DAP is ‘illegal,’ says Santiago
MANILA, Philippines –Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago on Tuesday branded the controversial Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) as “illegal” as it was not contained in the 2011 or the 2012 budgets.
The DAP was said to be the source of the P50-million additional allocation allegedly given to senators who voted to impeach then Chief Justice Renato Corona.
Santiago said DAP violates the constitutional provision that: “No law shall be passed authorizing any transfer of appropriations; however, the President…may, by law, be authorized to augment any item in the general appropriations law for their respective offices from savings in other items of their respective appropriations.”
And it appeared, she said, that DAP funds were taken from alleged slow-moving projects.
“If so, no savings were generated, and therefore the DAP is illegal,” Santiago said in a statement on Tuesday.
“The first issue is that the DAP was not taken from savings. The second issue is that the DAP was not used to augment items in the budget that were previously authorized by Congress. The alleged savings were used to augment new budget items not previously authorized by Congress,” she pointed out.
Santiago said the budget department should have also sought the approval of Congress before releasing the funds because under the Constitution it is Congress that exercises the power of the purse.
President Benigno Aquino III himself, she said, had authorized the budget department to set aside P85.5 billion for the DAP, without getting prior congressional approval
“The budget secretary released a list of the beneficiaries of the DAP. The variance of the beneficiaries – lumping together P10 billion to the National Housing Authority, with P50 million for every senator in 2012 – indicates that the DAP is nothing more or less than the huge pork barrel of the President, spent without the participation of the Congress,” she said.
Santiago then lashed at the budget department for allegedly “chipping away at the legislative power of the purse by fiddling with the budget.”
“The budget department website shows that it is running rings around the budget. In certain cases, it has initially released the allotment, meaning an authority to spend. Then, claiming that the department head was slow in using the funds, it “retrieved” the released funds. Then it disbursed the funds for budgetary items not expressly authorized by Congress. The process is not at all transparent,” she said.
She said the budget department was basically realigning funds without public discussion in Congress.
“Congress has the power of continuing congressional oversight on the budget. In the Senate, we should demand more disaggregate reports from DBM, particularly on infrastructure and other capital outlays.”
“The classification of public infrastructure should be broken up into the three categories of public infrastructure, other capital outlays, and military hardware, which has not even contributed to economic growth,” she said.
To prevent the DAP from destroying the congressional power of the purse, Santiago said, Congress should pass a law patterned after the 1974 Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act of the United States.
“Under American law, if the President discovers an enacted appropriation which has not been spent, the President cannot just cancel the appropriation. The President must first ask Congress for a rescission, meaning a cancellation or cut-back of appropriated funds for a project no longer considered necessary. The President cannot act by himself alone. Such a law would restore the balance of power between the executive and legislative branches,” she said.
Santiago said it was also Aquino himself when he was still senator who filed Senate Bill No. 312 known as “Budget Control and Impoundment Act.”
“President Aquino’s proposed impoundment law takes a fiscally responsible position. If he doesn’t mind, I will simply re-file it in the Senate, with an explanatory note that it was originally filed by President Aquino,” she added.
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