MANILA - Some P10 billion released through the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) was spent for relocating informal settlers away from danger zones, clearing of clogged waterways and establishing new homes at relocation sites, Interior and Local Government Secretary Manuel Roxas II said yesterday.
“The money was used for the welfare of the people. The interest of the people always prevails,” he said in Filipino during the unveiling of the Zero-ISF Water Easement in Barangay Salapan in San Juan City.
Roxas said President Aquino allowed the use of the funds to make sure residents living in danger zones were relocated to areas where they can start new lives.
He clarified that the legal issue surrounding DAP should be left to lawyers. The Supreme Court (SC) issued a ruling last July 1 declaring portions of DAP unconstitutional.
“The most important thing, for me, is P10-billion funds from DAP were used by the NHA (National Housing Authority) in constructing houses for residents relocated from danger zones,” said the DILG chief.
He said all departments as well as local government units are in close coordination with the Department of Public Works and Highway (DPWH) concerning efforts to clear clogged waterways.
By tapping DAP, the President was merely trying to speed up the implementation of vital projects, especially those related to disaster preparedness.
The DILG chief said the President did not want to wait for another destructive flooding before taking appropriate action.
Still, on good faith
In an interview over dzRB, deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte again defended the administration’s use of funds released through DAP and scored the SC for ruling that even a presumption of “good faith” cannot shield an official from criminal or administrative charges.
Valte said it would be best to highlight what President Aquino had described as the “chilling effect” of the SC decision. Aquino raised the warning during Tuesday’s Daylight Dialogue with World Bank president Jim Yong Kim on the challenges of good governance at the Palace.
“The presumption of regularity and presumption of good faith in the official actions of government employees was seemingly lost or reversed,” Valte said.
She said that because of the SC ruling, government officials and employees would likely have second thoughts about signing documents.
“There is that real fear that signing documents or at least everything that has been done after due diligence will still open you up to liability,” she said.
“And that is difficult for those of us in government because if that is a civil suit, there’s no problem for official acts because the government will take care of your defense. But when it comes to criminal actions, of course, our colleagues in government, they will have to shoulder their legal representation when it comes to this,” Valte said.
Valte reiterated that DAP – as a mechanism for accelerating pro-people programs and projects – was approved by the Cabinet in full and not just by Budget Secretary Florencio Abad.
Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, meanwhile, said the filing of impeachment complaints against Aquino was meant to weaken his administration and not so much to uncover the truth or make erring officials accountable.
“Unfortunately for our country, maraming napapasakay (many are jumping on the bandwagon). The impeachment is nothing but a political move pushed by the opposition and anti-P-Noy groups that is solely meant to weaken the administration in preparation for 2016,” Trillanes said.
He said he was wondering why the SC ruling on DAP had stirred so much ruckus, considering that the decision was no different from earlier decisions declaring the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) and the creation of the Truth Commission unconstitutional.
“Nobody called for P-Noy’s impeachment then,” he said.
Trillanes, who was said to be among the senators who had received DAP funds in 2012, said the controversy over the program is “not an indisputable moral issue but a vague, complicated legal issue.”
Sen. Juan Edgardo Angara also expressed belief several groups were using the issue for their own vested interests. – With Aurea Calica, Marvin Sy, Danny Dangcalan