MANILA, Philippines - Some P10.08 billion in funds under the controversial Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) went to the projects of senators and congressmen, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad revealed yesterday.
He made the disclosure during the first hearing on President Aquino’s proposed P2.606-trillion 2015 national budget conducted by the committee on appropriations of the House of Representatives chaired by Davao City Rep. Isidro Ungab.
Responding to questions raised by Navotas Rep. Tobias Tiangco, Abad said seven percent of the P144 billion disbursed under DAP between 2011 and 2013 was allocated to projects “nominated” or endorsed by lawmakers. Abad and many of the lawmakers belong to the ruling Liberal Party (LP).
Abad said his department has posted on its website all details of the projects, activities and programs (PAPs) funded under DAP, except the identities of senators and congressmen who recommended them.
“It would take time to match the letter-recommendations of members of Congress and the PAPs, since it is possible that not all the recommendations were accommodated and it would be unfair to come out with their names,” he said.
He also said no DAP funds were used for the reconstruction of areas flattened by killer typhoon Yolanda, since appropriations for such purpose were provided by Congress.
Tiangco, who is secretary general of Vice President Jejomar Binay’s opposition United Nationalist Alliance, demanded that he be given a listing of DAP projects, including information on their funding, when funds were released, implementing agencies, and senators and congressmen who nominated them.
Abad promised to make the documents available before the House starts plenary debates on the 2015 budget proposal later next month or in October.
Asked by The STAR what he intended to accomplish by making the demand, Tiangco said, “I will tell you when I get the documents.” He stressed he had no DAP allocation.
A congressman belonging to the LP, who asked not to be named, said it was clear that Tiangco wanted to expose and embarrass administration allies who received DAP funds.
It was detained Sen. Jinggoy Estrada, who is facing a plunder case before the Sandiganbayan for allegedly receiving kickbacks in connection with the supposed misuse of his pork barrel funds, who accidentally stumbled on DAP.
He had confessed to receiving an additional P50 million, on top of his annual P200-million Priority Development Assistance Fund allocation. He said he did not know where the P50 million was sourced from.
Abad then admitted for the first time that the administration had embarked on DAP, and that this was the source of the additional allocation of P50 million to P100 million for senators.
In the House, Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. revealed having allocated P10 million to P15 million to each lawmaker.
At least two militant party-list representatives – Neri Colmenares of Bayan Muna and Antonio Tinio of Alliance of Concerned Teachers – have admitted to receiving additional funds that turned out to have been taken from DAP.
Tiangco did not ask Abad where the bulk of DAP funds – the remaining P134 billion – was used. The UNA officer was obviously interested only in the amount allocated to senators and House members.
In the same hearing, in response to questions from Colmenares, Abad said Malacañang is seeking to redefine savings in the 2015 budget proposal.
He said the tribunal’s declaration that the government could declare savings only toward the end of the budget year is impractical, since most of those funds could no longer be used.
He said a new definition of savings that the Palace is seeking would allow the President to declare such funds and use them to augment existing appropriations at any time within a fiscal year.
Colmenares said the Palace proposal would amount to usurpation by the President of the power of Congress to appropriate public funds.
“Here we are scrutinizing the budget, prior to approving it. Then the President is given the power to stop PAPs, declare their appropriations as savings and use them. In effect, there will be two budgets – the one approved by Congress and the savings Malacañang will impound and use,” he said.
He said lawmakers would be giving too much discretion on using funds to President Aquino if they agreed to the Palace’s proposed definition of savings.
Abad countered that Aquino is seeking not discretion or power over appropriations but the leeway to use savings to respond to contingencies.
“In fact, the President has been ceding authority over funds to agencies by disaggregating or breaking down lump sums and making the annual budget proposal more transparent. That is why we now have a six-volume budget,” he said.
He said the Palace would continue to enjoy too much discretion if lump sums were retained in the budget.
The only lump-sum appropriations that were kept were “those, by their nature, have to be lump sums, like the calamity fund and contingent fund,” he added.
He denied insinuations officials had the May 2016 elections in mind when they prepared the 2015 budget.