims to bring out the issues related to DAP. Aquino must be required to answer the serious allegations leveled against him,” Reyes said.

As this developed, Dela Cruz castigated Commission on Audit chairman Grace Pulido-Tan for not conducting any probe on the DAP.

Pulido-Tan appeared before the House committee on appropriations last night and admitted there was no official probe being conducted on the DAP.

“Up to now, the COA has not conducted any probe on the DAP-funded projects. We demand that the audit be made and COA must provide Congress with the list of recipient-agencies and the projects supposed to have been funded by the DAP,” Dela Cruz said.

Lawmakers dared Aad to account fo the P1 billion in DAP funds allotted to Aquino allies, including Drilon.

At the same time, House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte, Jr. said it is incumbent upon beneficiaries of the DAP to explain how their allocations were spent.

Dela Cruz urged Drilon to come forward and explain reports accusing him of receiving P1 billion in DAP funding.

He also scored Abad for his continued failure to account for the DAP funds.

“Up to now, there has been no report from the DBM and the COA which are the agencies involved in the implementation... We should not let this pass as if nothing happened, we are talking of billions of pesos here, not peanuts,” Dela Cruz said.

Though he did not name Drilon, United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) Secretary General Toby Tiangco asked Abad to verify the information that one senator reportedly got over P1 billion from DAP.

Tiangco said he believes that LP lawmakers, including the senator, received bigger slices of the DAP pie than those from other political parties.

Zarate said reports that allies of the Aquino administration benefitted most from DAP was “all about pump-priming the porcine concerns of President Aquino’s partym ates and allies.”

He said Drilon should address the accusation, saying his failure would “explain his apparent lawyering for Secretary Abad during the Senate hearings.”

Quezon City Rep. Jorge Banal, on the other hand, appealed to the administration critics not to cast doubts or malice on the projects undertaken in Iloilo, or any other part of the country.

“These went through the proper accounting and auditing procedures. The DBM has been very transparent in providing funding details of all the projects implemented by the Aquino administration,” Banal said.

In the last budget briefing, Abad said it would take time to match letter requests from lawmakers for DAP funding with actual projects.

FROM THE TRIBUNE

Missing P5-B CCTs, P644-M DAP transfers uncovered in Philpost  Written by Tribune Wires Thursday, 04 September 2014 00:00 font size decrease font size increase font size Print 1 comment



From the Department of Agriculture (DA), it is now the low-profile Philippine Postal Corp. (Philpost) that has become the favorite venue for the diversion of public funds as several anomalies of plunder proportions were uncovered, including unaccounted funds for doleouts for the poor under the government’s conditional cash transfer (CCT) coursed through the postal agency.

Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago filed a resolution yesterday calling for an investigation on the reports that the Philpost has accumulated P5 billion in unliquidated cash advances from the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).
“The question we need to ask Philpost and DSWD is what happened to the P5 billion?” Santiago said.


JULY 4, 2014 PHOTO OF SANTIAGO, IN REMISSION TAKING SELFIE WITH FANS:  A month after Senator Miriam Defensor- Santiago announced she was battling stage 4 lung cancer, the feisty Senator said she is recovering and may run in the next Presidential election. Santiago made the announcement on Wednesday, August 27, after Father Joaquin Bernas SJ said President Benigno Aquino III should not seek a second-term to give the lady Senator a chance. “I have licked cancer, and I’m actually thinking of several career options. By 2016, I will be disqualified by law to seek another term as senator. At present, my life projects include participation in the International Development Law Organization (IDLO) based in Rome, or writing books on foreign policy at the Wilson Center in Washington, DC.”

On top of the missing CCT funds, the Commission on Audit (CoA) in its 2013 annual audit report for the Philpost, CoA said the agency received a total of P644 million in DAP funds in 2011 and spent P479 million of the amount to repurchase its Quezon City post office property from a commercial bank that foreclosed it.

Another P100 million from DAP was used for the franking privileges of members of Congress.

A franking privilege refers to the right of congressmen to send mail to their constituents at government’s expense.

Of the total amount it received from the DAP, Philpost also allotted P65 million to cover employers contributions to the Government Service Insurance System and the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (Philhealth).

Santiago, meanwhile, said that based on news reports, CCT cash advances were meant for distribution to a million beneficiaries of the government’s Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) in 9,657 municipalities.

Philpost is one of the monetary conduits used by the DSWD for the CCT component of its 4Ps which provides cash incentives to marginalized families to encourage them to send their children to school and get regular maternal checkups.
The CoA found that these unliquidated funds in the hands of Philpost postmasters “exposed these funds to malversation, theft, or other risks.”

