Stress good in DAP, senators tell Aquino
MANILA, Philippines–When he addresses the nation on TV Monday night, President Aquino should focus on the benefits of the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) and stress that officials did not pocket the funds, senators said on Sunday.
Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV said Aquino should dwell on the good brought about by the DAP, which the Supreme Court in a unanimous decision ruled on July 1 as unconstitutional.
“He should stand by it and explain how the program benefited the country,” Trillanes said in a text message, when asked if it was necessary for the President to issue an apology.
“In my view, what is more necessary is for the President to say [the DAP] went to the correct, proper and good projects. It would be good if he would provide a list showing where it went, the big projects that changed the lives of the Filipinos,” Sen. Francis Escudero said over radio station dzBB.
Aquino should also point out that the DAP funds were not stolen, Escudero said.
“It would be good for the President to say the truth, that they did not personally benefit from this,” he said.
According to him, claims of plunder were unlikely to hold because there were no allegations in the court decision that the funds were pocketed by administration officials and were used for personal gain.
Demands for apology
Critics have compared the DAP to the graft-ridden Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF). In November last year, the Supreme Court likewise declared the PDAF unconstitutional following intense public indignation at allegations P10 billion in congressional pork barrel allocations went to ghost projects and kickbacks.
The President’s nationwide address comes amid continued criticism, warnings of impeachment and calls for an apology hurled at the administration over the high court’s decision voiding core activities of the DAP.
Unspent funds, savings
The DAP was used to pool unspent funds and savings and allocate these for projects deemed priority. Among its recipients were projects recommended by senators.
There have been allegations that the DAP was used to bribe senators who voted against Chief Justice Renato Corona in his impeachment trial, but lawmakers denied this.
There have been calls for Budget Secretary Florencio Abad to resign, which the President has rejected.
Last week, Sen. Sergio Osmeña III said the President should apologize should the Supreme Court reject the administration’s motion for reconsideration of the DAP ruling. Osmeña said the Palace’s call for senators to disclose where they allocated the DAP funds was a ploy to divert public attention.
But despite the brickbats hurled at the administration, including threats to impeach the President, former Sen. Panfilo Lacson said over dzBB on Sunday that he believed Aquino would hurdle all of the challenges.
“I have no doubt that he will complete his term. We do not have any reason to compare him to the Arroyo administration,” said Lacson, the presidential assistant on rehabilitation and recovery for victims of
Super Typhoon Yolanda.
Escudero said he would still push through with his Senate finance committee’s July 21 hearing on the DAP, which Abad had been summoned to attend.
He said on Sunday the President’s speech was more likely to focus on the broad picture, the context and the principles behind the DAP. The hearing, he said, was going to tackle the nitty-gritty, the details of the projects funded by the DAP.
There was a need to distinguish which of the DAP funds were unconstitutional, Escudero said.
According to the Supreme Court, these were the funds that did not follow the definition of savings, the cross-border allocations, the DAP used for items in the budget and the DAP from unprogrammed funds not supported by a certification from the national treasury.
The DAP funds not sourced from these were not deemed invalid, Escudero noted.
Details on DAP sought
Escudero also believes there is no reason for the President to ban Abad from attending the Senate hearing.
He said the conditions for invoking executive privilege were not present, pointing out that the list of DAP projects had already been submitted to the court, though there was no breakdown per special allotment release order, which is what his committee wanted to know.
“Truth be told, it’s in their interest to explain and put an end to the discussions about the DAP and to be open about it,” Escudero added.
He said the questions about the DAP would surely be raised during the budget deliberations, so it would be better to get them out of the way early, he said.
Originally posted at 12:18 pm | Monday, July 14, 2014
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