MANILA – Budget Secretary Florencio "Butch" Abad on Wednesday made another case for the maligned Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), saying a portion of the funds used to be mere bonuses for government officials and employees sourced from the savings of their respective agencies.
"The funds used to mere bonuses but we allotted them to more important programs which needed funding. That is one of the reasons for the establishment of the DAP," Abad told radio dzMM.
"The President is given the power to identify projects whose funds will be sourced from savings that could otherwise end up as bonuses. That is provided in the constitution and the General Appropriations Act."
Abad earlier said that the DAP was also established to ramp up government spending after sluggish disbursements caused the country's GDP growth to slow down to just 3.6% in 2011.
He explained that aside from savings of agencies, the DAP is also comprised of unprogrammed funds due to revenues generated beyond the target such as GOCC (government-owned and controlled corporation) dividends, and budgets for slow-moving items or projects that have been realigned to support faster-disbursing projects.
Critics said the establishment of DAP is in violation of the 1987 Constitution.
The Palace, however, cited Article 6, Sec 25, Sub-section 5 of the Constitution which states that the President, Senate President, House Speaker, Chief Justice and heads of constitutional commissions "may, by law, be authorized to augment any item in the general appropriations law for their respective offices from savings in other items of their respective appropriations."
It added that DAP releases are also backed by the Administrative Code.
The code states that "any savings in the regular appropriations…may be used to cover a deficit in any other item of the regular appropriations."
The Palace particularly put emphasis on Section 49, paragraph 9 of the code which states that savings may be used for "priority activities that will promote the economic well being of the nation, including food production, agrarian reform, energy development, disaster relief, and rehabilitation."
Savings in the appropriations may also be used for the settlement of certain obligations incurred during a current fiscal year or previous fiscal years.
'No new projects'
Former Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno, meanwhile, insisted that Malacañang cannot augment funding for new projects but can only add funds to existing programs.
"The constitution is very clear that no law shall be passed authorizing any transfer of appropriation. They allow augmentation of existing budget items in the budget. The President, Senate President and Speaker can augment any item in the budget. It has to be there already, out of savings from other appropriations," he said in an interview on ANC's Headstart.
Diokno also noted that the term "savings" is defined as unused funds from projects which have already been finished.
Diokno said while the intention of the government to boost the GPD through the DAP is laudable, the government must follow the law and the constitution.
In the same ANC interview, constitutionalist Fr. Joaquin Bernas pointed out that savings must be used by the same agency where it came from.
Bernas also echoed Diokno's statement that no new budget item must be made outside the GAA.
"You don’t invent new item, because if you invent, what you have is a new appropriation," he said.
Bernas sees nothing wrong with the DAP funds as long as they were allocated for projects already identified in the GAA.
Arroyo: Palace used me to conceal 'incentives'
The issue of the DAP came up after Senator Jinggoy Estrada said in a privilege speech that the Palace gave senators incentives after ousting Chief Justice Renato Corona from office.
This prompted Abad to admit that senators indeed received some P1 billion in DAP allocations months after the ouster of Corona. He, however, said these were not incentives.
Former Senator Joker Arroyo, who voted for the acquittal of Corona, said he did not know that the P47 million that was released for his projects in Bicol worth P47 million came from the DAP.
Arroyo, who never touched his Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) – a source of another controversy in the government, explained that he requested the P47 million for three schools in his home province in Bicol but it came from amendments under the 2013 GAA.
"I asked Senator Drilon (who was then the head of the Finance Committee) if I could introduce an amendment to the budget. He said, ‘Never mind, just give me a piece of paper and I will take care of it.’ I thought all along that my note will be carried. Had I known (it was from the DAP), I would not agree,"he told reporters on Tuesday.
Arroyo accused the government of including him in the list of senators who voted for the ouster of Chief Justice Renato Corona so that the DAP releases would not appear as "incentives" or "rewards."
"Isinama ako doon, parang lalabas eh 'O eto si Joker he voted for acquittal pero maski he voted for acquittal binigyan namin.' Para bang deodorant ako ngayon," he told dzMM.