President Aquino has been accused of stonewalling calls for him to give up his discretionary funds with his defense and continued support of the pork barrel system, particularly the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) and the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) funds.
Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colme-nares criticized Aquino for rejecting calls to scrap the DAP that allows the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to pool government savings and use them for other purposes.
“Why is the president so enamored with the pork barrel system, particularly with the PDAF and the DAP?” Colmenares lamented.
Amid the ongoing DAP controversy, the Department of National Defense (DND) has admitted receiving more than P600 million DAP fund during fiscal year 2011 and 2012.
In a press statement, the DND said that it has received a total of P665.6 million DAP funds.
The fund, the DND said, was used in various programs of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), particularly the Philippine Air Force (PAF) and the Presidential Security Group (PSG).
“The DAP fund was released to the DND for the different programs of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), particularly for the procurement of equipment and spare parts, on-base housing, and repair, renovation and rehabilitation of different facilities,” the DND stated.
According to the DND, the PAF received a total of P397.3 million from DAP fund for fiscal year 2011-2012. “This amount was used for on-base housing facilities, procurement of communication equipment and the implementation of the PAF’s various projects. Said projects include allocation of resources for search and rescue requirements, base facilities and equipment, and the repair, renovation and rehabilitation of the Air Education and Training Command (AETC) facilities in Lipa, Batangas,” the DND said.
The AETC is the principal training institution of the PAF and is responsible for the education of soldiers, officers, and pilots of the Air Force.
“The Filipino people have been calling for the abolition of this rotten system but Aquino is still its main defender. Did he gain something from this or the P248.3 million that the Presidential Security Group (PSG) got from the DAP?”, Colmenares said.
The PSG, which is tasked to secure the President and his family, received a total of P248.3 million which was used in its communication enhancement project, according to the DND.
Included in the PSG project are the laying-out of the necessary backbone for the communications systems to be used, the repair of building and barracks, the installation of Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) equipment at the Malacañang Complex, and the upgrade of the PSG’s communications equipment from analogue to digital with a secured encryption capability.
The PSG’s communication enhancement project was approved and funded by the Department of Budget and Management in December 2011. The PSG enhancement project commenced in January of CY 2012
Dr Peter Paul Galvez, DND spokesman, said that the other P20 million was allotted to the Navy and the Army’s Fort Magsaysay.
Galvez said that P10 million was used in renovation of buildings at Fort Magsaysay while the other P10 million was returned to the National Treasury as the Navy failed to implement the project due to time constraint. He said the release was made in December.
“President Aquino and the DBM’s reasoning using section 25, article VI of the Constitution is flawed,” Colmenares said.
Even if the said provision, Colmenares said, authorizes the President, the Senate President, the Speaker of the House, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and the heads of the Constitutional Commissions…”to augment an item (in the general appropriations law) for their respective offices from savings in other items of their respective appropriations, the DAP which came from DBM Circular 542, is a forced and premature pseudo-saving mechanism done in June 30 of 2012.”
“Savings are ascertained at the end of the year not in the middle. How can President Aquino call mid-year realignment as savings?”, Colmenares asked.
“President Aquino and Secretary Florencio “Butch” Abad should be held accountable for what they did with the people’ money. They realigned forced and premature pseudo-savings to projects that are not stated in the General Appropriations Act,” he averred.
The solon explained it is unconstitutional for the President to term as savings unobligated allotments before the end of the year because only savings can be realigned.
“All public funds spent on items not considered in the budget violate the Constitution. In fact, this DAP is definitely an impeachable offense for Aquino and heads should roll for the misuse of people’s money,” Colmenares said.
Based on the national budget, the amount of unused appropriations did not include “budgetary adjustments” moved from one agency or department to another, to the tune of P288.11 billion in 2011. Such adjustments ballooned to P358.41 billion in 2012, the year Abad came out with National Budget Circular No. 541 justifying the DAP.
Speaker Feliciano Belmonte, however, insisted that the DAP is constitutional and was indeed meant to speed up economic activity.
Belmonte underscored the importance of DAP in implementing government projects nationwide particularly in the rehabilitation of areas ravaged by typhoon and other calamities as in Zamboanga City.
“Definitely my stand is it is legal, constitutional and logical. What we’re trying to do is jumpstart the pending,” Belmonte said.
Belmonte explained that DAP was instituted to expedite government projects.
“It made possible the release of funds on day one so that public works can take advantage of the dry season instead of getting the funds during typhoon season because of bureaucratic delays,” Belmonte said.
Belmonte was reacting to a petition by the Philippine Constitution Association (Philconsa) asking the Supreme Court (SC) to declare the creation, establishment and implementation of the DAP unconstitutional and illegal.
In a petition for certiorari and prohibition with prayer for Issuance of Temporary Restraining Order and/or Writ of Preliminary Injunction, petitioners Philconsa vice chairman and former University of the Philippines (UP) College of Law dean Froilan Bacungan, former Budget Sec. Benjamin Diokno and former National Treasurer Leonor Briones said Budget Secretary Abad, respondent, has no legal and constitutional authority to create DAP.
Philconsa accused Abad of violating the Constitution by taking away from Congress its exclusive power to appropriate when it pooled the savings to create DAP for “economic stimulus.”
Marikina Rep. Romero Quimbo, chairmanof the House committee on ways and means, shared Belmonte’s view. He said that the realignment of funds has been in the Constitution since the establishment of the 1987 Constitution. It was just given a name – DAP – by the Aquino government.
By Charlie V. Manalo, Mario J. Mallari and Gerry Baldo