Tackle DAP issue in Sona, Joker Arroyo tells Aquino | Inquirer News

Tackle DAP issue in Sona, Joker Arroyo tells Aquino

/ 01:14 AM July 07, 2014

Former Sen. Joker Arroyo: ‘Evil genius’ word turned out to be true.

MANILA, Philippines–Former Sen. Joker Arroyo on Sunday called on President Aquino to include in his forthcoming State of the Nation Address (Sona) what he planned to do to hold accountable people involved in the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), which the Supreme Court had declared unconstitutional.

Arroyo said that if Aquino had talked about the people indicted in the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) scandal, in the same vein, he should be as forthcoming on the DAP controversy when he delivers his Sona on July 28 marking the start of his penultimate year in office.

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“It can’t be that the President will just talk about the persons he charged because of PDAF. He must also talk about what he will do or who he will charge because of DAP. If he will not do that, that would be unfair,” Arroyo said in an interview over radio station dzBB.

He also noted that other than Malacañang’s spokespersons, executive officials, such as the justice secretary, had not addressed issues raised against the DAP, nearly a week after the high tribunal struck down the economic stimulus program created in 2011.

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Asked about Arroyo’s statement on Sunday, Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma said: “We are still doing a thorough review of the [Supreme Court] main decision and justices’ separate opinions. Perhaps, it is best that we defer making further comments until such review is completed.”

In declaring the DAP illegal, the high court, voting 13-0 on Tuesday, said “good faith” would not apply to “authors, proponents and implementers” of the DAP unless this was established by “the proper tribunals determining their criminal, civil, administrative and other liabilities.”

Little was known about the DAP until Sen. Jinggoy Estrada suggested in a privilege speech in September last year that an additional PDAF of P50 million was given as “incentive” to each of the senators who voted to convict Chief Justice Renato Corona in May for culpable violation of the Constitution for dishonesty in his financial disclosure.

‘Evil geniuses’

Budget Secretary Florencio Abad subsequently admitted handing out the additional largesse and that this came from the DAP. Abad denied this was a “bribe.”

Estrada, along with Senators Juan Ponce Enrile and Bong Revilla, is under police detention while the Sandiganbayan hears plunder charges against them over the alleged channeling of P10 billion in PDAF allocations to ghost projects and kickbacks.

In the radio interview, Arroyo said the DAP was detrimental to the administration’s “daang matuwid” (straight and righteous path) mantra.

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“Malacañang cannot now present the banner of straight path unless they are able to account first for the P250 billion or P147 billion [in DAP funds], whichever it is,” he said.

In a July 4 letter to the Inquirer, Abad said records of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) showed that a total of P136.75 billion was made available to fund projects under the DAP in 2011 and 2012. Of this available fund, only P114.57 billion was used, he said.

Not enough

Arroyo said it was not enough to assert that the funds had been used for projects that benefited the people. “The public must know where or what these projects are,” said the former senator, who earlier said that he never received the P47 million that Abad said the senator got from the DAP.

He also said his earlier description “evil genius” in relation to the administration had turned out to be true. He first used the phrase in 2011 when he criticized the “evil geniuses” who had drafted a special provision in the 2012 budget proposal that would give Malacanang the power to take over the savings of other branches and executive offices.

“Looking back, that was in jest. Now, the ‘evil genius’ word turned out to be true. If you’re in the government, you cannot release any money without any authorization. The budget is the authority to spend,” he said.

Ignorance is no excuse

Asked about assertions by Malacañang spokespersons that those involved in coming up with the DAP were innocent, Arroyo said claiming not to know that something wrong was being done was not enough.

“If it’s unconstitutional, it is wrong…. If it’s unconstitutional, it means it’s invalid. Now, you spent P147 billion or P250 billion, the ‘We did not know we were doing something wrong?’” he said.

If this were the case, he added, then those involved in the PDAF controversy could very well say the same thing and claim they did not know they were doing something wrong.

He questioned claims of good faith by Malacañang in dealing with the DAP.

“Is there good faith when you spent P250 billion? P250 billion in good faith, that you made a mistake and spent taxpayer money, the money of the people? That’s not loose change that you can just say good faith,” he said.

Arroyo said the responsibility for the release of funds under the DAP went straight to the top and that somebody in Malacañang must be held to account for it.

He said the Supreme Court might have balked at playing the role of “hatchet man.” If it had directly pinpointed the President in authoring the DAP, in effect, the Chief Executive could then be removed from office, he said.

But Arroyo said he was not in favor of impeaching the President, because it would distract him from the task of dealing with the country’s many problems, including the territorial dispute with China, the Bangsamoro issue, electricity, human rights, among others.

An impeachment was unlikely anyway considering that Congress was also in the President’s pocket, Arroyo noted.

“He should attend to the problems of the country. I don’t like impeachment, not for his sake, but for the sake of the country,” he said. “We cannot afford to have a sitting President defending himself and at the same time attending to these problems.”

The administration must also learn to be careful now with what happened to the DAP and should not be very vindictive, according to Arroyo.

The President must try to leave a worthy legacy, he added.

“He should attend to statesmanship, and not think of this person opposing him, and having this person charged. He can still recover, why not. You know how we can be a very forgiving people,” he said.

Following Marcos

As for reports that the basis of the DAP was the administrative code, Arroyo noted that the country’s previous Presidents, especially Aquino’s own mother, did not avail themselves of this pool of unused funds and savings.

He said former President Corazon Aquino steered clear of this because the authority to use the funds—the administrative code—came from the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos. “He (Aquino) did not follow his mother, he followed Marcos,” he added.

Arroyo also said that if Janet Lim-Napoles was indeed involved in the DAP, it would support allegations that Budget Secretary Abad had been her mentor. Napoles, who is likewise under police detention, is the alleged mastermind of the PDAF scam.

She claimed that Abad, as Batanes representative, had tutored her in channeling PDAF

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TAGS: Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III, Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), Joker Arroyo, State of the Nation Address (Sona)
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