Miriam: Scandalous DAP is presidential pork

by Ira Pedrasa, ABS-CBNnews.com

Posted at Oct 01 2013 01:40 PM | Updated as of Oct 01 2013 09:49 PM

MANILA - Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago said the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) is illegal and a mere presidential pork.

She said the “scandalous” DAP may even destroy the congressional power of the purse, noting that it was not contained in the 2011 and 2012 budgets.

In a statement, Santiago cited the Constitution that provides that, “No law shall be passed authorizing any transfer of appropriations; however, the President…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.”

While fund transfers are allowed, she said this can only be legal if the savings came from projects completed – not merely deferred.

“The first issue is that the DAP was not taken from savings. The second issue is that the DAP was not used to augment items in the budget that were previously authorized by Congress. The alleged savings were used to augment new budget items not previously authorized by Congress,” she said.

Thus, the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) should have sought the approval of Congress for the transfers, Santiago said.

No Congressional approval

She noted that President Benigno Aquino III authorized the DBM to set aside P85.5 billion for the DAP in 2011 without congressional approval.

“The budget secretary released a list of the beneficiaries of the DAP. The variance of the beneficiaries – lumping together P10 billion to the National Housing Authority, with P50 million for every senator in 2012 – indicates that the DAP is nothing more or less than the huge pork barrel of the President, spent without the participation of the Congress,” she said.

To prevent the DAP from destroying the congressional power of the purse, Congress should enact a law similar to the 1974 Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act of the United States.

Santiago said that it was Aquino himself who first proposed a Budget Control and Impoundment Act when he was still senator.

“Under American law, if the President discovers an enacted appropriation which has not been spent, the President cannot just cancel the appropriation. The President must first ask Congress for a rescission, meaning a cancellation or cut-back of appropriated funds for a project no longer considered necessary. The President cannot act by himself alone. Such a law would restore the balance of power between the executive and legislative branches,” she said.

“Pres. Aquino’s proposed impoundment law takes a fiscally responsible position. If he doesn’t mind, I will simply refile it in the Senate, with an explanatory note that it was originally filed by Pres. Aquino,” Santiago said.