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‘91% of DAP spent properly’

Palace: Did Abad steal the money? No

Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda: Abad did not steal money. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines–“Did Secretary Florencio ‘Butch’ Abad waste [Disbursement Acceleration Program, or DAP] money? No. Did he steal the money? No. [These are] very, very clear, categorical answers that neither acts happened. Did he personally gain from [DAP]? No, as well,” said presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda.

Malacañang on Wednesday cleared Budget Secretary Abad of any wrongdoing after his brainchild, the DAP, was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.

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“Ninety-one percent” of DAP funds had been spent properly by the executive branch. “There’s no doubt about it,” Lacierda said on Wednesday.

But Lacierda apparently could not vouch for the remaining 9 percent of DAP funds—an estimated P12.8 billion—which were allocated for projects identified by legislators.

Lacierda cited the ongoing Department of Justice investigation into allegations that five senators had channeled their respective allocations to fake foundations put up by Janet Lim-Napoles, the suspected mastermind of the pork barrel scam.

“That’s where the investigation is now focused,” he said.

When reports of the alleged DAP misuse by certain senators first came out in the Inquirer last year, a number of them said they were not exactly aware that the additional funds offered by Malacañang had been sourced from DAP money.

Said Lacierda: “I really don’t know how it was expressed to the senators. It’s possible that they were not aware that it was a disbursement acceleration fund. It’s possible.”

“But the source of those funds were clearly from the Disbursement Acceleration Program,” he said.

The Palace was also confident that President Aquino would survive the controversy generated by the DAP, which pooled government savings to supposedly expedite spending and improve the economy.

“Yes, no doubt,” Lacierda replied when asked about this in a press briefing.

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Lacierda downplayed the plunder charges filed by several youth organizations against Abad, the chief architect of DAP who has been silent since the Supreme Court ruled against it last week.

“Secretary Butch Abad did not in any manner, shape or form gain funds from these programs,” Lacierda said.

Abad “systematically misappropriated, converted, misused and malversed public funds through his executive issuances and the programs implemented by him … in connivance with other government officials,” according to the 16-page complaint filed by Kabataan Rep. Terry Ridon and other youth groups in the Office of the Ombudsman.

According to Ridon, the President was excluded from the plunder case only because of the immunity he enjoys until his term expires in 2016.

“The very fact that Aquino is coddling a criminal like Abad only proves that the two of them have connived to execute this multibillion monstrosity known as the DAP,” Ridon said on Tuesday.

Lacierda said the idea of Abad resigning as a result of the high court’s decision could be the subject of “a conversation between” him and the President.

As of Wednesday, Abad had not addressed the unconstitutionality of his pet program. Lacierda said Abad was “doing OK” and was “just preoccupied” with preparations for next year’s proposed national budget.

Abad, however, found time to issue a five-paragraph press statement on the credit rating upgrade the Philippines received from Japan’s R&I.

Lacierda said the executive branch would later release the list of projects funded through DAP, including the “context” of spending.

Sen. Paolo Benigno Aquino IV on Wednesday said he doubted President Aquino would resign over the DAP controversy, but expected him to come clean on this in his State of the Nation Address (Sona).

Worst that can happen

“That’s probably one of the worst things that can happen to our country if a President resigns where the reason is corruption cases,” the President’s cousin told reporters in the Senate.

Aquino has no reason to step down given that under his watch, individuals have been haled to court over the pork barrel scam and the economy has grown strong, the senator said.

“I don’t think that’s true. Secondly, that won’t happen because at the end of the day, these are happening because there is transparency, and the President is candid,” he said, reacting to a column by Ramon Tulfo in the Inquirer that the President was thinking of resigning.

Originally posted at 12:29 am | Thursday, July 10, 2014

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TAGS: Bam Aquino, Benigno Aquino III, budget, Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), Edwin Lacierda, Florencio Abad
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