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Palace targeted P237-B savings for DAP — Abad

Friday, 25 July 2014 00:00 Published in Headlines

BINAY: DAP USURPED FISCAL INDEPENDENCE AMONG GOV’T BODIES

The Aquino administration targeted P237.5 billion in supposed savings from 2011 to 2013 as funding for the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) if not for now detained Sen. Jinggoy Estrada blowing the lid off the program last year that sparked public attention on the huge pool of President Aquino’s pork barrel and which the Supreme Court subsequently ruled as having been created through unconstitutional Palace acts.
The figures thrown around regarding the DAP confused Senate probers and it took Sen. Francis Escudero, chairman of the Senate committee on finance, to clarify from Abad during the committee’s hearing yesterday to straighten out the figures.
Abad said that President Aquino approved a total of P168.5 billion worth of projects for the DAP from December 2011 to October 2013 while P145 billion was actually released from the funds.
Abad, however, admitted that the savings pool during the three years totaled P235.7 billion that would have been possibly included as funding for the program.
Opposition Senator Nancy Binay assailed the huge funds that were pooled into the Palace program saying that these become the discretionary funds of the Palace.
Binay asked Abad the question that most anti-DAP groups have been asking, which was why was there a need for the administration to pool what it called savings instead of going to Congress for the approval of additional funding as she cited the juggling of funds from the Executive to the Commission on Audit (CoA) and the Commission on Elections (Comelec).