“It appears that the DSWD is either lackadaisical in implementing the CCT program or complicit with the abuse of these public funds,” Santiago said.

“These monetary conduits should be investigated for their failure in executing one of the administration’s flagship programs. I would not be surprised if Philpost is not the only monetary conduit at fault,” Santiago said.

* Santiago said she is puzzled why the funds for the CCT program balloon every year despite the failure of the DSWD to efficiently distribute the funds to the poor.

The CoA report also said that the P4.936 billion in Philpost unliquidated advances were 1,000 percent more than the P449.841 million unliquidated balance that the agency incurred in 2012.

“The president’s people made him look like a fool by convincing him that the CCT program is a success. The president even mentioned it in his recent Sona,” Santiago said.

She also noted that the inefficiency of the CCT program shows the failure of the government in bringing inclusive growth to the country.

“Our public funds keep ending up either stolen or misused. I aim to rise from my sickbed when budget deliberations in the Senate come. I will not let this corruption pass without heads rolling,” Santiago warned.

In a statement, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) said its official records as of Aug. 31 showed “only” P1.6 billion of CCT funds were unliquidated by Philpost and not P5 billion.

It said the amount was based on the report of the Land Bank of the Philippines (Landbank) to DSWD.

“It is now unclear with DSWD if the P5 billion is all CCT funds or it also covers other activities of the postal agency. Based on our records, it is only P1.6 billion. And they are continuing to liquidate this amount,” Social Welfare Secretary Corazon “Dinky” Soliman said.

Soliman gives this excuse every year, but every year, the CoA reports state that the funds of the previous year have not been liquodated.

DSWD also clarified that it is the Landbank of the Philippines that has contracted Philpost to become one of its conduits for the distribution of cash grants.

With this, Philpost liquidates the funds with Landbank. The bank then furnishes DSWD with liquidation reports, according to the DSWD.

State auditors are also seeking a clarification from Budget Secretary Florencio Abad to determine if his office had authorized Philpost to pay DAP funds to cover premiums for the state pension fund Government Service Insurance System (GSIS).

The Palace has been defending the release of DAP funds to accelerate the implementation of vital projects.

Responding to the CoA query, Budget Undersecretary Luz Cantor wrote: “Since the release of P100 million forms part of Philposts revenue, Philpost has the discretion to identify and settle its priority obligations. In the instant case, Philpost utilized the whole Amount of P165 million to settle its unpaid obligations with the GSIS.”

In the same CoA report, auditors disclosed that over P4 billion in conditional cash transfer funds distributed to poor families in 2013 were not liquidated for the year.

This prompted auditors to demand Philpost to pinpoint responsibility and if warranted, take legal action against them.

CoA noted that the P2.282 billion of the P4.72 billion in CCT funds distributed for the year was belatedly liquidated two months ago, but auditors remained apprehensive about the veracity of the liquidation reports.

“However, these liquidation reports were stated in lump sum amounts without details or breakdown that could be matched with the individual certification of liquidation issued by the DSWD,” the report submitted by CoA Director IV Rufina Laquidanum stated.

The audit agency also noted huge shortages in the fund, saying that a total P13.53 million in Philpost funds was infused to the CCT program to cover cash shortages resulting in “alleged robberies/holdups suffered in carrying out the 4Ps”.

Auditors see the Philpost move as an act of “relieving the accountable officers for the unliquidated cash advances granted them.”

Currently headed by Postmaster General and former Bulacan Gov. Josefina de la Cruz, the Philpost was placed responsible in distributing a portion of government’s dole-out program for the poor or the CCT.

The Philpost has been tapped by the Land Bank of the Philippines for help in quickly and safely distributing CCT cash to beneficiaries.

Last year, the LBP gave Philpost P5.23 billion to deliver for beneficiaries of the CCT program but only P748.60 million was fully accounted through liquidation as of Dec. 31, 2013. Charlie V. Manalo, Alvin Murcia

FROM PHILSTAR

‘PhlPost only has P1.6 B in unliquidated cash advances from CCT’ By Rainier Allan Ronda (The Philippine Star) | Updated September 5, 2014 - 12:00am 3 36 googleplus0 0

MANILA, Philippines - Records from the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) show that the Philippine Postal Corp. (PhlPost) only has P1.6 billion in unliquidated cash advances from the conditional cash transfer (CCT) program as of Dec. 31 last year.

Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman said that the figure is based on a report from the Land Bank of the Philippines (Landbank).

The clarification came after a media report mentioned that the latest annual audit report of the Commission on Audit (COA) showed PhlPost had accumulated P5 billion in unliquidated advances.

“It is now unclear with DSWD if the P5 billion is all CCT funds or it also covers other activities of the postal agency,” she said. “Based on our records, it is only P1.6 billion. And they are continuing to liquidate this amount.”

Soliman said the Landbank had contracted PhlPost to become one of its conduits for the distribution of cash grants.

PhlPost liquidates the funds with Landbank, which then furnishes them with liquidation reports, she added.

Soliman said reasons for the delay are the lack of manpower due to PhlPost’s rationalization program and the unexpected increase in the volume of transactions.

“PhlPost was chosen as conduit because it has the capacity to distribute the cash grants even to beneficiaries living in remote barangays,” she said.

“With PhlPost going to their areas, the beneficiaries would just have to spend a maximum of P100 to claim their cash grants.”

Due to the increasing unliquidated amounts, the Landbank has terminated its engagement with PhlPost in June this year.

Soliman said the CCT program continues to improve and strengthen its operations to ensure that cash grants go to the rightful beneficiaries.

It has a Beneficiary Data Management System which ensures that information about the households is regularly updated and verified if there are duplicate entries, she added.

* Soliman said they also have a fully-operational Grievance Redress System (GRS) which captures and processes complaints and queries about the program.

The GRS conducts validation and assessment of all complaints that they receive, Soliman said.

The GRS has a dedicated text hotline, 0918-9122813, e-mail and social networking sites (Facebook and Twitter) set-up to receive complaints from the public.

Pantawid Pamilya immediately withholds the cash grants of questionable households.

Soliman said they remain steadfast in their commitment.

“We continue to work with utmost dignity and stand by the integrity of our programs and services,” she said.

FOI bill

Ifugao Rep. Teodoro Baguilat Jr. is urging the House of Representatives committee on public information to immediately approve the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill.

Thereafter, the House will be able to immediately vote on the bill, he added.

Baguilat dismissed pronouncements of President Aquino and his political allies that the FOI bill is not urgent. – With Artemio Dumlao

Sandigan drops 8 raps vs DBM staff over ‘pork’  By Rio N. Araja | Sep. 03, 2014 at 12:01am


PHOTO COURTESY OF THE GMA NEWS NETWORK

THE Sandiganbayan has dropped eight of the 16 counts of graft charges filed against Budget Undersecretary Mario Relampagos and three other Budget Department employees linked to the P10-billion pork-barrel scam.

In a decision it handed down on Aug. 28, the anti-graft court’s First Division said there was no probable cause to indict Relampagos, Rosario Nuñez, Lalaine Paule and Marilou Bare.

“It might not be amiss to state that had the Court known from the outset that a [Sub-Allotment Release Order or Sub-ARO] was not issued by the DBM [Department of Budget and Management], no probable cause finding would have been issued against Relampagos et al in the first place,” the court said in a resolution.

The Sub-ARO was not issued by the Budget Department but by the central office or regional office of an implementing agency. Only the department could issue a special allotment release order or SARO.

The Sandiganbayan also lifted the warrants of arrest against Relampagos and the other accused. It ordered the prosecutors to produce additional evidence within five days to establish the existence of probable cause against Relampagos, Nuñez, Paule and Bare on the other eight graft suits.

“Their arraignment on these cases is therefore deferred,” the resolution said.

* The anti-graft absolved the four of the accusation they received kickbacks from Senator Ramon Revilla Jr.’s Priority Development Assistance Fund for the non-government organizations linked to alleged pork-barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles.

“On the other contrary, Benhur Luy’s statement before the Senate hearings establishes that he did not know whether anybody at the DBM received anything,” the resolution said.

“This bare statement from Luy, however, cannot be the basis to conclude that Relampagos et al facilitated with ‘undue haste’ the processing of a Saro,” the Court said.

“Nothing in the records establishes the normal time frame for the processing of a Saro...Without these data on time standards, no one can arrive at a conclusion that ‘undue haste’ accompanied the processing of a Saro.

“A second look at the records of this case shows that only five of the 12 Saros mentioned in the Ombudsman’s Joint Resolution dated March 31 were signed by accused Relampagos...All the remaining seven Saros were signed by then DBM Secretary Rolando Andaya.

“Consequently, all the information that rely on these seven Saros signed by Andaya as a basis to indict Relampagos et al should be dismissed.”


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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