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Escudero sees no Senate probe on DAP happening within 2013

By: - Deputy Day Desk Chief / @TJBurgonioINQ
/ 05:23 PM November 03, 2013

Senator Francis “Chiz” Escudero. INQUIRER.net FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Francis Escudero promises to open an inquiry into the administration’s controversial Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), but maybe not anytime soon.

Escudero said that the chamber’s top priority was to pass the proposed P2.268 trillion 2014 national budget during their remaining session days between Nov. 18 and Dec. 20.

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The chair of the finance committee doubted that he could conduct a hearing on the DAP in between budget hearings before Congress’ recess for the holidays.

But as he had done on key issues in the past, Escudero said he would call a hearing on the DAP that has been tied to the pork barrel scandal.

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“Anytime we have time for it,  maybe after the budget hearings. I don’t want to give any false hopes that we could squeeze it in,’’ Escudero said in a radio interview.

But given the time constraints, Escudero said senators could raise the issue during plenary debates on the budget, or even ask direct questions about it with heads of agencies, say during the hearing on the budget of the Commission on Audit.

He said if senators agree, they could even convert the finance committee into a committee of the whole so all questions about DAP could be raised.

The DAP was a mechanism introduced in 2011 to ramp up spending on projects from a pool of savings. It was exposed this year as a tool by which the administration dangled additional pork barrel to senators after the Senate convicted Chief Justice Renato Corona for dishonesty in his statement of assets, liabilities and net worth in May 2012.

In his Wednesday’s night televised address, President Aquino took pains to point out that DAP was not pork barrel. But he admitted that 9 percent of DAP releases in 2011 and 2012 was disbursed for projects suggested by legislators.

“It’s not that we’re delaying this,’’ Escudero said, reacting to observations that administration senators were dragging their feet on the resolution filed by opposition Sen. Joseph Victor Ejercito seeking an inquiry into the DAP. “It’s just a matter of finding schedule and time.’’

Escudero also said he has yet to confirm if the resolution has been referred to the finance committee, or the rules committee chaired by Majority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano.

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He said the two committees have to determine which should take the lead in hearing the DAP.

Cayetano had said that senators could take up the DAP during the plenary debates on the 2014 budget.

Ejercito has decried the Senate leadership’s “refusal’’ to act on Senate Resolution No. 287, which he filed on Oct. 14, two weeks before Congress went on a Halloween break.

He had said that the DAP should be scrutinized because of allegations that funds from this program were used to bribe or give incentives to senators and congressmen who voted for Corona’s impeachment.

Sen. Jinggoy Estrada divulged in a privilege speech in late September the release of at least P50 million to senators’ projects following Corona’s conviction. In May 2012, the senators voted 20 to three to convict Corona for dishonesty in his statement of assets, liabilities and net worth.

Budget Secretary Florencio Abad confirmed 20 senators received additional pork barrel amounting to P1.107 billion months after Corona’ conviction. He said this was sourced from the DAP.

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TAGS: congressional inquiry, Disbursement Acceleration Program, Francis Escudero, General Appropriations Act, government funds, National Budget, News, Philippine Congress, Philippine Government, Senate finance committee
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