Binay insisted that it was bad budgeting on the part of Abad that led to the Comelec not being able to source funds for the purchase of Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines in the national budget or requesting Congress for a supplemental funds.? ?
The DAP hijacked the fiscal independence of constitutional bodies, If Comelec chairman (Sixto) Brillantes did not beg for it, the funds wouldn’t have been provided for the election machines, she said.
“It’s an extraordinary circumstance. It just happens once in 4 years and it is at their instance, they were the ones who asked and we just granted the request. I don’t think you can say their independence or autonomy was at risk because that was just one instance.”
Binay continued to pound on Abad asking why was the request not turned down.
“Especially for Comelec, it’s hard because the consequence will be the elections won’t push through or back to manual. We will be the ones held accountable there, not Comelec,” Abad said.
Binay also grilled Abad on the similarity of the DAP and the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), which was the legislators’ pork barrel that the SC also similarly declared illegal.
Binay noted there was not limit on fund releases to lawmakers under the DAP unlike the PDAF which provides a ceiling for congressmen of P70 million and P200 million for senators each year.
“In PDAF, there was a cap unlike in the DAP where proceeds to legislators can go as high as P500 million so I guess DAP is better,” she said
The Department of Budget and Management (DBM), meanwhile, released new data on the DAP showing that President Aquino signed documents approving releases of funds from the controversial program seven times between 2011 to 2013.
The first tranche of projects worth P13.379 billion was approved on December 12, 2011; P25 billion followed on June 27, 2012; P4.114 billion on Sept. 5, 2012; P33.29 billion on December 19, 2012; P10.125 billion on July 14, 2013; P10.5 billion on September 26, 2013 and P72.11 billion on October 12, 2013.
The data showed that Estrada’s revelation on the distribution of P50 million in incentives to senator judges who voted to convict former Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona triggered the last two heavy outlays, a P10.5 billion DAP approval on the day of Estrada’s itself and the P72.11 billion two weeks after. It was not known yet then where the Palace extra pork to the senators were sourced from.
Abad subsequently admitted that the allocations came from DAP saying that legislators were tapped for the program which was meant to ramp up government spending.
The Senate hearing turned into a show of force for the Aquino administration and the dominant Liberal Party (LP) as nearly all Cabinet members were present at the hearing while LP members in the Senate led by Senate President Franklin Drilon appeared to have lawyered for Abad while others sang praises to the embattled Budget Secretary.
Drilon even said he himself identified the Iloilo Convention Center as the recipient of the P100 million DAP funds released under his name.
”We did not personally receive the DAP funds. We only identified the projects,” Drilon said during the Senate inquiry.
Aquino cited Abad’s role in insituting reforms in the budget process.
National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) director general Arsenio Balisacan and Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima joined Abad at the panel while seated at the special gallery of the Senate were Secretaries Manuel Roxas II of Department of Interior and Local Government, Enrique Ona of Health, Rosalinda Baldoz of Labor, Voltaire Gazmin of Defense, Rogelio Singson of Public Works, Dinky Soliman of Social Welfare, Ramon Jimenez of Tourism, Joseph Emilio Abaya of Transportation, Proceso Alcala of Agriculture, Armin Luistro of Education, Virgilio delos Reyes of Agrarian Reform, and Secretary to Cabinet Rene Almendras.
”Since you’re all here, if any of the Senate members will ask from any Cabinet secretary present today, I hope you will answer questions so that we can help Secretary Abad or the Executive Branch in relation to the DAP,” Escudero told the Cabinet members.
Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) Francis Tolentino as well as Governance Commission for GOCCs (GCG) Secretary Cesar Villanueva, Climate Change Commission Secretary Luicille Sering, and Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda also attended the Senate probe.
The senators present include Teofisto Guingona III, Joseph Victor Ejercito, Nancy Binay, Ferdinand Marcos Jr., Ralph Recto, Grace Poe, Antonio Trillanes IV, Juan Edgardo ‘Sonny’ Angara, Paolo Benigno ‘Bam’ Aquino IV, and Drilon. It was Ejercito who filed a Senate resolution calling for an inquiry into the controversial DAP.
Abad in an opening speech insisted the DAP was created to spur economic growth after low government spending resulted to the gross domestic product (GDP) to sputter to a 3.1 percent growth in 2011.
In a powerpoint presentation before the Senate committee on finance, Abad said the gross domestic product (GDP) skidded from a high of 8.9 percent in the second quarter of 2010 when election was held to an alarming 3.1 percent towards the third period of 2011.
”Low spending level in 2011 showed us that we had to do more to move expenditures faster and prevent the economy from slippin further,” Abad said.
”The situation was hardly an encouraging one. After careful consideration, we thought it was best to use funds in various places such as in agencies where DBM releases were not used to use money for fast moving projects that would have an immediate effect on the country’s economy,” he added.
Abad said by implementing DAP, the government’s intention is ensure that funds are properly used “so that social services and public goods are delivered to the people specially the poor as swiftly as possible.”
The Supreme Court, however, declared the so-called cross-border transfer of funds along with other certain acts under the DAP as unconstitutional.
”When the President assumed office in 2010, the administration embarked on an aggressive campaign — one that continues to these days of bringing greater transparency, accountability and openness to the Philippine bureaucracy,” Abad said.
”A comprehensive house cleaning of sorts was thus in order. Government agencies were tasked to review their processes and transactions,” he added.
Aside from DAP, Abad said other key reform measures of the Aquino administration are the zero-based budgeting, early enactment of the national budget, and disaggregation of lump sum funds.
Abad said the generation and use of savings to accelerate government expenditures is not a new practice, adding it started even during the time of the President’s mother, former President Corazon Aquino.
”Historically speaking, cross-border transfer of savings from one branch of government to another or to fiscally autonomous agencies where not uncommon. For the last 22 years, savings have been used to augment the budget of Congress, judiciary and other constitutional bodies independent from all three branches of government,” he claimed.
Abad maintained that all of those acts before the SC declared some parts of DAP unconstitutional “were in good faith.”
He stressed the creation of DAP was based on Section 38 of the Administrative Code of 1987 which provides “whenever in his judgment the public interest so requires, the President upon notice to the head of office concerned, is authorized to suspend or otherwise stop further expenditure of funds allotted for any agency, or any other expenditure authorized in the General Appropriations Act, except for personal services appropriations used for permanent official and employees.”
“What savings? Stop claiming that DAP funds came from savings,” Kabataan Rep. Terry Ridon exclaimed in reaction to the pronouncement of Abad defending the DAP during the Senate hearing.
“Secretary Butch Abad and Senate President Franklin Drilon have both apparently overlooked what the Supreme Court said about the claim that DAP came from savings. In so many words, the SC clearly defined how and when public funds can be considered savings and why DAP funds cannot be considered as savings,” Ridon said.
During the Senate hearing, Abad confirmed that P237.5 billion was set aside by DBM for DAP, while P167 billion worth of projects were proposed for the said mechanism, and P144.3 billion was eventually released. Abad repeatedly told the Senate that the DAP funds were sourced from “savings.”
