Aquino approved P177B for DAP, memos show
MANILA, Philippines–President Benigno Aquino III signed over the past three years seven memorandums from the Department of Budget and Management approving projects worth between P174 billion and P177 billion under the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), documents that the DBM submitted to the Supreme Court showed.
The umbrella group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) said it obtained copies of the documents, which carried Aquino’s signatures, on requests for the release of funds endorsed by Budget Secretary Florencio Abad.
On Tuesday, the Supreme Court ruled that the DAP was unconstitutional. The program pooled savings from various agencies for release to agencies and projects outside the budget approved by Congress to help stimulate the economy.
Among the projects approved by Aquino were the P6.5-billion augmentation of lawmakers’ Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) under the item “various local projects,” some P6.5 billion in “LGU support” and P2 billion in road works for his home province of Tarlac, said Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes Jr.
In the first DAP memo issued by the DBM dated Oct. 12, 2011, the President signed and approved the release of P72.110 billion.
Another document, dated Dec. 21, 2011, or 10 days after the House of Representatives voted to adopt the articles of impeachment against then Chief Justice Renato Corona, showed the President approving additional projects worth P13.379 billion.
On June 27, 2012, or about a month after the Senate voted to impeach Corona, Aquino signed and approved another Abad memorandum seeking the “omnibus authority to consolidate savings/unutilized balances and their realignment.”
Reyes said the approved projects amounted to P32 billion, including P2 billion for Tarlac roadworks and another P8.3 billion “various local projects.”
The President also approved the withdrawal of unobligated balances of national government agencies (NGAs) for “slow moving projects,” declaring them savings and authorizing their realignment.
“These measures will allow us to maximize the use of available allotments to fund and undertake other priority expenditures of the national government,” Abad wrote.
“Furthermore, these will allow us to meet our fiscal targets without necessarily impacting on our budget deficit cap this year.”
But the President placed a note saying that the P31.962 billion in additional projects Abad had listed was still “subject to further discussions.”
Abad’s memorandum came eight months after the President had authorized the DBM to pool savings to fund the DAP.
“It is understood that in the utilization of the pooled savings, the DBM secures the approval/confirmation of the President,” Abad wrote.
“Furthermore, it is assured that the proposed realignments shall be within the authorized expenditure level.”
Sought for comment, Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares described the President’s note as “damning because it shows that he had sole discretion over where the money should go.”
“It falls under the definition of pork barrel where discretion on how public funds would be spent rests on one person and that’s the President in this case,” he told the Inquirer in a phone interview.
That the President called for “further discussions” on the additional projects “makes him the holder of P31.962 billion worth of pork barrel.”
Also listed was P1.4 billion for the rehabilitation and extension of Light Rail Transit Lines 1 and 2, and P1.96 billion for the construction and rehabilitation of rural health units.
A total of P1.337 billion was also set aside supposedly to create jobs for 93,587 youth.
May 13 elections
On Sept. 5, 2012, or one month before the five-day filing of certificates of candidacy for the May 2013 midterm polls set by the Commission on Elections, Aquino signed and approved Abad’s Sept. 4, 2012, memorandum seeking the “release of funds for other priority projects and expenditures of government.” Projects for this period amounted to P5.973 billion.
On Dec. 21, 2012, the President approved the release of P33.293 billion in DAP funds, chargeable against “available savings and the 2012 Unprogrammed Fund.” The amount included the item “other various local projects” this time amounting to P2.79 billion. The 100-day election period for the May 2013 polls began on Jan. 13, 2013.
Sometime in May 2013, Aquino approved more DAP releases amounting to P10 billion. This included again “various local projects” amounting to P4.6 billion, the biggest item for the period.
Lastly, on Sept. 25, 2013, the President approved the release of P10.534 billion for the Task Force Pablo rehabilitation plan, supposedly for livelihood, resettlement, infrastructure and social services.
The DAP funds listed in the memos totaled P177.3 billion but Reyes said that some memos, including those of June 2012 and May 2013, contained marginal notes, presumably by the President, which removed some items.
“Based on the marginal notes, when Mr. Aquino presumably did not approve items, the total appears to be P174.1 billion,” Reyes said.
Bayan is calling on the Commission on Audit to conduct a special audit of the DAP expenditures.
Colmenares said Aquino knew right from the start that the DAP was unconstitutional.
“President Aquino knows that the DAP, which is basically an impoundment of budget funds and realigning these to nonexistent projects, is wrong,” Colmenares said in a statement.
He said when the President was still senator, he filed Senate Bill No. 3121 “which sought to declare then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s ‘impoundment of the budget without congressional approval.’”
Colmenares said Aquino might have forgotten it when he approved the DAP when he became president.
“He did not ask for congressional approval for his DAP. So, he actually continued the practice of President Arroyo when he became president,” he said.
Rep. Carlos Zarate said the DAP was, in fact, “a form of budgetary dictatorship” and was unconstitutional.
“For this gravely unconstitutional act, President Aquino, Abad and all those responsible for DAP must be made accountable, in the same manner that those involved in the PDAF (scheme) are to be made accountable,” Zarate said.–With a report from Allan Nawal, Inquirer Mindanao
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