Aquino stands firm on DAP
MANILA, Philippines—A defiant President Aquino on Wednesday night defended the controversial Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) despite the clamor for its abolition by many people, who see it as another form of pork barrel and deem it unconstitutional.
Aquino, in an address to the nation broadcast live on prime time television, maintained that the DAP was constitutional and that it had been effectively used as a mechanism to stimulate economic growth.
He claimed that there had been no irregularities in the implementation of DAP projects, unlike the Priority Development Assistance Fund, which his administration claims has already been abolished.
“The Disbursement Allocation Program is not pork barrel…Spending through DAP is clearly allowed by the Constitution and by other laws. DAP is only a name for a process in which government can spend both savings and new and additional revenues,” he said.
“The issue here is theft. I did not steal,” he declared in a fiery 12-minute speech that sought to clarify the use of DAP fund that came from savings and unused allocations to accelerate government spending in an effort to pump-prime the economy.
“Those who have been accused of stealing are those who are sowing confusion; they want to dismantle all that we have worked so hard to achieve on the straight path. We were stolen from, we were deceived—and now we are the ones being asked to explain? I have pursued truth and justice, and have been dismantling the systems that breed the abuse of power—and yet I am the one now being called the ‘Pork Barrel King’?” he said.
Aquino also defended the President’s Social Fund, saying its relatively easy disbursement allows the government to “meet sudden needs” such as aiding victims of calamities and armed conflict.
Aquino then vowed to go after those who pocketed millions in pork barrel funds.
“If you think that this will stop me from going after you, if you think that you can divert the public’s attention, if you think you can get away with stealing from our countrymen—you have sorely underestimated me and the Filipino people,” he said.
“If there still remains some vestige of kindness in your hearts, I hope that you stop acting in self-interest, and instead act to help your fellowmen.”
The President called attention to the purported strategy being employed by those accused in the pork barrel scam.
“If you can’t explain it, muddle it; if you can’t deodorize it, make everyone else stink; if you can’t look good, make everyone look bad. You have heard what they are saying: that we are all the same,” he said, claiming that his accusers “have taken the advice of an old politician from their camp.”
The presidential address Wednesday night marked the first time President Aquino had “asked networks for airtime to directly address the Filipino people,” Malacañang said.
Aquino’s televised address came at a time when his public approval ratings dived amid growing public outrage over the misuse of pork barrel funds by lawmakers.
His administration has also been heavily criticized for the DAP, which was created by Budget Secretary Florencio Abad in 2011 to pump-prime the economy.
The budget department belatedly admitted last September that an additional P50-P100 million in pork barrel projects were given to each of the 20 senators who voted to convict then Chief Justice Renato Corona in May 2012.
The legality of DAP is now being discussed in the Supreme Court, which scheduled oral arguments on Nov. 19.
Several senators and a host of constitutional experts, including Fr. Joaquin Bernas, have averred that the Constitution prohibits the transfer of funds in the General Appropriations Act from one department to another.
The uproar over pork barrel prompted Malacañang to admit on Oct. 14 that although an “overwhelming majority of Filipinos remain supportive of the President and his agenda, we recognize that the increase in those dissatisfied reflects the depth of anger and disappointment of the people at the way public funds have been stolen.”
The Palace recognized this “general outrage about how these funds have been spent or how these funds have been misused, and some of that may be directed again to the present administration.”—With a report from Christian V. Esguerra
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