Aquino defends DAP; ex-Chief Justice seeks people’s action vs pork | Inquirer News
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Aquino defends DAP; ex-Chief Justice seeks people’s action vs pork

The Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), a lump-sum fund that critics say is unconstitutional and another form of pork barrel that Malacañang controls, is here to stay if President Aquino had his way.

The President on Monday rejected calls to scrap the DAP that allows the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to pool government savings and use them for other purposes.

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“It’s not that we forced any savings on anybody,” Aquino told reporters on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Bali, Indonesia.

But retired Chief Justice Reynato Puno, apparently buoyed by the

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antipork rallies, said Filipinos were empowered to scrap the pork barrel through a people’s initiative.

“It is time for the One Million People March Movement to convene a People’s Congress to enact a law through initiative that will abolish the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), stop the DAP and check abuses of Congress in the exercise of its power over the purse,” Puno said in a statement.

Church bells across the country will ring on Friday in a show of solidarity with people calling for the abolition of the pork barrel system.

The Church People’s Alliance against Pork Barrel on Tuesday encouraged all parishes nationwide to join the tolling of bells for three minutes on Oct. 11 at 1 p.m. “to signal our deep attachment to the cries and struggles of the poor for justice, peace and society.”

The newly formed group is a coalition of bishops, priests, nuns and lay leaders from various denominations.

Aquino—himself criticized for enjoying discretion over some P450 billion in special purpose funds in next year’s national budget—maintained that realigning savings was not a unilateral decision on Malacañang’s part.

Approved by Congress

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“We can only fund from savings items that have already been approved by Congress. We are not inventing a new budgetary line,” he argued.

The President said he was aware that portions of the savings had been coursed through lawmakers in the DAP scheme created by the DBM in 2011.

But on the issue that some of them “eventually” channeled funds to questionable nongovernment organizations (NGOs) linked to Janet Lim-Napoles, he said he didn’t know about this.

“You expected those entrusted with the funds to act properly,” he added.

DAP funds diverted

Last week, the Inquirer reported that four senators were allotted in 2011 a total of P400 million for agrarian-related projects, but they later realigned—through the DBM—most of the amount to National Livelihood Development Corp. (NLDC).

Senators Bong Revilla, Jinggoy Estrada, Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and Tito Sotto III later asked the NLDC to implement their respective projects through NGOs of their choice, documents obtained by the Inquirer showed.

‘Use it or lose’

The DBM allowed the realignment of funds from the Department of Agrarian Reform to the NLDC, as shown by copies of “negative” special allotment release orders.

In defending the DAP, the President cited a Cabinet policy of “use it or lose” when it came to funds allotted for different agencies. The previous Arroyo administration had a similar policy.

“There is no reason for everybody to be delayed if there is an opportunity to accelerate that project which was approved by Congress, which they found merit with, and if we can accelerate the benefits that will accrue to the people, why delay it?” he argued.

“So, why lose and go through the whole process and have it approved again in a subsequent year?”

Aquino said members of his Cabinet knew that for funding on projects, “we give it to somebody else who’s way ahead of his schedule and thereby get to the fulfillment of whatever that project or program is at an earlier stage.”

‘Antidengue’ medicine

One particularly questionable use of funds that caught his attention involved P5 million allocated for “antidengue” medicine. He didn’t identify the legislator, but the Inquirer reported in July that Sen. Lito Lapid had channeled P5 million each for three towns with no dengue cases.

Aquino said he got curious because he knew there was still no medicine for dengue. After seeing the document on the allocation, he asked, “How come no one caught this?”

Petition against DAP

Former Iloilo Rep. Augusto Syjuco has asked the Supreme Court to declare the DAP unconstitutional and to recommend charges against Budget Secretary Florencio Abad and Senate President Franklin Drilon—the supposed creators of the program.

Fr. Joaquin Bernas, a constitutional law expert, and former Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno earlier said Malacañang was not authorized to transfer items in the General Appropriations Act from one department to another.

But Malacañang countered that the Constitution and the Administrative Code authorized the President to realign savings.

Former Sen. Joker Arroyo said Aquino used the Administrative Code to create the “patently illegal” DAP.

Unprecedented

Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago noted that the four predecessors of Aquino had not invoked the Administrative Code to realign funds.

The DAP came to light after Senator Estrada said that 20 senators were given an additional P50-million allocation as “incentive” for voting to convict then Chief Justice Renato Corona in May 2012 for not declaring his dollar deposits in his statement of assets, liabilities and net worth.

Abad confirmed that 20 senators got a total of P1.107 billion in additional pork after Corona’s conviction. He said the funds came from the DAP, which was aimed at pump-priming the economy. It turned out that each senator received from P35 million to P100 million each.

Moral authority lost

In a statement, Puno said that Congress “cannot legislate against its own selfish interest” and that “legislators have lost their moral authority to be the guardians of the people’s money.”

Because he did not think Congress would abolish the pork barrel system, Puno called on the leaders of the One Million People March Movement, which had launched several antipork barrel rallies, to use for the first time the “reserve power” given to the people via Republic Act No. 6735, which provides for a system of initiative and referendum.

Puno said RA 6735 allowed people to directly propose and enact laws.

“Under our 1987 Constitution, the power to enact laws is no longer exclusively vested in Congress but can now be directly exercised by the people in recognition of the doctrine that the people are the real sovereign and not their elected legislators,” he said.

The former Chief Justice said the people should use this power “to make laws whenever their elected representatives default in the performance of their sacred duty to enact laws to promote the general interest, or worse, whenever they betray the public trust.”

“I am confident that the proposed law will readily get the endorsement of 10 percent of the total number of our registered voters and at least 3 percent of the registered voters of every legislative district as

required by RA 6735,” he said.

Raise awareness

Puno prodded the movement to continue educating and raising awareness of the people “about the evils of PDAF, the DAP, etc., in our public plazas” but also provide them with a solution to the problem of “our rotten pork barrel system.”

In a statement, the Church People’s Alliance against Pork Barrel said the ringing of the church bells would also signify the demands of the people to abolish the pork barrel, to rechannel the funds to social services such as education, health and housing and to hold accountable all those involved in the P10-billion scam.

The three-minute activity is also meant to sound the people’s call to declare the DAP unconstitutional and demand presidential accountability, according to Fr. Ben Alforque, convenor of the group.

He said the exposé on the pork barrel scam and the implementation of the DAP were a “manifestation of massive robbery of the people’s treasure chest.”

He said the Church was being called “more than ever” to take a decisive action and to side with the poor, who are the direct and indirect victims of graft and corruption.—With reports from Christine O. Avendaño and Jocelyn R. Uy

Originally posted: 2:06 pm | Tuesday, October 8th, 2013

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TAGS: Benigno Aquino, Benigno Aquino III, budget, Department of Budget and Management, Disbursement Acceleration Program, Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), Government, People’s Initiative, Philippines, Pork barrel, Reynato Puno
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