MANILA, Philippines—Malacañang has vowed a full audit of Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) funds even as it joined calls for senators to voluntarily itemize the projects that were financed by their additional P50-million pork barrel.
The Palace said it would not hesitate to file charges against lawmakers who misused the additional development funds that went mostly to infrastructure projects.
“I guess we can ask (them). That’s something that we can ask the senators. All I can say is we can be assured that, whether (they will) tell us where the money went or not, there will be an audit and we will know (the disbursements),” said Communications Secretary Ricky Carandang.
Carandang, however, agreed with a suggestion that the “simpler way” would be to ask Budget Secretary Florencio Abad to just release the projects that he approved involving P1.107 billion in DAP releases that were channeled to 20 senators’ offices from August 2012 to February 2013.
He said the Commission on Audit (COA) was already auditing the allocations.
“So whether they tell us what they are or not, we will know eventually. We can assure the taxpayers that, if there’s any anomaly in the disbursement by lawmakers of realigned savings that we called DAP, that would eventually come up,” he said.
Asked if the Palace or the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) would consent to releasing an itemized list of DAP-funded projects, presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said: “We will ask Secretary Butch Abad. The DBM should have information—a list of those projects. And also, as an objective, an independent body, I’m sure the Commission on Audit will also, as part of their auditing mandate, be releasing those projects, as well.”
Carandang said Abad could not be “hounded out of office” by calls for his resignation over the creation of the DAP.
Crediting Abad, Carandang said he “saved this country” from fiscal ruin, and thus without a finding of fund misuse, the budget chief stays in the Aquino Cabinet.
“I don’t think that would be fair to the Filipino people if Secretary Abad were hounded out of office by a bunch of opposition lawmakers,” said Carandang on calls for Abad’s resignation.
Carandang, who was presiding over a briefing in the Palace, was responding to Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago’s call for Abad to resign out of “delicadeza.”
But Carandang protested. “Abad has been doing everything that the President has asked him to do in order to improve and guard the finances of the country,” Carandang said.
In Davao City, Gabriela Rep. Luz Ilagan wondered where the savings that constituted the DAP came from.
“How do they (agencies) get their savings? Sometimes, they get these savings at the expense of their employees, which is an anomalous practice,” Ilagan said, citing the practice of the Department of Education (DepEd) to hire volunteer teachers, instead of full time ones, even if the department has already been allotted budget for plantilla teachers.
“Usually, how they get these savings is anomalous,” she said. “Why not hire teachers, when they already have the budget? Why get volunteers?” Ilagan said.
Since “volunteers are paid lower” this could be the reason the DepEd realized savings, she said.
In its desire to save, the DepEd might be compromising the quality of learning of students, the lawmaker said.—With a report from Germelina Lacorte, Inquirer Mindanao