MANILA - Senator JV Ejercito could not help but assume that projects under the disbursement acceleration program (DAP) were set aside as a reward for lawmakers who supported the impeachment of former Chief Justice Renato Corona in 2012.
Ejercito said that days after he voted for Corona’s impeachment when he was still congressman, he was told by the office of the House Speaker that an additional P10 million worth of projects would be allocated to him on top of his regular P70 million pork barrel.
“Hindi naman sa ako ay nag-aakusa. Pero ‘yun ‘yung timeline e. As far as I can remember, a few days or a week after, we were advised by the staff of the House leadership that we would be getting additional 10 million on top of our regular allocation,” he said.
He said that lawmakers were not told at that time that the funds were part of the DAP. He was neither told that it was a reward. But he could not help but think so, pointing out that a colleague who voted against the impeachment, Navotas Rep. Toby Tiangco, did not receive an additional allocation.
“After going through the list, I would say so. Kasi nga ‘yung kasamahan ko, my party-mate and my very good friend in the House, si Congressman Toby, magkaiba kami noon e. He was against the impeachment; I was for the impeachment. Ako nakatanggap; siya hindi nakatanggap. So siguro, malamang ‘yun na ‘yun,” Ejercito said.
Ejercito earlier told ANC that if he did anything wrong, it was that he did not bother to ask where the funds were for. He said that as a neophyte congressman, he felt “excited” to be able to deliver additional services to the people.
Choosing from a menu of projects, he asked that milk be supplied to students of San Juan through the National Dairy Authority and that call center training be conducted for his constituents under the Technology Livelihood and Resource Center (TLRC).
“Kung mayroon man akong kasalanan, I did not bother to ask kung saan nanggaling, kung para saan. Inaamin ko naman na doon ako nagkulang. Siguro because of my excitement, I did not ask already the details kung saan nanggaling at kung para saan ‘yun,” he said.
“Na-excite akong may mauwi ako sa distrito e. Being a neophyte congressman, nagpapakitang gilas siguro ako at that time. I admit to my fault that I was remiss in my duty to verify, where it came from and for what purpose.”
He also told ANC that he is willing to return the funds if ordered by the courts.
JV ASKS ABAD TO CONSIDER MAKING “SUPREME SACRIFICE”
Ejercito meantime urged Budget Secretary Butch Abad to consider making the “supreme sacrifice” of stepping down to spare the President from criticisms after the Supreme Court declared the DAP unconstitutional. But Ejercito stopped short of categorically telling Abad to resign, saying that it is still a matter of personal decision.
“It’s already affecting the trust rating of the President. ‘Yung sa akin, to spare the President from further damage, I think Secretary Abad should just sacrifice. Hindi naman natin sinasabing, ‘Mag-resign ka’ kasi it’s his personal decision. But I think he should consider sparing the President from further controversy,” Ejercito told reporters.
Ejercito also urged the Palace to release the list of recipients of the DAP and details of where the funds went.
He said that Abad should end his silence on the matter and explain the DAP.
He hopes that Abad will attend a hearing that the Senate would conduct on the DAP instead of sending an undersecretary to represent him.
The Palace, he said, should not pass on to legislators the burden to explain, adding that lawmakers did not ask for the funds in the first place.
“Unang-una, hindi naman namin hiningi ‘yun e, binigay sa amin ‘yun. I was a member of the House at that time. So nagulat na lang din kami… Siyempre tinanggap namin, para sa distrito ‘yun at that time. Ang masasabi ko lang we did not ask for it; it was given to us.
“So hindi naman siguro pwedeng sabihin na dapat managot ang mga legislators kasi nga voluntarily binigay po sa amin ‘to ng Malacañang. So I think the burden would be with Malacañang. Why don’t they release the list of the DAP recipients? ‘Yun ang crucial e. It’s a far cry from the thrust of good governance wherein transparency is one of the factors… How come Malacañang does not want to release the list of the DAP recipients? ‘Yung kay Napolist ang bilis-bilis, pero itong list ng DAP ayaw nilang i-release,” Ejercito said.
In a press release issued in September 2013, the DBM released a list of senators who were allowed to nominate projects with the corresponding amounts.
Nevertheless, Ejercito said that cases should be filed against legislators who misused or channeled funds to bogus NGOs, whether they are allies of the administration or with opposition.