Joker Arroyo lays bribery at Palace doorstep
Former Sen. Joker Arroyo on Sunday accused Malacañang of attempting to deceive the public by lumping him together with 19 senators who received additional pork barrel amounting to P1.107 billion a few months after the Senate voted to convict then Chief Justice Renato Corona last year.
Arroyo found it strange that Budget Secretary Florencio Abad would now claim that the former senator’s office received P47 million worth of projects in February, eight months after Corona was ousted by the Senate sitting as an impeachment court.
Along with Senators Miriam Defensor-Santiago and Ferdinand Marcos Jr., Arroyo voted to acquit Corona of charges of betrayal of public trust and culpable violation of the Constitution for dishonesty in his statements of assets, liabilities and net worth.
“The accusation that Malacañang ‘rewarded’ the senators who voted to convict (Corona) puts Malacañang on a slippery slope, placing the charge of at least impropriety, if not outright bribery, right at the presidential doorstep,” he said.
Of the 20 senators who voted to convict Corona, only then Sen. Panfilo Lacson did not accept the additional pork from the executive larder, according to Abad. Two of the three senators who voted to acquit Corona—
Marcos and Santiago—got nothing, Abad said.
Arroyo called the Inquirer to deny the claim of the budget secretary that his office received P47 million worth of projects from the so-called Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).
“These allocations, amounting to P47 million, were amendments introduced in the General Appropriation Act (GAA) of 2013 and not PDAF (Priority Development Assistance Fund) by any language,” Arroyo said.
Arroyo has claimed that he did not use his PDAF allocations during his two terms as senator and earlier as Makati representative. He disclosed that the P47 million was secured under the GAA and went directly to the Department of Education to fund the construction of school buildings in three Bicol state colleges, and the rest to state-run hospitals for medical assistance to indigents.
The Inquirer tried but failed to get any comment from Malacañang officials.
In speaking out against the Palace, Arroyo finally ended his self-imposed silence since his second consecutive term as senator expired in June. A human rights lawyer, he had served as executive secretary of President Aquino’s mother, Corazon, but was not in speaking terms with Aquino even when both were still senators.
In a statement on Saturday, Abad said 20 senators had received additional fund releases, but pointed out that these came from the DAP that was introduced in 2011 to “ramp up spending and help accelerate economic expansion.”
He was responding to a privilege speech on Wednesday by Sen. Jinggoy Estrada who spoke about a P50-million additional pork as “bribe” to the senators for voting to convict Corona. On questioning, he said the amount was an “incentive,” but did not elaborate.
“In the interest of transparency, we want to set the record straight on releases made to support projects that were proposed by senators on top of their regular PDAF allocation toward the end of 2012,” Abad said.
“These fund releases have recently been touted as ‘bribes,’ ‘rewards,’ or ‘incentives.’ They were not. The releases, which were mostly for infrastructure projects, were part of what is called the Disbursement Acceleration Program designed by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to ramp up spending and help accelerate economic expansion,” Abad said.
But then Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and Senators Franklin Drilon and Francis Escudero received double helpings of the additional funding.
Arroyo said Abad had opened himself to liability for falsification of legislative documents under Articles 170 and 171 of the Revised Penal Code.
He said these articles penalizes “any public officer … who, taking advantage of his official position, shall falsify a document by … causing it to appear that persons have participated in any act or proceeding when they did not in fact so participate … (or) making untruthful statement in the narration of facts….”
“That is exactly what Mr. Abad did when he issued a deceptively crafted press release (on Saturday) that made it appear that, although I voted to acquit Chief Justice Corona, I was, nonetheless, given P47 million along with other senators who allegedly received P50 million each over and above their PDAF allocations, which is now perceived to be a gratuity for their vote of conviction,” Arroyo said.
Explaining the circumstances surrounding the P47-million fund releases, Arroyo said that over the years, during budget deliberations on the GAA, he would introduce amendments to favor state-run specialty hospitals and state universities.
“I occasionally introduce, upon requests, amendments that gave direct assistance to indigent patients in Philippine General Hospital, Philippine Heart Center, Lung Center of the Philippines, National Kidney and Transplant Institute, and lately, to Bicol Medical Center. These funds were directly allocated and paid out to these named medical institutions,” he said.
DBM hat trick
“As I was going to retire, three schools in my province asked for financial assistance for the construction of school buildings, the funds for which were directed to the Department of Education for implementation,” Arroyo said.
“Secretary Abad maliciously bundled the budgetary amendments I introduced for medical and educational provisions in the 2013 General Appropriations Act together with the questioned 2012 releases,” Arroyo said.
“Secretary Abad took pains to massage the information regarding these amendments/appropriations in the budget as if they were part and parcel of the lump-sum appropriation for the (DAP), which he mentioned, if only to deodorize the stink of the accusation against them that they ‘rewarded’ the senators who voted to convict in the Corona impeachment trial.”
Arroyo also questioned the DBM’s power to “invent” yet another lump-sum appropriation in the national budget which includes the PDAF, a source of kickbacks for lawmakers and government officials from funds intended to ease rural poverty in the agriculture sector.
“Secretary Abad said the questionable funds given to the senators came from a newly minted program designed by the DBM, called the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), yet again, another one of those lump-sum appropriations yet unheard of, until he pulled it out from his hat,” he added.
Originally posted: 8:56 pm | Sunday, September 29th, 2013
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