Joker accuses DBM chief of misusing DAP funds
MANILA - Former senator Joker Arroyo implicated the Palace yesterday over the possible misuse of the multibillion-peso funds under the Development Acceleration Program (DAP).
"This reaches the presidential doorsteps," Arroyo told The STAR in an interview yesterday, referring to Budget and Management Secretary Florencio Abad’s admission of having allocated over P1 billion for the 20 senators who voted to convict former chief justice Renato Corona last year.
Arroyo also accused Abad of “lying” and “misleading” the public over reports that the P47 million, which the retired lawmaker supposedly sought last February, was part of the DAP.
Apart from that, Arroyo added he had not heard of the fund program until Abad made the disclosure last Saturday.
“Secretary Abad said the questionable funds given to the senators came from a newly minted program designed by the DBM, called the Disbursement Acceleration Program, yet again, another one of those lump-sum appropriations yet unheard of, until he pulled it out from his hat,” Arroyo said in a press statement.
Arroyo said the accusation that Malacañang rewarded senator-judges to convict Corona “puts Malacañang on a slippery slope, placing the charge of at least impropriety, if not outright bribery, right at the presidential doorstep.”
Arroyo was one of three senators who chose not to convict Corona.
Sen. Jinggoy Estrada, who revealed the P50-million “incentives” to senators in his privilege speech last week, said he feels vindicated following Abad’s revelations.
“This proves to the public that I am not lying about the P50-million released to senators,” Estrada said.
Asked if he thinks the Palace had a hand in giving out the incentives to senator-judges, Estrada said: “Your guess is as good as mine.”
As far as Arroyo is concerned, Abad may be tagged for the crime of falsifying legislative documents under the Revised Penal Code when he explained that the fund releases came from DAP.
“Secretary Abad took pains to massage the information regarding these amendments/appropriations in the budget as if they were part and parcel of the lump sum appropriation for the DAP, which he mentioned, if only to deodorize the stink of the accusation against them that they ‘rewarded’ the senators who voted to convict in the Corona impeachment trial,” Arroyo said.
“Doing that, he wants to show that the amount given to senators were not from PDAF (Priority Development Assitance Fund) but the DAP. It is not from PDAF and definitely, not DAP,” Arroyo said.
He raised an issue about what he sees the uniform amount of P50 million given to a majority of the 20 senators, except for then Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, then Senate finance committee chairman Franklin Drilon and a known presidential ally, Sen. Francis Escudero who were luckier than others for getting about P100 million each.
“Nobody heard about DAP until he (Abad) issued the statement,” said Arroyo, who decided not to avail of his own regular PDAF allocations since he became a congressman of Makati and then senator.
He retired last year after about 20 years in government service.
A congressman gets a regular PDAF allocation of P70 million while a senator gets P200 million a year.
Arroyo explained that he requested the P47 million for three schools in his home province in Bicol but it came from amendments under the 2013 General Appropriations Act and “not PDAF by any language.”
“The alleged ‘bonus’ amounts to P1B. It has been distributed from August to December 2012,” Arroyo noted.
Arroyo accused Abad of having “maliciously bundled the budgetary amendments I introduced for medical and educational provisions in the 2013 General Appropriations Act together with the questioned 2012 releases.”
Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. also questioned Abad last week for saying that the P100 million that was supposedly released by the DBM in 2013 for his office was part of the PDAF.
Marcos was asked by the Commission on Audit (COA) to explain the P100 million supposedly disbursed to his office last Sept 4.
Marcos was puzzled by Abad’s contention that the P100 million did not come from the DAP.
Marcos has denied having received the P100 million additional funds last week, saying the documents that were used to support the request were fake.
He pointed out that the COA specifically mentioned DAP not PDAF.
In the process, Marcos explained that PDAF is allocated to senators by virtue of the law (GAA) while DAP is an initiative of the Office of the President where high-impact projects are chosen to be funded.
Nothing wrong with DAP funds
Sen. Escudero did not dispute Abad’s report that he got P99 million last year from the DAP.
Escudero, however, said in a radio interview yesterday that the discretion on the releases of DAP belongs to the executive branch.
Senate President Drilon also sees nothing wrong with the P100 million he got in additional funds last year, which came on top of the regular P200-million PDAF.
Drilon said the money went to the infrastructure projects in his home province of Iloilo, which is vying to be the venue for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) ministerial meetings in the country next year.
Drilon and Escudero defended yesterday the budget department’s move to allocate almost P100 million each to both of them months after the impeachment of Corona.
But the two known close allies of President Aquino both claimed that the additional funds were not bribes but part of government’s economic stimuli package to boost public spending and improve the economy.
Drilon said he utilized the P100 million in additional funds to infrastructure projects in Iloilo.
He added that no less than Sen. Estrada, who disclosed the P50 million in additional fund releases, mentioned that the amount was not a bribe.
Drilon admitted that he issued confidential memorandum to senators informing them about the need to submit projects to be able to avail of P50-million allocations for each senator.
“There is nothing wrong with that,” he said, further softening the impact of Estrada’s revelations in his privilege speech last Wednesday that the amount was given as a reward or incentive for the conviction of Corona.
“Confidential or not, what is important is how the allocations were used and disbursed,” Drilon said.
Drilon also assured the public that he will lead the Senate in reforming the PDAF system by pushing for its removal in the 2014 budget.
He explained that DAP is not part of the General Appropriations Act (GAA) but rather items that were unused during the fiscal year.
He cited for example the Miscellaneous Personnel Benefits Fund, which was not totally used up by some departments that apparently are returned to the national treasury.
The DAP funds also include the unprogrammed funds in 2012 as well as the dividends from the government-owned and controlled corporations (GOCCs).
Asked why they got higher additional funds that the rest of the senators, Escudero said the discretion in the release of funds is on the Palace, not the Senate President nor any other entity.
Escudero noted that he has not been subject of the COA special audit since he did not receive a single peso from the previous Arroyo administration.
Since he is now chairman of the Senate committee on finance, Escudero said he is placing a mechanism in the 2014 GAA that would mandate the DBM to notify Congress on how much savings the government generates every year, and where they are allocated once re-aligned or used by the administration.
Escudero said his office is currently tracing where his additional P99-million allocations were placed but they likely went to infrastructure projects such as the construction, repair and rehabilitation of public markets, and assistance to indigent patients of government hospitals.
“We don’t have livelihood projects. We don’t have NGOs or Philforest (allocations),” Escudero said, referring to the anomalous NGOs, which were uncovered by the COA’s special audit for 2007 to 2009.
Drilon and Escudero also explained that there is nothing wrong with the disbursements ranging from P50 million to P100 million that Abad released to 20 senators from August to December last year.
They maintained that the amounts went into real infrastructure projects, not ghost projects.
Escudero explained that the DAP funds are sourced from the annual savings of the government.
He said that the President has the power to re-align savings for better public use.
The two administration senators also noted that under the past Gloria Arroyo administration, the savings were misused and misallocated unlike in the present administration.