Palace bucks clipping of PNoy's fiscal powers
MANILA, Philippines - Days after President Aquino appeared on national television to defend the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) and castigate his critics, Malacanang made clear yesterday Aquino remains firm in his position and is not about to temper his fiscal powers.
Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte maintained that Aquino’s power over savings – from which funds are drawn for DAP – is justified under the 1987 Constitution, contrary to what his critics are saying.
“I’m not quite sure what kind of action they’re calling for because that would require a constitutional amendment,” she said, referring to calls for the clipping of the President’s fiscal powers.
She stressed that Aquino is ever mindful of how taxpayers’ money is spent, and has put measures in place “that would limit his own powers over funds that are controlled by the executive.”
“Even when it comes to the President’s Social Fund, the President did already implement several reform measures by way of limiting the uses, or at least the purposes, that can be funded out of the PSF,” Valte maintained.
The PSF is derisively called the President’s pork barrel.
Valte said another indication of Aquino’s prudent use of fiscal powers is his limiting the use of the Malampaya funds to energy-related projects.
“Instead of construing it liberally, including ‘and such other projects that the President may determine,’ the President has adopted the strict implementation – meaning, such other projects should also still be related to energy development,” she said.
But for budget reforms and the anti-corruption drive to gain headway, the public should keep or even heighten its vigilance, according to Press Secretary Herminio Coloma.
“Ultimate reform will come about because of a well-informed citizenry that will make decisions that will empower their communities and transform the nation,” Coloma told Malacañang reporters.
He emphasized that the President is committed to greater transparency in budget preparation and disbursement.
In a nationwide televised address Wednesday night, Aquino said forces were at work to misinform the public and draw its attention away from the real issue, which is stealing.
In his speech, Aquino reminded the public that it is those who had misused taxpayers’ money – particularly the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) – who should be targets of public wrath.
The Department of Justice, through the National Bureau of Investigation, filed plunder and graft charges in September against 37 individuals – including Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Garcia, and Bong Revilla – in connection with the alleged anomalous use of PDAF from 2007 to 2009. Included in the complaint was alleged PDAF scam mastermind businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles.
Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada, meanwhile, expressed confidence his son Jinggoy can handle by himself his being implicated in the pork barrel scam.
The mayor was reacting to DOJ’s request for the Department of Foreign Affairs to cancel the senator’s passport as well as those of Enrile and Revilla to prevent them from leaving the country while being investigated.
Joining President Aquino in defending DAP were various government agencies which presented what they called proof of the program’s benefit to the people.
Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) director general Joel Villanueva said skills training programs funded through DAP yielded high employment rate, putting to work more than 90,000 graduates of various courses managed by the agency.
Villanueva said his defense of DAP was not just lip service but was backed by figures and records.
A total of P1.1 billion was released to TESDA in October 2011 through the DAP, Villanueva said. This produced close to 150,000 graduates, he said.
“The Training for Work Scholarship program (TWSP) is one of our existing programs funded under the General Appropriations Act. Based on our data, six out of 10 graduates who availed of the scholarship got employed within six months to one year after training,” Villanueva said.
In the IT-BPO sector, 75,479 of the 75,682 enrollees completed the training. This translated to 70.7 percent employment rate for those programs implemented in partnership with the Business Processing Association of the Philippines (BPAP). BPAP has provided TESDA with the list of the names of the employed graduates for this sector.
In the semiconductor sector, TESDA partnered with the Semiconductor and Electronics Industries in the Philippines to produce a total of 2,404 graduates, of whom 2,044 or 85 percent are already employed.
Of the P142.23 billion approved for release through DAP for 2011 to 2012, only nine percent went to programs and projects identified by legislators, according to the Department of Budget and Management.
The DBM said these were not released directly to legislators but to implementing agencies.
Electrification, social work
The Department of Energy (DOE), for its part, said the DAP scheme had complemented government’s electrification programs in the rural areas, which the National Electrification Administration (NEA) was overseeing.
The Sitio Electrification Program, through NEA, received some P1.5 billion from February 2012 to January 2013 for line connection and enhancement projects covering 2,219 sitios nationwide.
The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) said it received in 2011 additional allotment of P1.97 billion through DAP for the implementation of various social services in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
With the additional allotment, the DSWD said it was able to help ARMM fast track projects like construction of day care centers, modified shelter assistance project, emergency shelter assistance, supplementary feeding, sustainable livelihood and cash-for-work.
The DSWD reported they have completed the construction of 784 day care centers against the target of 1,100 day care centers.
The DSWD said its activities, however, were hampered by unstable peace and order situation in some project areas.
DSWD Secretary Corazon Soliman said additional allotment through DAP went to line item projects such as technical assistance to ARMM.
“Rest assured that the DAP additional allotment benefitted the rightful beneficiaries of DSWD programs and services,” Soliman said. With Aurea Calica, Jose Rodel Clapano