However, Ridon pointed out that in the Supreme Court (SC) decision on DAP, the high court said, “Unreleased appropriations and withdrawn unobligated allotments under the DAP were not savings, and the use of such appropriations contravened Section 25(5), Article VI of the 1987 Constitution.
“The SC decision is as clear as day. The Executive has withdrawn funds and discontinued GAA-listed projects illegally to fund DAP. Secretary Abad, repeating the word ‘savings’ over and over and over will not change that fact,” the youth solon – who earlier filed plunder raps against the budget secretary – added.
“This is the same reason Abad and Drilon’s comparison of DAP to the disbursement programs of past administrations does not hold water. In past administrations, the funds used were savings and not withdrawn unobligated allotments and unreleased appropriations,” Ridon explained.
Ridon added that Drilon’s argument that legislators only “nominated” projects for DAP – which Abad confirmed – only establishes the fact that DAP was created and executed by none other than the Executive Department.
“This is the very reason why Malacañang simply cannot pass the blame solely to legislators. If there were indeed DAP funds embezzled by certain legislators, as some quarters claim, they could not have done it alone. In such a scenario, it is highly probable that the Palace – DBM at the very least – would have acted in collaboration with probable unscrupulous lawmakers to malverse public funds,” Ridon said.
Press Secretary Herminio Coloma, meanwhile, expressed appreciation Abad had took the opportunity at the Senate to extensively explain the rationale of the DAP.
“While we are talking now, Secretary Abad has been explaining for more than four hours already. For countless times, he was subjected to questioning by the members of the Senate,” Coloma said.
Coloma said that each Senator had their own prepared list of questions to Abad.
Then Abad had launched yesterday a web page for the DAP, shortly after he furnished copies of the full list of DAP projects to members of the Senate Committee on Finance Thursday morning.
The DAP web page (http://www.dbm.gov.ph/?page_id=9796) contains all relevant information on the Aquino administration’s spending acceleration program, which was launched in October 2011.
Abad said the web page provides memos and issuances, the full and complete list of DAP projects, the assessment of DAP, and all press releases previously issued by the DBM with respect to the program, among other important information.
Abad said that although the DAP was already terminated in 2013, the discussions on the program made it clear that the public should have better access to all information related to the DAP.
But think tank Ibon said DAP contributed to economic growth only in the sense that all government spending contributes to economic growth.
“It is just as correct to say, for instance, that the controversial Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) during its time also contributed to economic growth,” Ibon said.
“In qualitative terms, the DAP as a whole did not meet stimulus standards of immediately and significantly creating jobs, raising incomes, and stimulating local economic activity,” Ibon said.
Ibon said the benefits of such spending are very restricted and, again, do not go to poor areas or the population most in need.
“This included P500 million for a global media campaign, P450 million to two South Korean firms for doing the engineering designs for the Jalaur River Multipurpose Project, and at least P4 billion for imported technologies and equipment by various agencies.
“This also includes some P571 million to improve the offices of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), Department of Tourism (DOT), House of Representatives (HOR) and Malacañang,” Ibon said.
Ibon said that almost half (45.1 percent) of the DAP clearly went to no- or low-impact spending does not give confidence that the balance any more systematically went to stimulative spending.
Ibon said the general pattern of DAP spending is not consistent with a stimulus package designed to address the country’s most urgent socioeconomic problems.

