Lopez: Pasig River rehab benefitted from DAP
MANILA (UPDATED) - Amid controversies on the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), Budget Secretary Florencio Abad found an ally in Gina Lopez, chair of the Pasig River Rehabilitation Commission (PRRC), a government body tasked to clean up Pasig River and its tributaries.
Lopez organized a forum where Abad again explained the merits of the program, which was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. Lopez has previously made public her position in support of the Budget secretary.
Abad was in friendly territory, receiving favorable reactions from the panelists invited.
Speaking last, Lopez said that the PRRC benefited in a way from the DAP, saying that the P10 billion allocated for the National Housing Authority to relocate informal settlers living along danger zones allowed the agency to clean up waterways.
"We got this money from the general appropriations. It wasn't the DAP. But there is no way and no way we could have done any of that if the DAP didn't allocate P10 billion for relocation and I could not do the work in Yolanda and in Samar and Leyte if the DAP… So when they say the DAP is unconstitutional, what Constitution are they talking about?" Lopez said.
"We relocated that with the DAP money. It's 6 meters in Pandacan, the center of Metro Manila. And that's what we want to make it look like. Because the DAP has given the money, I can now dream and make things come true," she added.
Lopez asked the Supreme Court to consider "the common good" in handing down its final decision.
"Is there something there in the Constitution that talks about the common good? Is the Constitution just about paper work? Why was the Constitution formed anyway?" she said.
"I'm not a lawyer and when they say the DAP is unconstitutional, I said, ‘What's the Constitution all about?' Is it just all about paper work? Isn't there something out there in the Constitution that talks about the common good? And do we derive the common good and the effect that the DAP has had on the common good because of some piece of paper?"
Lopez said it would be unfair to hold Abad liable for a practice that was also undertaken by previous administrations.
"This realignment of fund has been happening since 1986. It's been happening for almost 30 years and all of a sudden it's wrong? Hello?" Lopez said.
"When you put good people down, who are doing good things because of a law, what kind of consciousness are you giving to the public and that's done by the highest court in the land? You wanna put good people down? What effect will that have on our consciousness?"
Lopez is hoping that the Supreme Court not only "deliberate on pieces of paper and law" but also take a look at the unique circumstances under which the DAP was implemented.
"What would I aspire for is that the Supreme Court of the land doesn't just deliberate on pieces of paper and law…," she said.
"If the Supreme Court of the land were to deliberate and make decisions not just based on the law but based on what is good, then what they would give on to the public is not the legalistic consciousness but the consciousness of the common good. And at the end of the day, that is what is going to bring us way into the 21st century and way beyond whatever if we accept and believe in the fact the common good is premier to anything else."
Other panelists include Peter Wallace, governor-in-charge of the national issues committee of the Management Association of the Philippines, who expressed worry that the positive results of the DAP would be undone.
He said that the Supreme Court should also consider the impact of its decisions on business and society.
Makati Business Club executive director Peter Perfecto asked media to "support reform," saying that "we have a good man" in the DBM. Perfecto said he is not telling the media not to criticize but not to distort information.
In his presentation, Abad reiterated how the DAP was able to spur economic growth by boosting public spending and delivering services to the people. Abad insisted that the use of savings is "neither scandalous or unheard of," again pointing out that it was practiced by previous administrations.
Abad pointed out that the Supreme Court itself cited the beneficial effects of the DAP and he expressed worry that the gains achieved as a result of the DAP would be stopped.
He also said the decision's chilling effect has already set in among public officials who would now have second thoughts about being "innovative" for fear of "harassments suits" for implementing programs that would be declared unconstitutional later on.