Palace: DAP to continue
MANILA, Philippines - Despite the growing public outcry againast the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), Malacanang said Thursday it's not scrapping the controversial scheme or giving in to calls for the axing of its staunchest defender – Budget and Management Secretary Florencio Abad.
“I don’t think that that would be fair to the Filipino people if Secretary Abad were hounded out of office by a bunch of opposition lawmakers,” Secretary Ricky Carandang of the Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office said yesterday.
In a separate press briefing, Abad renewed his defense of DAP and said at least P15.13 billion has, in fact, been approved for release this year to sustain the pace of public spending as well as economic expansion.
At Malacañang, Carandang said Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago, who started the call for the firing of Abad, can “sometimes be an ally” but pointed out that her demand was unfair.
“Butch Abad has taken very good care of the country’s finances,” Carandang maintained.
“The reforms that have been undertaken in DBM ordered by the President, fully executed by Butch Abad, has saved this country and taxpayers billions of pesos and these billions of pesos are going to social safety programs to help the poor,” he added.
He said he found Santiago’s call “surprising,” largely because there had been no allegation of corruption against Abad.
“There has been no indication that he has done anything wrong and yet there are people who have been or are being investigated or being charged for using people’s money and I don’t see anybody asking them what you did with the money,” Carandang stressed. “So I think there’s an attempt here at misdirection again.”
Carandang lamented that some quarters were redirecting the people’s ire to the Aquino administration.
“Let’s compare this (DAP) to PDAF. If the money is being spent properly, there will be no complaints. The point is to get this money spent in the proper way,” the Palace official told reporters.
He said the people should view DAP as government funds spent judiciously.
“The objection comes when money is allocated and somehow it’s misused. This is where people should be angry – on the misuse,” Carandang said, insisting that there had been no cases of funds under DAP misused.
“The process, method is not something that is good or bad per se. It is whether or not this lends itself to the misuse of the fund and that’s what we should focus on. Right now, there has been no allegation of a misuse of funds under the DAP,” he said.
“The allegations right now about misuse come in the form of the PDAF and I think that’s where we should be looking at. Where did the PDAF money go? Maybe these people should be made to explain.”
Unfazed by allegations of bribery over releases of funds under DAP, Abad revealed previous releases since 2011 as well as the coming disbursement of P15.13 billion.
For the past years, some P142.23 billion was released for projects under DAP – P83.53 billion in 2011 and P58.7 billion in 2012.
Abad noted that only nine percent of the total DAP was released to programs and projects identified by lawmakers.
The P15.13 billion set for release this year is for the modernization of the Philippine National Police, redevelopment of Roxas Boulevard, rehabilitation of typhoon ravaged provinces of Compostela Valley and Davao Oriental.
Abad said another P10 billion is needed to boost the central bank’s capitalization, which is key to ensuring macro stability.
He said funding for the DAP comes from pooled savings from unused appropriations, windfall revenues from government-owned and controlled corporations’ dividends and sale of government assets.
Abad also pointed out that the President is authorized under the Constitution to augment funds for programs and projects authorized in the General Appropriations Act using savings from other budget items.
The 1987 Administration Code states that “any savings in the regular appropriations authorized in the GAA for programs and projects of any department, office of agency, may – with the approval of the President – be caused to cover a deficit in any other items of the regular appropriations.”
Through the DAP, funds for slow-moving programs and projects are reallocated for quick-disbursing and high-impact programs and projects.
Abad also explained that unprogrammed funds are standby appropriations that can only be used when revenue collections exceed the original revenue targets submitted by the President to Congress, including collections arising from sources not originally considered in the original revenue targets.
Requests for funds
Carandang also said requests for more funds from senators and congressmen prompted the national government to tap DAP.
“What I do know, if you look at the documents, is that there are requests from the lawmakers,” he said.
Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto, among other lawmakers, told newsmen he received a letter in 2012 asking him to identify projects for his additional priority development assistance fund.
Carandang said he perfectly understands why legislators could not have known DAP as a mechanism for accelerated spending.
“That (innocence) may be true. Maybe they weren’t reading their press releases from the DBM. But they are aware that, if there are savings, they can endorse their projects and that was what was happening throughout 2011 and 2012,” he explained.
“So there are savings, they don’t care if it’s DAP or whatever, what’s important is that there are savings. Whether it was called DAP or savings, that was what was happening,” Carandang added.
He asserted that the rationale behind DAP was to “stimulate the economy,” especially when government had “realigned savings.”
And contrary to the claim of Senate President Franklin Drilon that he received his P100 million from DAP, presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda insisted no money was turned over to legislators, but only to implementing agencies.
“The money went to the projects, not to the senators. It goes to the implementing agencies,” Lacierda stressed.
President Aquino himself had admitted giving additional pork barrel funds – through DAP – to senators and congressmen in October 2012, but denied that it was a bribe, reward or incentive for voting to convict former chief justice Renato Corona in May 2012.
Lacierda said they are confident about the dismissal of the plunder charges filed against President Aquino and Abad.
He said it was obvious that there were deliberate attempts to divert the issue from the pork barrel scam allegedly masterminded by businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles to the alleged misuse of PDAF by administration officials.
“It’s that simple. It’s rather the height of absurdity to file a case against those people who are now doing the reforms,” Lacierda said.
“We hold a sacred trust. Our thrust is what we say ‘public office is public trust.’ We are stewards of the government, of taxpayers’ money. We don’t own the taxpayers’ money. We are stewards. You hold us accountable to make sure that those funds are used properly,” Lacierda said.
“And, therefore, what should be an issue to all of us – I am also a taxpayer – what should be an issue to all of us is: was there a misuse of funds? That’s why people were angry with the PDAF because, obviously, some people misused their PDAF. So they should be able to explain,” he said. With Aurea Calica