COA chief: DAP funds being audited

By Michael Punongbayan, The Philippine Star

Posted at Feb 19 2014 04:30 AM | Updated as of Feb 19 2014 08:38 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Funds released through the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) are being audited, Commission on Audit Chairman Ma. Gracia Pulido-Tan said Tuesday.

“I have said so many times already that we are auditing, even before requests were made,” she told The STAR amid criticisms and a request for special audit by a group calling itself the #abolishpork movement led by Sister Mary John Mananzan.

“Our findings so far have been reported out,” Tan added.

She said there is no need for a special audit on the DAP similar to what is being done with the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) of senators and congressmen from 2007 to 2009.

She said regular audits are enough to determine any irregularity.

Tan added that agency-based annual audits could take on the job of making sure that public funds are properly spent.

“That is the reason why for 2010 to 2013, PDAF audits are already included in our regular audit of concerned agencies,” she said.

The #abolishpork movement trooped to the COA office in Quezon City on Monday to ask for an audit of projects under the DAP, which they described as presidential pork.

“While DAP claims to be an economic stimulus program, several of the projects included in the DBM (Department of Budget and Management) submissions could hardly be considered as having a positive impact on economic growth,” a letter delivered to Tan stated.

“Too many items appear to be in line with presidential pork spending and as such are very vulnerable to corrupt practices like those that attended the congressional pork or PDAF,” it also stated.

Lack of jurisdiction

This developed as Congress, represented by retired Supreme Court justice Vicente Mendoza, asked the high court to dismiss all nine petitions questioning the constitutionality of the DAP for lack of jurisdiction.

Mendoza, during oral arguments at the SC yesterday, said there is no actual controversy for the high tribunal to rule on the case.

He cited the case of Angara vs. Electoral Commission in which the high court, after declaring the separation of powers among the three branches of government to be a fundamental principle of the government, ruled that the judiciary’s power of judicial review was “limited to actual cases and controversies.”

The former magistrate also asked for judicial restraint, warning that granting the petitions would violate the principle of separation of powers among the three co-equal branches of government.

He said the petitioners availed of the wrong remedy in filing a petition for certiorari when they cannot be considered aggrieved parties as required by Rule 65 of the Rules of Court.

He noted that while the petitioners said they were suing in their capacity as taxpayers, they failed to allege that they had suffered as a result of the adoption of the DAP or the issuance of the DBM circular to justify their standing as taxpayers.

“What specific public right are petitioners seeking to vindicate? And what public duty do respondents have for which mandamus may be granted?” Mendoza asked.

He added that the petitioners failed to exhaust all other legal remedies before bringing the matter to the court.

He said the implementation of DAP should have first been raised before the COA or trial courts.

Mendoza said the case would have to be referred to the Court of Appeals or to an SC justice for the trial of the issues as the high tribunal is not a trier of facts.

The nine petitions against DAP were filed last year by former Iloilo Rep. Augusto Syjuco; lawyers Jose Malvar Villegas Jr. and Manuelito Luna; Philippine Constitution Association; Integrated Bar of the Philippines; Bayan Muna, Kabataan and Gabriela party-list groups; Christian sects led by losing senatorial candidate Greco Belgica; Confederation for Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees, and the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption.

DAP used for PDAF

Meanwhile, a party-list lawmaker said some P6.5 billion in funds for the DAP had been used to augment the PDAF.

Rep. Terry Ridon of Kabataan revealed that he has obtained a memorandum sent by Budget Secretary Florencio Abad to President Aquino detailing the allocation of DAP funds.

The memo was dated Oct. 12, 2011 and marked “Approved” by Aquino on the same day, he said.

He said Abad identified P72 billion in government savings to fund DAP and the huge amount was distributed among 34 projects.

He said Abad’s memo shows that P6.5 billion was for “PDAF augmentation” and was allocated for the “local projects” of members of Congress.

“This disproves DBM’s claim that the funds under DAP were not used as pork but for ‘fast-disbursing’ projects. The memo speaks for itself: PDAF augmentation,” Ridon added.

He claimed that the document he has obtained “raises several issues.”

“First, the stated fund sources are line items in the 2011 budget that were – in DBM’s terms – ‘declared as savings’ even if, in fact, the fiscal year was far from over, making the move illegal and unconstitutional,” he explained.

“Second, this line item for so-called PDAF augmentation. It is now clear that portions of DAP were used as congressional pork. And now that the Supreme Court has declared PDAF unconstitutional, won’t that allocation be illegal act in itself?” he asked.

“Most importantly, the Palace needs to explain what projects were funded by the P6.5-billion PDAF augmentation. Did it undergo any form of oversight? Was it part of the funds that were allegedly used to bribe senators to impeach former chief justice Corona? Which legislators benefited from this PDAF augmentation? All these questions must be answered by the Palace immediately,” he added.

Abad has admitted that some DAP funds were made available to lawmakers for their pet projects.

However, certain senators allocated their funds to the same bogus foundations to which they gave billions in PDAF between 2007 and 2009.

PDAF probe

Malacañang said the investigation into the pork barrel scam is not limited to NGOs linked to businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles.

Presidential Communications and Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said these NGOs could be tracked through the normal COA audit.

He said the Inter-Agency Anti-Graft Commission is also scrutinizing other NGOs.

Malacañang earlier called on all potential witnesses in the pork barrel scam to come out and testify. – With Edu Punay, Jess Diaz, Delon Porcalla