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MANILA, Philippines – Senate President Franklin Drilon on Sunday, September 29 admitted getting P100 million worth of disbursement after the conviction of former chief justice Renato Corona in May 2012, but insisted that the amount was not a bribe.
The additional funds released to senators on top of their P200-million pork barrel were part of the government’s stimulus fund dubbed as the Disbursement Acceleration Plan (DAP), Drilon said, and he used the the amount for infrastructure projects in Iloilo, which was then launching a bid to host the APEC ministerial meeting in 2015.
“Ang tanong: ito ba ay ginamit sa tama? Pangalawa, ito po ay dahil sa mababa ang spending program kaya naapektuhan ang ating GDP. May masama po ba kung ito ay pinagbigyan kung sa tama naman ginamit?” Drilon said in an interview with DZBB. (The question is: was it used in the right way? Secondly, this was because our spending program was low so our GDP was affected. Is there anything wrong if it was used in the proper way?)
Drilon was reacting to insinuations made by Sen Jinggoy Estrada that the Senate leader facilitated the release of P50 million to each senator in exchange for Corona’s conviction when Drilon was still the head of the Senate finance committee. Estrada later clarified that the offer was only an “appeal” and “incentive,” and not a bribe.
Estrada earlier delivered a privilege speech decrying the government’s “selective justice” one week after the Department of Justice filed plunder charges against him and Sen Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr, as well as Senate minority leader Juan Ponce Enrile for the alleged misuse of their Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).
Fund released after Corona trial
On Saturday, September 29, Budget Secretary Butch Abad confirmed that funds from DAP were released to senators. DAP is a stimulus package designed to combat underspending and boost the economy.
Drilon said “there is no logic” to claims that the funds were used to influence votes since they were released after the trial and conviction of Corona.
“During the trial, there were no releases. After the trial, there were releases including DAP because we needed to catch up on infrastructure spending to address what economists were saying about underspending. It was not just senators who suggested. LGUs also had infrastructure programs to meet our spending program. GOCCs (government-owned and controlled corporations) were also given additional funds under the DAP,” Drilon said in a mix of English and Filipino.
The Senate leader also noted that Sen Joker Arroyo, who voted for the acquittal of Corona also received additional funds.
In May 2012, 20 out of 23 senators voted to convict Corona, including Estrada. The 3 votes to acquit Corona came from senators Miriam Defensor Santiago, Joker Arroyo and Bongbong Marcos.
Records from the Department of Budget and Management, released 3 days after Estrada delivered his speech, showed senators Ping Lacson, Joker Arroyo, Pia Cayetano, Bongbong Marcos, and Miriam Defensor-Santiago did not receive any disbursements from DAP in 2012.
Arroyo and Cayetano, however, received P47 million and P50 million, respectively, from DAP in early 2013.
How is DAP allocated?
Asked why the funds were not released directly to line agencies, Drilon said it was because DAP is an off-budget item.
It is sourced from the savings or unused funds that are re-aligned to be used as a stimulus fund.
Asked how DBM determines how much should be allocated for each senator, Drilon said it would “depend on the need” of each senator.
On whether DAP will still be used in 2014, Drilon said it would be the DBM’s judgement call.
The Senate and the House of Representatives are in the process of deliberating the P2.268 trillion national budget for 2014.
Drilon said he will push for the abolition of senators’ PDAF in the budget. Their House counterparts, meanwhile, earlier decided to realign their P25.2 billion fund to 6 line agencies. – Rappler.com