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House members also given extra P15M

/ 12:43 AM September 30, 2013

Members of the House of Representatives received what senators got in extra lump sum funds from the Disbursement Allocation Program (DAP), albeit in smaller amounts.

Budget Secretary Florencio Abad said on Saturday that each representative received last year between P10 million and P15 million in DAP, a little known lump-sum budgetary item that pooled savings from unused budgetary items or lower-than-expected expenses of state agencies.

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“The same accommodation we extended to the senators we also extended to the House representatives,” Abad said in a series of text messages to the Inquirer.

The budget secretary said the DAP was introduced in 2011 to ramp up spending and help accelerate economic expansion.

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Last week, Sen. Jinggoy Estrada claimed in a privilege speech that senators who voted for the conviction of then Chief Justice Renato Corona at his impeachment trial in 2012 were each given P50 million in additional lump-sum funds.

Abad said 20 senators received a total of P1.107 billion in additional lump-sum funds, released in several installments from October to December 2012. Allocation to each senator ranged from a low of P30 million to a high of P100 million.

It turned out that then Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile got P92 million and Sen. Franklin Drilon, then chair of the Senate finance committee, received P100 million.

Sen. Francis Escudero, in an interview with dzBB radio, said representatives and even governors and mayors had tapped the DAP for additional pork barrel funds.

“I will not be surprised if congressmen and local government officials also got them. I think that every senator or congressman or mayor is asking for billions from the (Department of Budget and Management). Whether these requests will be granted is another story,” Escudero said.

He noted that releases from the DAP were not booked under the pork barrel of each lawmaker listed on the DBM website.

A senator and a representative get every year P200 million and P70 million, respectively, from the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), the formal name of the graft-ridden pork barrel.

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Abad could not say how many representatives availed themselves of the DAP. “I cannot say for sure, I need to check the records. Marami-rami ang (There are many) House members,” he said.

Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. did not reply to the Inquirer’s inquiry.

In the 15th Congress, there were 285 representatives. If 200 got P10 million to P15 million each, the total amount would be P2 billion to P3 billion.

A total of 188 House members (or twice the minimum one-third vote or 95 signatures needed) impeached Corona on Dec. 12, 2011. Some lawmakers complained that Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II had told them to just put their name on the complaint although they hadn’t read the articles of impeachment against Corona.

Two days later, the Senate convened itself into an impeachment court. On May 29, 2012, 20 senators found Corona guilty of betrayal of public trust and culpable violation of the Constitution largely because he was untruthful in his financial declaration.

In his privilege speech on Sept. 25, Estrada insinuated that the P50 million that Abad gave to each senator who voted to convict Corona was a bribe.

He later called it an “incentive” as it was given months after the conviction. Estrada delivered his privilege speech after he and Senators Enrile and Bong Revilla were charged with plunder in the Office of the Ombudsman in connection with the P10-billion pork barrel scam. He was accused of pocketing P224.5 million in kickbacks from his PDAF.

‘Irresponsible’

In a statement, Abad said: “To suggest that these (DAP) funds were used as ‘bribes’ (in the impeachment trial) is inaccurate at best and irresponsible at worst.”

At least three senators backed up Abad’s claim that the DAP funds were not a bribe.

Former Sen. Panfilo Lacson said that if the DAP allocations were meant as a bribe, it should have been given before or immediately after Corona’s conviction and not months after his ouster.

Escudero said that if the accuser (Estrada) himself maintained that the DAP fund did not influence his vote, “what more the senators who did not raise a howl over this issue.”

He said the DAP would only become a bribe if the senators placed the funds in their pockets or endorsed Janet Lim-Napoles’ bogus NGOs that had a track record of ghost deliveries.

Napoles, who has been charged with plunder in the Office of the Ombudsman along with 37 others, is the alleged mastermind of the pork barrel scam.

Drilon, now the Senate President, said Estrada should clarify his statement on whether the additional allocation to senators was a bribe because the accusation had made matters worse for the Senate.

“All of us have our own responsibilities. What is unfortunate these days is that we are all seen as evil when we accept pork. That is why the Senate will totally give up the PDAF without any condition starting with the 2014 budget,” Drilon said.

He said that if the additional fund allocation were a bribe as insinuated by Estrada, then the latter’s ally, Enrile, was also bribed when he voted as then Senate President to convict Corona.

Both Drilon and Lacson noted that Estrada’s insinuation was illogical considering that then Sen. Joker Arroyo, who was one of three senators who voted to acquit Corona, obtained P47 million in DAP funds early this year. Arroyo bowed out of office on June 30.

Earlier, Abad confirmed an Inquirer report that the P475 million in extra pork coursed through the Department of Agrarian Reform for senators, including Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr., came from the DAP.

The DAR rejected the allocation as it was still reeling from the controversy surrounding its release of P900 million in Malampaya funds to Napoles’ dubious NGOs.

Abad claimed that Marcos had requested that his share be coursed through the National Livelihood Development Corp. instead of the DAR.

Marcos maintained that he did not ask for P100 million from this fund and that his signature was forged to facilitate its release.

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TAGS: Congress, disbursement allocation program (DAP), Florencio Abad, Philippines, Politics, Pork barrel
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