MANILA - Senator Joseph Victor "JV" Ejercito admitted he made a mistake in accepting some P10 million in disbursement acceleration program (DAP) allocations without asking where the funds were sourced. He said he is willing to return the money out of his own pocket.
Speaking to [email protected], Ejercito said he got the P10 million while he was still a congressman. The additional fund was on top of the regular P70 million yearly allocation he got as lawmaker.
"At that time, when you were in Congress, whatever you are getting you will always be grateful because you have something to bring back to your constituents. Being a neophyte, I was really excited," Ejercito said.
However, he also admitted he did not bother to check or investigate where the funds would be sourced.
"Normal talaga, you don't ask...I did not bother to ask. That would be my fault," he said.
With the allocation, however, came a set of rules. The DAP funds could only be used for projects under the National Dairy Authority and the Technology and Livelihood Resource Center (TLRC).
Ejercito said the funds were used for a milk program for schoolchildren and training.
The senator said he is willing to return the money out of his own savings if asked by a court.
"If the courts find me in violation or guilty, I would be gladly willing to return the P10 million if I really was remiss in my duty," he said.
Ejercito said "good faith" should not be used as a defense for what is clearly a violation of the law.
He said letting the violation slide could set a precedent.
"It might set a precedent. In the future, people might commit a crime and say it was done in good faith. Pwede na ba maging Robin Hood ngayon? Baka mamaya marami nang magnakaw diyan tapos sabihin binibigay naman sa maganda," he said.
The Supreme Court earlier ruled as unconstitutional several acts under the DAP including the cross-border transfer of funds and the use of the funds for new projects not under the General Appropriations Act.
The discretionary fund earlier hit the headlines when Senator Jinggoy Estrada bared that several senators received some P50 million to P100 million supposedly in exchange for voting to convict former Chief Justice Renato Corona.
Budget Secretary Butch Abad has said the DAP funds were realigned savings meant to spur government spending.
During the interview, Ejercito joined calls for Malacanang to release a full list of all DAP disbursements and recipients.
He said releasing the list would show that the Aquino administration is serious about pushing for good governance.
He also admitted he finds it ironic that the Senate will be investigating the DAP when they themselves received DAP allocations.
"Yes, I would say I think it would be but a lot of us were neophytes...We have to be transparent about it and accountable as elected officials of the land," he said.
Ejercito said the hardest part about the recent controversy over the P10 billion pork barrel scam is the loss of the priority development assistance funds, which was deemed unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.
"It is sad for us to turn people away and say we have no funds anymore. Some of them come from far-flung areas of the country. Some come to Manila to ask for money for their projects and we cannot give anything. It is hard to say no and see people walk away with nothing," he said.
However, the SC ruling has also led to one expected benefit for lawmakers/
"We are now forced to concentrate on our sole responsibility of being legislators and not distributors of funds," he said.