Lacson hits DAP, DBM ‘dictatorship’
Panfilo “Ping” Lacson, the ex-senator who remains a close ally of President Benigno Aquino III, has criticized Malacañang’s controversial Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), assailing the “constitutionally infirm” practice of generating “savings” in the executive branch and channeling the funds to the legislature in violation of the Constitution.
In his speech, Lacson said that the DAP, which was created by twin circulars of the Department of Budget and Management in 2012 authorizing the DBM to pool all unspent allotments from different agencies, amounted to a “fiscal dictatorship” by the DBM.
He noted that the total unused appropriation for 2012 amounted to P216.1 billion, broken down into unreleased appropriations of P38.1 billion and unobligated allotments of P178 billion.
He said that if the Aquino administration wished, it could have generated savings of as high as P669 billion from the 2012 budget and spent it under the DAP.
“An ordinary citizen’s valid question is ‘Why do we keep on borrowing when we keep on saving?’ I would venture a guess: So those in government can have funds to play around with,” Lacson said in a speech before the Philippine Constitution Association (Philconsa) on Thursday night.
“There are two reasons for it— greed and corruption,” said Lacson who bowed out of the Senate last June after two consecutive terms during which he refused to avail of his pork barrel entitlements under the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) because of its reputation as a source of kickbacks for corrupt legislators.
The Philconsa is one of the groups that petitioned the Supreme Court to rule on the constitutionality of the DAP, a multibillion-peso Palace fund ostensibly sourced from the savings of the executive branch which, it was revealed during the pork barrel fund scam hearings at the Senate last month, became a source of additional pork for legislators who were allowed to propose projects to be funded from it to the tune of P50 million to P100 million for each senator.
Apart from the P216.1 billion in “unused appropriations” from 2012, the other potential sources of “savings” may be “budget items identified as earmarked revenues amounting to P71.4 billion; continuing appropriations, P163.6 billion; overall savings of P65.6 billion, and unprogramed funds of P152.8 billion.”
“Therefore, just in the 2012 [budget] alone, we could end up with a whopping P669 billion which could be generated for the DAP,” Lacson said.
Lacson said he could personally vouch for the integrity of President Aquino, a former Senate colleague, and wanted to help him succeed in his campaign for good governance.
“While I have no reason to compare [President Aquino] to former [President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo] in handling government funds, too much fiscal discretion by any branch of government will not only be unsupportive of the principle of checks and balances, but will affect the fiscal management efficiency of the national government,” he said.
“It is for this reason that I laud and commend the Philconsa for questioning the constitutionality of the DAP before the Supreme Court,” he said.
He said President Aquino “must initiate the move to correct the mistake of a constitutionally infirm act of augmenting nonexisting items in the GAA [General Appropriations Act, or the budget], and worse, realigning savings in the budget of the executive branch to the legislature in obvious violation of … the Constitution.”
“I hope he does it while there is still time to rectify the flawed program and possibly render the pending petitions moot and academic,” Lacson said.
He said the DAP, which the DBM claimed to have been in existence since 2011, “surprised everyone, including myself and all the senators and congressmen, both active and retired.”
He cited the DBM as saying that P12.8 billion from the DAP was given to lawmakers from 2011 to 2012.
“The P12.8 billion is 51 percent of the total P24.8 billion pork barrel of lawmakers every year,” he noted.
He questioned why, if the programs and projects proposed by legislators for DAP funding were actual budgetary items in the national budget that year, there was a need for the endorsement of the lawmakers.
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