MANILA -- President Benigno Aquino III hinted Wednesday that the criticisms against the administration’s Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) may have come from those involved in the pork barrel scam.
At the Presidential Forum of the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (FOCAP), Aquino noted: “Since I am in a room full of journalists, perhaps I can leave it to you to connect the dots: All of these attacks came after plunder cases, among others, that were filed before the Office of the Ombudsman against a few well-known politicians.”
He also noted criticisms then also followed against changes in the Bureau of Customs and the bonuses of the officials of the Social Security System.
He urged the journalists not to be sidetracked by the “background noise.”
“And so I ask you: Let’s keep our eye on the ball. The public was outraged by the audacity with which public officials allegedly stole from the national coffers through the [Priority Development Assistance Fund]. This is an outrage we share, and this is precisely why we abolished PDAF, and followed the evidence so that we may hold all those who committed wrongdoing accountable. Our media and our people are far too good—far too wise—to be grossly and brazenly led to the wrong issue,” he said.
He insisted “plunders should be taken to account.”
The Department of Justice earlier filed plunder raps before the Office of the Ombudsman against several legislators, including senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada, and Bong Revilla. The lawmakers allegedly cornered a big chunk of their PDAF supposedly in cahoots with businesswoman Janet Napoles.
Aquino, who until recently defended PDAF, said he is perplexed that people equate it with the DAP.
“Simply, it was a program that strategically allocated funds to agencies that had already proven the capacity to implement projects and programs rapidly and efficiently,” he said.
He also defended the legality of the DAP, saying: “The legality of such a process has never been in question. As clearly stated in Executive Order 292, or the Administrative Code of 1987 amongst other laws. It is difficult to fathom how one could equate this program with PDAF.”
Several political pundits have questioned the constitutionality of the PDAF, with some already raising the issue before the Supreme Court.
Nonetheless, Aquino defended the move to tap legislators to come up with projects for DAP funding.
“The only thing one could remotely relate to PDAF were those projects undertaken through consultation with our legislators. After all, just as we engaged regional offices, local partners and civil society in identifying projects, was it not also appropriate to hear the proposals of the elected officials of the land? Taking this into account, such projects by the legislators made up a mere 9 percent of the program. Why, then, is the DAP being made an issue?” he asked.