President's men defend DAP
JV: Aquino admin trying to justify technical malversation
Binay grills Cabinet officials on DAP-funded projects
Briones: Senators who got DAP funds should inhibit
MANILA (UPDATE) - The President's men came in full force to defend Malacanang's Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) before the Senate Finance Committee on Thursday.
On the hot seat was the DAP's so-called architect, Budget Secretary Butch Abad.
He reiterated what the Palace has repeatedly said -- that the controversial program boosted the economy and ultimately, benefited the Filipino people.
Abad also denied that the DAP was shrouded in secrecy, adding that senators were informed of the program as early as October 2011, with its launch even covered by the media.
"We were frequently told nobody has heard of it. Some groups even implied that the program was deliberately kept under wraps so that the DBM [Department of Budget and Management] would avoid the burden of accountability. But this is ridiculous, not only did the DBM announce the existence of DAP from its very inception, the launching of DAP was covered by major broadsheets," Abad said during the inquiry.
Abad found an ally in Senate President Franklin Drilon, who received P100 million, the biggest allocation from the DAP among the senators.
However, Abad's explanation did not satisfy some opposition lawmakers, such as Sen. JV Ejercito, and Sen. Nancy Binay.
"This representation thinks that the administration is justifying, trying to justify technical malversation. They should have just respected the Supreme Court," Ejercito said.
Binay, daughter of the vice president, went on the offensive when she aggressively grilled the cabinet officials about projects such as the delayed airport rehabilitation projects of the transportation department, and the priorities of the health department.
"Hindi ko ho alam kung nakakaikot ho kayo sa mga airport natin, nakakahiya ho yung mga restrooms natin, and na-withdraw ho yung proyekto na 'to for DAP. Ano hong cause of delay ng proyektong ito? Mahirap ba magrenovate ng banyo?" Binay asked.
Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) Secretary Jun Abaya argued that the renovations of the airports' toilets and restrooms were not part of the DAP, further explaining that he was still a member of the Congress when the renovation projects were started.
PCOS MACHINE; CONFLICT OF INTEREST
Binay also asked Abad about the DAP funds allocated to the Commission on Elections (Comelec).
However, it turned out that the additional funds that the Comelec used to purchase Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines were from other savings, and not from the DAP.
"Lumabas dito sa pondo na nakuha ng Comelec is not from DAP so I think we need to get another list kung anu-ano pa yung mga proyekto na kinuha sa savings, pero hindi parte ng DAP," Binay said.
"Ang nakakatakot ho kasi Sec. Abad, nagiging discretion niyo ngayon kung kailan niyo sila bibigyan at hindi," she added.
Former National Treasurer Leonor Briones noted that neophyte senators like Binay are perhaps the only ones who should actually scrutinize the DAP.
"Ewan ko kung dapat ba mag-paparticipate sa hearing na ito yung mga beneficiaries na mga senador na tumanggap ng share nila galing sa DAP dahil syempre, beneficiaries sila, baka magkaroon ng conflict of interest," Briones added.
Briones asserts that those who received funds from the program have no business questioning it.