Diokno: DAP benefits yet to be seen

by RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 15 2014 10:23 PM | Updated as of Jul 16 2014 05:47 PM

MANILA - Economist and former Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno on Tuesday disputed the Aquino administration's claim that the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) helped the economy as a stimulus package.

It's a view former National Treasurer Leonor Briones shares. “It's the same fund you’re just moving around...The claimed impact of DAP on economic development remains to be proven.”

The Aquino government has claimed good faith and insisted on the economic benefits of the DAP in justifying the program.

It also insisted that the DAP -- parts of which were declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court -- was neither plundered nor squandered.

The DAP is a mechanism that ran from 2011 to 2013 wherein government withdrew funds from unimplemented projects midyear, declared them as savings, and realigned the money to other projects.

The government has released the list of the 116 projects funded through the DAP. The list doesn't contain the status of completion of the projects.

Diokno, however, points out that DAP merely realigned money and did not infuse additional money.

“Ang nangyari diyan, they got stung by criticism that projects were not moving," he said. "They were involved in window-dressing. They were after quick disbursing rather than putting money in projects that would create jobs."

"They put money in housing, di naman nagastos lahat iyung P11 billion. Kapag inilagay mo sa korporasyon, considered disbursed na iyun though no real projects had been started," he added.

Diokno cites an example. "Let's just say P30 billion, inilagay sa BSP [Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas] as additional equity, ilang trabaho na-create noon? Kung gusto nila quick disbursing, pump priming, baka mas maganda isinakay mo sa helicopter, isinabog mo sa poor communities. Definitely, gagastusin iyun ng mahihirap."

“When you get money out of savings, no additionality, walang additional aggregate demand. That’s not pump priming," Diokno added.

During its life span, DAP funded projects in many government offices, including government's investigative, security, and social services agencies.

President Aquino defended the DAP in his speech Monday night.

Diokno rebutted the President's speech point by point. He urged Aquino to respect the Supreme Court’s decision.

“I was surprised that I saw a defiant President and he, in fact, had a veiled threat to the Supreme Court. That’s not good for strengthening institutions. He's trying to bully the SC,” he said.

Diokno also doesn't agree with the idea that Aquino had to go into DAP to compensate for the lapses of the 2011 budget that he inherited from his predecessor.

He also pointed out that funds were moved into DAP at different times of the year during the time DAP was alive from 2011 to 2013.

Diokno also disagreed with how the administration generated savings. "Hindi pwede basta bawiin ano nangyari. You cannot sequester in middle of year mga projects just because slow-moving. The department heads have a contract with the House of Representatives. They approved the budget. We deliver the following. How can they deliver if in middle of the year the DBM is confiscating or sequestering money?"

He also insisted that the Constitution is supreme over the administrative code that Aquino invoked in realigning savings. "The Constitution will always prevail because that’s the fundamental law. Ilang justices iyan, trained in the interpretation of the law."

“There was an allocation of P10 billion for the BSP initially and then it was another P20 billion for BSP again," he said. "Equity contribution, P30 billion. That’s for the BSP. Anong impact noon sa economy? Has it created a single job? They should have put that amount of money sa 2012, 2013, 2014, or 2015 budget, instead of getting from DAP from some contrived savings."

Diokno also doesn’t think that the list of projects released by the DBM doesn't satisfy the need for transparency. "Lots of lump sums. For example, there's for local government unit, other various local projects, P1.9 billion. Where did this go?"