Palace to use DAP funds to help quake victims
MANILA - Malacañang on Thursday said government will use the Aquino administration's controversial Disbursement Acceleration Program or DAP to help victims of a deadly earthquake in Central Visayas get back on their feet.
Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said the government has sufficient funds to address the needs created by the devastation of the earthquake.
"May savings po tayo. You may call it DAP. We have enough savings…Because of savings we are able to respond immediately. All funds are fully and prudently used," he said.
Lacierda's statement was made as a sixth petition was filed before the Supreme Court questioning the constitutionality of the DAP.
The spokesman said any move to stop the DAP will affect relief operations for victims of natural calamities as well as those affected by internal violence in Zamboanga.
"This isn't the 1st petition filed against DAP. If you're going to ask the Supreme Court to suspend the realignment of savings...the consequence is we won't be able to fund assistance to victims of Pablo, victims of Zamboanga crisis and victims in Bohol, in Cebu," he said.
"We leave it to the Supreme Court whether they grant TRO. That's the reality. We're intending to use savings for those situations. That is the reason we are able to use savings properly," he added.
Lacierda said government savings could be used to assess the structural integrity of buildings in quake-hit areas.
However, Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares said government may tap other sources for assistance to earthquake victims, as well as other incidents such as the deadly attack by Moro rebels in Zamboanga City.
Colmenares said the funds do not have to come from DAP, which critics call another form of pork barrel because of its lump sum, discretionary nature.
"I hope Malacañan will not use the sad plight of quake victims to justify holding on to the pork barrel system. It's insensitive to use the argument as reason for holding on to pork barrel system. The plight of victims can be alleviated by existing funds," he said.
He said possible sources of funding for relief operations include the President's calamity fund totaling about P7.5 billion; the calamity fund of local government units; and the quick response funds of the defense, social welfare, education and public works and highways departments estimated at over P2 billion.
SC reschedules oral arguments
The high court has moved the date for the DAP oral arguments from its original schedule of Oct. 22 to Nov. 19, at 2pm.
The Supreme Court (SC) will once again open to live streaming an important series of oral arguments on the consolidated petitions questioning the legality of the DAP.
Speaking to reporters on Thursday, SC Public Information Office (PIO) chief Atty Theodore Te said the high court ordered the consolidation of three petitions filed by the Philippine Constitution Association (Philconsa), Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP), and Maria Carolina Araullo, et al, with the previously consolidated petitions of Augusto Syjuco and Manuelito Luna.
"A sixth petition entitled 'Atty Jose Malvar Villegas, Jr vs Hon Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa, Jr. And Secretary of Budget and Management Florencio Abad' has not been consolidated pending the payment of the required docket fees," Te said.
The consolidated petitions will be re-raffled to another justice-in-charge due to the inhibition of the justice to whom the cases had been originally assigned to.
Sixth petition vs DAP
Earlier, lawmakers under the progressive Makabayan block and militant organizations filed with the Supreme Court (SC) a petition against the DAP.
In a 29-petition against President Aquino, Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa and Budget Secretary Butch Abad, party-list groups Bayan Muna, Gabriela, and Kabataan urged the high court to declare the DAP as unconstitutional, and sought the issuance of a temporary restraining order (TRO) to prevent Malacanan from further disbursing funds under the "stimulus" program.
Petitioners stressed that no law was enacted by Congress to authorize the appropriation of funds under the DAP, created by the Aquino administration in October 2011.
Since then, up to Oct. 1 this year, funds released through the DAP has reached P137.3 billion.
Reacting to Malacanan's claims that DAP funds are derived from "savings" derived from slow-moving projects, petitioners pointed out that "[i]n the case of unreleased appropriations and unobligated allotments, the projects for which the funds was appropriated was never executed or was deferred, making it impossible for the department or agency to realize savings through that projects."
Petitioners said that the Constitution only allows the realignment of savings within a particular agency or department, and does not allow the transfer of funds.
The other petitions against the DAP include those lodged by the Philippine Constitution Association (Philconsa) and the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP).
A total of six petitions vs DAP have been filed before the high court, although the court has not acted on one of the petitions pending payment of the required docket fees. With Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN News