MANILA - Some of the lawmakers who vociferously argued against the impeachment complaints against President Benigno Aquino III are beneficiaries of the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) said.
The DAP is the basis of two of the three impeachment complaints dismissed by the House justice committee for not being sufficient in substance in three separate votes of 54 to 4.
Some of the most ardent critics of the impeachment complaints during Tuesday's hearing were Representatives Miro Quimbo, Elpidio Barzaga, Ben Evardone, Rufus Rodriguez, Giorggidi Aggabao, Reynaldo Umali, and majority leader Neptali Gonzales II.
The hearing was presided by justice committee chair Niel Tupas Jr. and senior vice chair Rodolfo Farinas.
According to a blog post by Bayan, whose secretary general Renato Reyes is one of the impeachment complainants, "the biggest injustice is that Aquino allies who benefited from DAP killed the impeachment to defend their pork barrel benefactor in Malacañang."
"The injustice is that they sought to protect the President in order to preserve a rotten system of patronage and corruption."
Referencing a study by the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, Bayan said the following lawmakers received DAP:
Neptali Gonzales II - P203 million
Giorggidi Aggabao - P88.7 million
Ben Evardone - P62.7 million
Elpidio Barzaga - P60.5 million
Rodolfo Farinas - P46.8 million
Reynaldo Umali - P15 million
Miro Quimbo - P10 million
Others who also appeared in the list are powerful congressmen like:
Speaker Sonny Belmonte - P16.5 million
Justice committee chair Niel Tupas Jr. - P12.5 million
Appropriations committee chair Isidro Ungab - P5 million
Bayan Muna's Neri Colmenares was also listed to have P25 million in DAP funds. He and Evardone had a heated personal exchange over this during the justice committee proceedings.
Gonzales, for his part, believes Bayan is just not being a good sport about their defeat.
"Unang-una, yung boto kahapon is...boto on appreciation of what was alleged in the complaint which is under the rules. Boto kahapon has nothing to do with any other consideration. Let's accept the fact, they should never be sore losers," he said.
"Alam naman nila palagi ang prayer nila wag sanang maging numbers game, pero makikita naman talaga walang sumama sa kanila not even member of minority outside Makabayan. Walang sumama sa kanila. Tapusin na natin. We have many other things to do," he added.
As regards the DAP, Gonzales said he did not know where the money was sourced. A large part of it has been returned.
"One thing sure kami di namin alam san nagiging source basta in-identify namin iyan. For myself, implementing agency city of Mandaluyong, di ako naglalagay sa NGO Napoles or otherwise. Hindi namin alam, even if makita mo yung mga SARO niyan, di makita ano source niyan. Alam ko nakalagay about P203 million pero ang sa akin sinoli na ng city about P140 million. I have a copy nung resibo, remittance ng city to Bureau of Treasury less than a month ago. Nagsoli pa ng additional, nasosoli na ng city sa Bureau of Treasury is close to about P180 million," he said.
Quimbo has declined to comment.
Barzaga, meanwhile, said in a statement, "DAP was used properly for public purposes. There are also Congress persons from the Makabayan bloc who received DAP. But since they used properly their funds then they felt that they do no owe anything to the president."
"In the same vein, since we request funding from the president not for ourselves but for our constituents for the projects needed by them, like the Makabayan bloc, we do not feel beholden to the president and therefore our decision on the impeachment complaint was based on the merits, applicable jurisprudence and the paramount national interest."
Belmonte likewise said, "Nobody knew about DAP then. What's important is if the projects you nominated were properly done or the money ended up in your pocket. That's never the case with me."
"Did not even know it's DAP. Anyways, I owe it to my constituents to get as much resources I could lay my hands on for projects in my district. That's my job. And more importantly, funds were used properly and was not pocketed," Umali also said.
Outside of the Makabayan bloc, no other member of the minority signed the impeachment. Previously, minority leader Ronaldo Zamora said he will not back the impeachment.
The Minority also fended off observations that some of its members did not back the Makabayan bloc's bid to impeach Aquino.
Senior deputy minority leader Carol Jayne Lopez said the bloc even deputized Gabriela Party-list Representatives Luz Ilagan and Emmy de Jesus so they can vote in the committee. The two are not members of the committee.
On Tuesday, only Ilagan, de Jesus, and Bayan Muna Representatives Carlos Zarate and Neri Colmenares voted to find the three impeachment complaints against Aquino sufficient in substance.
The complaints are in connection with the unconstitutional Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) and the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA).
Zarate, meanwhile, said the developments have the fingerprints of Malacañang all over the justice committee, which he claimed protected the alleged presidential pork of Aquino.
On the other side, as Aquino's impeachment is just one step short of a full blown dismissal, there's scuttlebutt in the lower chamber that an impeachment is being eyed against Vice President Jejomar Binay over the allegedly overpriced Makati City Hall Building 2.
Belmonte said so far this is "scuttlebutt." "On the basis of what is known today, I would be against it," he said.