MANILA - Budget Secretary Butch Abad denied that the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) was used to ensure former Chief Justice Renato Corona's convictiion by the Senate sitting as an impeachment court.
During the oral arguments on Tuesday, a justice of the Supreme Court (SC), and the one in charge of the case involving the constitutional challenge to the Aquino administration's DAP, Associate Justice Lucas Bersamin, asked Abad point blank if the stimulus measure was indeed used to sway senators to vote in favor of the ouster of Corona.
"I have to ask you this... you were the first one to bring the nomenclature, DAP. That was your way of explaining the sources of what was given to the senators during the impeachment of the Chief Justice (Corona)," Bersamin pointed out.
Abad stressed that the funds were not given to the senators, instead, the senators were asked to recommend priority projects/programs subject to the President's approval.
"Sometimes, your honor, we are not correctly quoted in the reports. Those [DAP] releases were not releases given to the senators. What happened there was that the senators made recommendations to the President to augment certain items that are deficient in the budgets of certain appropriations for certain projects.
"There was money that changed hands -- that was completely not true. There was no money given to the senators. What the President did was to approve recommendations... those releases were not made in consideration of whatever it was in relation to the impeachment; it has absolutely no relation to the impeachment," Abad said.
The Palace earlier admitted that funds were made available to senators, on top of their Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) allocations right after Corona's ouster.
Sen. Jinggoy Estrada, in a televised privilege speech, claimed that senators who voted to convict Corona were allotted an additional P50 million, based on a "confidential letter memorandum" from then Finance Committee chair and now Senate President Franklin Drilon.
In explaining the source of the additional funds, Abad said it was part of the Aquino administration's stimulus package dubbed "Disbursement Acceleration Program" aimed at increasing government spending.
This led the administration's critics to warn Malacanan of a possible impeachment case against President Aquino and a possible mistrial of the Corona case.
Corona's ouster led to the appointment of incumbent Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.
Nine petitions have since been filed with the high court against the controversial measure, including the petitions filed by the Philippine Constitution Association (Philconsa) and Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP).
The Supreme Court is now (Tuesday) on the second round of oral arguments on the case.
The first hearing on the presentation of oral arguments was on Nov. 19. The third is on Feb. 18, which is intended for Congress' turn to present its arguments.