Angie M. Rosales, Charlie V. Manalo, Paul Atienza

 

In what could be seen as yet another generous “offer” of a presidential pork sweetener to the Supreme Court by Budget Secretary Florencio “Butch” Abad through the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) in the matter of the construction of a Hall of Justice, now being used by President Aquino to blacken the high court’s integrity with claims that the SC also engaged in cross border funds, this was denied by the SC.

In an SC resolution, the court denied such misleading presidential claims.
The high court stated that it turned down Malacañang’s offer to provide the high court P100 million of its pooled savings offer early this year.
It will be recalled that President Aquino, twice in a row in his speeches, kept on claiming that the SC, while ruling cross border transfer funds arising from the DAP funds, unconstitutional when it came to Malacanang doing the same, the court also engaged in the same practice of cross border transfers and did not find this illegal and unconstitutional.
The SC released a copy of its Jan. 21, 2014,which clearly contradicts Aquino’s claim that the Tribunal was also guilty of the so-called cross-border transfer of funds, which the magistrates declared as one of the illegal acts under the (DAP)

The Court released the said decision a day after Aquino defended anew the constitutionality of DAP during his speech delivered at Apolinario Mabini’s 150th birth anniversary celebration in Batangas on Wednesday.
The President’s speech said Sereno had requested for P100 million to be taken from the funds of the Department of Justice (DoJ) for the construction of the Manila Hall of Justice.
He said it can be considered a “cross-border” act which the Supreme Court itself has declared illegal.
This was how Aquino had accused the SC of practicing cross-border transfer of funds citing its move in 2012 to use P1.865 billion of the judiciary’s savings to fund the construction of the Manila City Hall of Justice, which houses the city’s various lower courts, a project appropriated under the General Appropriations Act (GAA) through the Department of Justice-Justice Infrastructure Program (JUSIP)
However, based on its Jan. 21 decision, the magistrates declined the offer of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) for the release of pooled savings to the Judiciary in response to the SC’s March 5, 2013 resolution on the request to use the P100 million for the Manila Hall of Justice construction under JUSIP appropriation for the Malabon Hall of Justice construction.
What the SC, through Chief Justice Lourdes Sereno, asked the Budget chief, however, was merely to extend the validity of the funds for another year, as the validity was to expire on December 2013 and not seek additional funds.
This was rejected by Abad.
The Jan. 21 resolution bared that DBM Secretary Abad wrote the SC on Jan. 10, 2014 informing the court of the availability of pooled savings “processed for release to the judiciary pursuant to the March 5, 2013 resolution.”
In his letter, Abad denied the request of the Chief Justice to extend the validity of the P100 million allocation up to Dec. 31, 2014.
The SC noted that this was the alternative move by the DBM since the request for the usage of the P100 million JUSIP funds was not possible beyond December 2013.
“On Jan. 17, 2014, Justice Presbitero Velasco, chairperson of the Halls of Justice Coordinating Committee, sent a memorandum to the Chief Justice recommending that the withdrawal of the request subject of the March 5, 2013 resolution be confirmed and that with respect to the Jan. 10, 2014 letter of Secretary Abad, the offer to avail of a portion of the pooled savings be declined,” the resolution stated.
In its July 1 decision, the Court ruled that practices under DAP such as cross-border transfer of funds from one branch of government to another, the withdrawal of unobligated allotments from the implementing agencies, and the declaration of the withdrawn unobligated allotments and unreleased appropriations as savings prior to the end of the fiscal year and without complying with the statutory definition of savings contained in the General Appropriations Acts (GAA) are unconstitutional.
Integrated Bar of the Philippines officers said Aquino could be cited for contempt by the SC, for his insistence in commenting on the DAP issue.
But Aquino spokesman Press Secretary Herminio “Sonny” Coloma said his principal should not be cited for contempt by the high court due to his constant justification regarding his actions on the DAP, claiming that this was all done in good faith,
“The President’s discussion on DAP is his duty to explain to his “bosses” the context and basis of the program. He has no intention of not respecting the Supreme Court,” Coloma said.
This was Coloma’s reaction on the supposed plan of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) to file a motion to cite Aquino for contempt in raising several points against the SC in his various speeches.
Aquino has a pending motion for reconsideration before the SC and it is usual, being a party to the case, he must prohibit himself from discussing the merits of his case, based on sub judice rule.
Coloma also denied that Aquino had a meeting with the justices appointed by him to the SC.
“I have no information about it,” Coloma said.
Coloma vowed that Aquino and his office would continue the moves to justify the DAP without considering the contempt power of the SC.
Coloma’s office was one of the beneficiaries of DAP that he said was used for the capital outlay, payment of salaries of personnel of the PTV4, maintenance and operating expenses.
On the comment of Aquino’s ally, Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV that the information bureau of Malacañang had neglected to disseminate information on DAP that resulted in the disinformation to the public, Coloma said they had exerted efforts for the people to understand what was DAP all about.
“If we are to look into the dynamics of the process, the campaign was not conducted when it was expected,” Coloma said.
Complaints from the members of the Malacañang Press Corps were raised because Peachy Paderna, information chief of the DBM, has been sending “spam-like” emails which she had culled from various papers where DAP was praised, instead of squarely addressing the issues surrounding the DAP.          By Benjamin B. Pulta and Paul Atienza

