MANILA - Former National Treasurer Leonor Briones wants a special audit into the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) that the Palace used to give lump sums to legislators.
Briones said she wants the government to clarify the source of the funds. She noted that special funds such as the motor vehicle users' charge, which is off budget, was created by an executive order.
"Is there an executive order? Is there a provision in the Constitution which legitimizes the creation? I also have more questions, the answers should come from the [Department of Budget and Management] and the Executive," she said.
She added: "If the source is from different savings then we have to clarify constitutional provision. Who has power to realign? Isn't it the legislature? After the budget is passed and the President realigns again, how do you call that? It is pork. Clearly, the source has to be clarified as to legitimacy and constitutional basis."
The former National Treasurer said the DAP may be considered a form of pork barrel since it is distributed to the legislators.
"Clearly, it is pork. By definition and tradition and international language, pork is given to legislator. Is it correct? No because it is pointed out that their function is to create laws not implement projects," she said.
Over the weekend, Budget Secretary Butch Abad said DAP releases are usually funded from unreleased appropriations under Personnel Services, as is the case when positions are either not filled up or filled up late.
The releases may also be funded from the unprogrammed fund--due to revenues generated beyond the target, such as GOCC dividends--carry-over appropriations unreleased from the previous year, as well as budgets for slow-moving items or projects that have been realigned to support faster-disbursing projects.
Abad said the DAP has played a central role in boosting government spending and in expanding the economy. He said the DAP's efficiency in moving public funds toward high-impact projects has been expressed in the country's remarkable economic growth.
"While it is unfortunate that DAP releases are now being maligned to serve some very questionable political interests, we hope that these fund releases are seen exactly for what they are: as a valuable fiscal tool for accelerating government spending and the delivery of public goods and services to the people, not as an instrument for political coercion," he said.
Under the constitution, the heads of agencies that enjoy fiscal autonomy like the President, the Supreme Court and the heads of constitutional bodies are allowed to utilize savings.
Briones said previously the interpretation has been the President can use the savings of his office--the Office of the President proper and not the line agencies.
"The way this administration interpreted this provision is the entire government system is the Office of the President. It is too broad an interpretation because the President has his own office," Briones said.
She said the DBM Secretary has yet to clarify the source of the DAP since it is not in the General Appropriations Act.
Legislators supposed to allocate
Briones said legislators are supposed to allocate but now the President is performing that function. On the other hand, legislators are also doing executive functions.
"So both of them are in a sense not the following mandates of Constitution. Pwede siyang maglilipat ng pondo yung kanyang office. Na-stretch yan during the time of President Arroyo because previous presidents have always used savings. During GMA's time, there was a new interpretation. He can create savings from any office. Maski constitutional bodies nagtransfer siya," she said.
Briones also said the DAP, which is supposed to be a pump priming project of the government, is better off in the line agencies.
"If it's for pump-priming, give it to implementing agencies. The functions have to be made clear para maliwanag ang accountability," she said.
Navotes Rep. and United Nationalist Alliance spokesman Toby Tiangco backed Briones, saying that the DAP need not pass through congressmen or senators.