P370M for 4 senators for ‘stimulus’–Palace
MANILA, Philippines—The P370 million that went to Senators Jinggoy Estrada, Ferdinand Marcos Jr., Vicente Sotto III and Ramon Revilla Jr. in March 2012, at the height of the impeachment trial of then Chief Justice Renato Corona, was part of a stimulus fund of the Aquino administration, Malacañang said on Thursday.
Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda confirmed that the amount came from the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP)—a little-known impounding mechanism for government savings that came to light in September last year after Estrada said each senator who voted to convict Corona had received P50 million in additional pork barrel funds as “incentive.”
Lacierda, however, did not offer any cogent explanation for why the four senators were given DAP funds in March 2012 ahead of their colleagues, who started receiving DAP funds only in late August.
“I think most of them—they were asked also if they have any (project). If I recall, they were asked if there were projects,” Lacierda said.
He said he would examine the documents and could not say if the four senators were just the “early birds.”
The constitutionality of the DAP, specifically the juggling of funds from one department to another from the program described as President Aquino’s pork barrel, has been questioned in the Supreme Court following Estrada’s revelations in a privilege speech.
Estrada went on the offensive after being named, along with Senators Juan Ponce Enrile and Ramon Revilla Jr., in a complaint filed in the Office of the Ombudsman in connection with an alleged P10-billion racket involving the diversion of the lawmakers’ allocations from the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) to ghost projects and kickbacks.
Secretary Florencio Abad of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) later confirmed what the senators got—as revealed by Estrada—came from the DAP but denied the additional funding was a “bribe.”
Termination of DAP
During hearings in the high tribunal last month, Abad and Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza announced that the DAP had achieved its objective of stimulating the economy and had been terminated, a point repeated by Lacierda on Thursday in a news briefing.
Abad and President Aquino introduced the DAP in 2011 primarily to “ramp up spending and help accelerate economic expansion.” Since 2012, the DAP has been used, according to Abad, as a source of additional funding for the senators’ development projects on top of their annual P200 million PDAF allocation.
Following revelations that the legislative pork barrel funds had been coursed through dubious nongovernment organizations controlled by detained businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles, the Supreme Court declared the PDAF unconstitutional.
The high court is expected to rule on the constitutionality of the DAP after the contending parties submit their memos summing up their respective positions.
Abad on Sept. 28, 2013, released a list of senators who were granted additional funds taken from the DAP “in the interest of transparency” following the Estrada bombshell. It showed that the senators began receiving DAP funds the following month, in August, not March, as the Inquirer said in a report yesterday.
“To suggest that these funds were used as ‘bribes’ (in the impeachment trial) is inaccurate at best and irresponsible at worst,” Abad then said.
Implementing agency probed
A ledger submitted by a whistle-blower in the PDAF scam to the Department of Justice showed that the DAP releases of the four senators were coursed through the state-owned National Livelihood Development Corp., whose head, Gondolina Amata, is among those under investigation in the P10-billion pork barrel scam.
In a text message on Wednesday, Abad clarified that the Saros (special allotment release orders) for the DAP funds were issued in October 2011, or about eight months before Corona’s conviction. The notice of cash allocations (NCA) were released in March 2012, he said.
He said NCAs, like the Saros, were never released to legislators but to implementing agencies “to pay for work done or goods delivered.”
P1.107B from DAP
Following Estrada’s disclosure in September last year that senators who voted for Corona’s conviction subsequently received at least P50 million in additional funding for their pet projects, Abad confirmed that P1.107 billion from the DAP went to the senators in 2012.
Abad said the funds were released after the conviction of Corona for dishonesty in his statement of assets, liabilities and net worth.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.