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Lawmakers split on full accounting of DAP funds

/ 01:07 AM July 14, 2014

MANILA, Philippines–Leaders of the House of Representatives are divided on whether its members should comply with Malacañang’s order for them to make a full accounting of the

Deputy Speaker and Nueva Vizcaya Rep. Carlos M. Padilla: Why account? Photo: www.congress.gov.ph

roughly P12 billion in funds from the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) given to lawmakers from 2011 to 2012.

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Deputy Speaker and Nueva Vizcaya Rep. Carlos M. Padilla questioned why Malacañang was asking lawmakers to account for the DAP funds when the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) had total control of this economic stimulus program  recently declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.

Padilla also noted that Budget Secretary Florencio Abad had kept the legislature in the dark on the nature of these funds that were illegally impounded as savings and transferred to agencies, projects and local governments handpicked by the DBM chief.

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“[The] DAP was introduced and implemented without the knowledge and approval of Congress. It is only now that we came to know about it,” Padilla said.

“We were not aware that some releases were done to fund projects in congressional districts. Considering also that all releases were done directly to line agencies and the projects were implemented by them, I wonder where the accountability of [congresspeople] shall come in?” he asked.

But Speaker Feliciano Belmonte and his deputy, Isabela Rep. Giorgidi Aggabao, said it was the duty of House members to report where they disbursed money coming from Malacañang. “Certainly, every person should be able to account for such funds, DAP or not,” Belmonte said in a text message.

But Belmonte admitted that he was unsure of how much DAP funds were released and how many members received these more than two years ago. “Can’t confirm who received what, if any,” he said.

In a text message, Aggabao said: “If it were up to me, we should comply. There is no reason not to. Proof that the DAP funds were used judiciously should help belie the public notion that the DAP was a disingenuous program concocted by the executive to steal money.”

“I received funds on top of my PDAF (Priority Development Assistance Fund). I am not certain about its source. But even if I was told it came from the DAP, it would not have made any difference because I understood the DAP to be a stimulus program—not a basket of commingled funds derived from premature savings,” he said.

Aggabao said representatives who failed to provide a full accounting of DAP funds should be “prosecuted posthaste.”

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Speaker Feliciano Belmonte: We should be able to account. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

In a press statement in October last year, Abad reported that a total of P137.3 billion in DAP funds was released in 2011 (P82.5 billion) and 2012 (P54.8 billion) and disbursed to projects under various government agencies and LGUs.

Abad noted that “only 9 percent of the total DAP releases for the same period (P12.357 billion) were released to projects identified by legislators.” He clarified that DAP releases were “never made to the legislators themselves or to their offices.”

“We study their proposals based on the requirements they submitted, and we make the necessary fund releases to the implementing agency identified by the lawmakers,” Abad said.

“This is why our records don’t specifically reflect releases made to senators or congressmen. We never release the funds to them. These releases are actually made to the appropriate implementing agencies as endorsed by legislators in their request letters.”

The House leaders were reacting to a statement by Malacañang spokesman Edwin Lacierda who declared that the 91 percent of DAP funds spent by the executive branch was properly spent.

Lacierda said he could not vouch for the lawmakers’ deployment of the remaining 9 percent, as this was the subject of a Department of Justice investigation.

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TAGS: Carlos M. Padilla, Congress, DAP accounting, Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), Feliciano Belmonte, Giorgidi Aggabao, presidential pork barrel
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