Trillanes backs PNoy, says SC should rule on DAP
MANILA – Senator Antonio Trillanes IV advised critics of the maligned Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) to ask the Supreme Court to determine whether the funds have basis under the 1987 Constitution or not.
In an interview with ANC, Trillanes, an Aquino ally, said he sees nothing wrong with the creation of the DAP by the administration, noting the president is given the discretion to realign funds.
"All the heads of branches of government have the authority to realign funds within their branch and the president has that power and authority and they decided to use this through the DAP," Trillanes told ANC.
"To demonstrate the transparency of this administration, they decided to get legislators and district representatives involved in the distribution of these funds. I didn't see anything wrong. They may not take my word for it. They can just file it in the Supreme Court and have it resolved once and for all."
The Aquino administration and its critics have been at odds over the use of DAP, which the Budget department said was created primarily to ramp up government spending after sluggish disbursements caused the country's GDP growth to slow down to just 3.6% in 2011.
Budget Secretary Butch Abad explained that spending was slow in the earlier part of the Aquino administration because it had to plug fund leakages and seal policy loopholes within key implementing agencies of the government.
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.
Trillanes, who received P50 million in DAP funds in 2012, admitted he was not aware the funds were sourced from the controversial stimulus fund.
Nonetheless, he said what is important is "all the funds entrusted to us were allocated properly… the bottomline is we didn't steal."
"Aquino has never been tarnished with any form corruption during his watch. When they informed us that we can submit another list of projects, we welcomed that," he said.
Trillanes also denied that DAP funds that were given to the senators were incentives to oust Chief Justice Renato Corona during his impeachment trial.
"We've gone past the impeachment and the whole country witnessed the trial. Most of the public would agree that Corona deserved to be kicked out. I would not need an incentive to make a very easy decision," he said.
Trillanes added some quarters are just riding on the DAP issue in an attempt to put down Aquino, who yesterday challenged his critics to push for his impeachment.
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.
In defending the DAP, Palace spokespersons cited Article 6, Sec 25, par. 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."
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 came from the DAP.
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."
Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago, who also voted to acquit Corona, said she was also not informed about the DAP. She said the DAP was never mentioned during budget deliberations for the 2011 and 2012 budgets.
She said savings of government agencies should be used only to augment projects previously authorized by the Congress in the General Approriations Act.
The feisty senator reiterated that the DAP usurps the power of Congress over the purse, saying any move to funnel savings of government agencies into new projects should have congressional approval.
Fr. Joaquin Bernas, one of the framers of the Constitution, echoed Santiago's position and said the government may have indeed violated the constitution if the DAP funds were used for new projects.
"You don’t invent new item, because if you invent, what you have is a new appropriation," he said.
"The Constitution says Congress may authorize the President to transfer savings from their departments to augment savings in the same department…So savings in the President's budget can be transferred to items in his budget (and) not to other departments."
Enrile is PH's biggest crook
Meanwhile, Trillanes said the nation should celebrate because the law is finally catching up with Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile.
"We are supposed to be celebrating that we got the biggest crook in Philippine politics. Hindi natin nakuha ng murder, ng cheating, ng kung anu-ano pa. We finally nailed him with this one. We should be celebrating. This guy has committed so many crimes, we failed to nail him," he said.
A special audit report by the Commission on Audit (COA) earlier revealed that Enrile and fellow senators Bong Revilla and Jinggoy Estrada coursed their pork barrel funds to fake non-government organizations set up by Napoles.
The report showed that several NGOs linked to Napoles received P1.23 billion from Estrada, Sen. Bong Revilla and Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile from 2007 to 2009.
Plunder, graft and malversation charges have since been filed against Estrada, Revilla, Enrile and 35 other people by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI).
In its complaint, the NBI said Enrile got P174,834,500 in kickbacks from Napoles, while Revilla and Estrada got P224,512,500 and P183,793,750, respectively.