5 impeachment bids prior to Aquino’s 5th Sona

Friday, 25 July 2014 00:00 Published in Headlines

In a span of one week, five impeachment complaints were filed against President Aquino related to the abuse of Executive powers mainly on the use of the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), one coming yesterday from militant groups but this time the charges against Aquino were focused on the signing of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) with the United States.
Progressive multi-sectoral group Sanlakas led by lawyer Aaron Pedrosa and other leaders of various peoples’ organizations also submitted a 51-page complaint, just two days before Congress resumes session for Aquino’s 5th State of the Nation Address (Sona) on Monday.
Petitioners anchored their case on the charges of betrayal of public trust and culpable violation of the constitution.

“Unlike the previous cases filed, our complaint revolved around the highly questionable spending habits of Aquino, how he deliberately went over and beyond constitutionally-mandated limitations and instituted what legal luminaries would consider as fiscal dictatorship,” said Pedrosa.
In the complaint, petitioners alleged that the president commited betrayal of public trust “through tyrannical abuse of power and gross exercise of discretionary powers” when under Aquino’s directives, public funds were used, stopped, revoked and suspended the implementation of government projects and services “in order to corner appropriated funds as “savings” to be expended at his pleasure”.
The deluge of impeachment cases, notwithstanding, the allies of Aquino who dominate the House of Representatives, and even members of the opposition, had indicated that Aquino’s impeachment does not have any chance of prospering and even called the efforts as “wishful thinking.”
Gabriela Rep. Luzviminda Ilagan endorsed the complaint saying Aquino has committed impeachable offenses on several counts, not just in creating the illegal disbursements under the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) but also in giving up Philippine sovereignty by entering into a lopsided executive agreement with the United States through EDCA.
“The impeachment is a process that gives people the chance to make leaders accountable and Congress should allow this process to take its full course. President Aquino cannot escape accountability and must answer to the people for violating the Constitution by usurping Congress’ power of the purse and for betraying public trust several times over in perpetuating the pork barrel system, shamelessly perpetrating multiple counts of malversation of public funds and the corruption of pubic officials,” Ilagan, who joined Bayan Muna Reps. Neri Colmenares and Carlos Zarate and Anakpawis Rep. Fernando Hicap in their endorsement of the impeachment complaint filed Monday, said.
Another Gabriela lawmaker, Rep. Emmi De Jesus endorsed yesterday the impeachment complaint against President Aquino on the alleged violation of the Constitution in his outright sellout of national sovereignty and patrimony through the EDCA.
ACT Teachers Rep. Antonio Tinio also endorsed the impeachment complaint.
“With the EDCA,” Tinio said, “President Aquino surrendered national sovereignty, compromised our territorial integrity, and prejudiced the national interest. He has opened the door to the return of US military bases without seeking Senate concurrence and popular affirmation through a plebiscite. He has committed culpable violations of the Constitution and betrayal of public trust and must be impeached.”
The complaint cites Aquino’s culpable violation of the Constitution and betrayal of public trust as grounds for his impeachment.
According to the complaint, Aquino, by entering into the EDCA which is essentially a basing agreement, violated the Constitution’s provisions prohibiting foreign troops, bases, and facilities on Philippine soil without a treaty concurred by the Senate and approved by the people at a plebescite if required by Congress; as well as provisions on national sovereignty, territorial integrity, independent foreign policy, civilian supremacy, and judicial power and jurisdiction. Other constitutional mandates violated include anti-war and anti-nuclear and nuclear wastes provisions, and those protecting the environment.
The EDCA, the complaint adds, is prejudicial to the national interest and grossly lopsided in favor of the US because it grants US military forces and contractors unimpeded access and use of Philippine military and civilian facilities, lands, ports, airfields, and radio spectrum that will revert to the Philippines only after they are no longer useful to the US forces. This use and access is also granted tax and rent free. By entering into this agreement which also violates several laws including the labor, tax, local goverment, and other laws, Aquino violated his oath of office to faithfully and conscientiously fulfill his duties, and preserve and defend the Constitution.
The complaint was filed by Makabayan Coalition President Saturnino V. Ocampo, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN) and a host of others.
Meanwhile, Kabataan Rep. Terry Ridon called on his colleagues to stop acting brashly and “blindly defending the president” by disregarding the impeachment move even before reading the complaints.
“There are reports of administration congressmen who want to shoot down the impeachment complaints even if they haven’t read the cases. This is a manifestation of patronage politics at its worst,” said Ridon, one of those who sponsored one of the impeachment complaints now lodged against Aquino.
On Tuesday, Ridon endorsed the second impeachment complaint against Aquino that was filed by youth and student groups.
“Instead of considering the merits of the complaints first, just as what any reputable legislator should do, some congressmen are so blinded in their defense of their teflon president that they are ready to junk the complaints even beforethe impeachment proceedings begin.”
“To my colleagues in the majority, this I tell you: for blindly defending the ruling president despite his culpability, history will judge you. The history books of the future will depict you as mindless minions, meekly kowtowing to the president at a time when dissent and genuine opposition was needed,” Ridon said.
The youth lawmaker also lashed out at legislators who say that Congress “should prioritize other pending legislations” like the Freedom of Information (FOI) Bill.
“Congress should not use the FoI as an excuse to shoot down the impeachment complaint. Had the Palace wanted to really pass important legislation like the FoI, it would have already been passed by now,” said Ridon, who is one of the authors of the FOI.
Sanlakas also maintained that Aquino is likewise guilty of culpable violation of the constitution when he undermined Congress, the peoples’ representatives in government and its power of the purse “when he declared unreleased appropriations and withdrew unobligated allotments from the appropriations in violation of the separation of powers” provision of the charter.
“For as early as August 2010, he had already declared that the Zero-Based Budgeting program was his spending strategy and a cornerstone of his Daang Matuwid and when it backfired and reaped criticisms for underspending, he rectified his miscalculation by operationalizing DAP to cover for lost ground,” he said.
Among the programs they claim that were capriciously defaced by Aquino as early as August 2010 were the 2009 budget-approved Department of Education’s Food for School Program, which he transferred to the Social Welfare Department; the Department of Agriculture’s Input Subsidies and the Kalayaan Barangay Program. Charlie V. Manalo, Gerry Baldo, Paul Atienza

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