Palace cites Constitution to defend DAP

DAP is basically savings, says Malacañang, and only confused lawmakers when the fund was given a proper name. The President has the power to realign these savings, it says.

CONSTITUTIONAL. Malacañang defends President Benigno Aquino III's use of the government's savings. File photo by Malacañang Photo Bureau

MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang on Tuesday, October 1, defended the executive branch from allegations that the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) is unconstitutional and serves as the President’s pork barrel.

Citing the same Constitution, which critics say the chief executive is violating, Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte said the President has the power to realign savings under the charter.

She explained that the DAP – mainly sourced from savings or unreleased General Appropriation Act (GAA) items, as well as realignment and unprogrammed funds – started and was approved by President Benigno Aquino III in October 2011.

“With savings and realignment, the President is given the power to do that under the Constitution,” Valte said.

According to the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), DAP was designed to ramp up spending and help accelerate economic expansion.

It has been identified by the DBM as the source of additional funds released to senators and congressmen after the conviction of Chief Justice Renato Corona in 2012. Senator Jinggoy Estrada, without identifying the DAP as fund source, said last week the Palace used it to reward senators who voted to convict Corona, whom the President had badly wanted impeached.

READ: Palace spending program ‘illegal’

Valted said the DAP amounted to P72.11 billion in 2011 – the first full budget year controlled by the newly installed Aquino administration, and a year before Corona’s impeachment.

That year, the DBM indentified the following unused amounts:

  • P30 billion – unreleased appropriations for personnel services in 2011
  • P482 million – unreleased appropriations due to discontinued programs in 2011
  • P7.75 billion –  realignments within agencies
  • P12.24 billion – unprogrammed fund or the remittances that government-owned and controlled corporations gave that year
  • P21.54 billion –unreleased appropriations as discontinued projects or programs in 2010

Of the 2011 DAP, 96% or P69.3 billion had been released as of Jan 9, 2012, although Aquino approved an additional P13.4 billion to add to the original P72.11 billion, making the total 2011 DAP P80.44 billion, said Valte.

Valte said she would ask the DBM to brief the press on the 2012 and the 2013 DAP amounts, although she said the 2012 DAP amount was much less.

Meanwhile, releases from the 2013 DAP to lawmakers has since been suspended around the same time the release of Priority Development and Assistance Fund (PDAF) was stopped, following controversies on how funds were massively misused and pocketed.

The Aquino administration has been forced to explain details of DAP after questions were raised over millions of pesos released after the impeachment of former chief justice Renato Corona. Critics tagged the release a bribe or incentive, while another former lawmaker, Sen Joker Arroyo, questioned where the funds given to senators came from.

READ: Jinggoy: P50M for each convict-Corona vote

When the Palace announced additional cash releases for projects of lawmakers came from DAP, senators started to raise concerns about its constitutionality and the illegal nature of releasing funds without the approval of Congress.

Former Senator Joker Arroyo called the release of funds “a crime.”

Presidential pork?

Valte cited Article VI, Section 5, subparagraph 5 of the 1987 Constitution as legal basis for the fund realignment under DAP.

She said Chapter 5, Book VI of the Administrative Code also support this.

“Section 39 talks about the authority to use savings in appropriations to cover deficits; and Section 49, paragraph 9 which reads, if I may, ‘priority activities that will promote the economic well-being of the nation, including food production, agrarian reform, energy development, disaster relief and rehabilitation,'” she explained.

“The heading of Section 49 is authority to use savings for certain purposes. That is the legal basis of the DAP.”

She also specified the type of projects DAP funds: projects that are fast-moving.

Valte clarified these funds are disbursed not only to lawmakers – unlike the PDAF. They also went to projects that lack allocation, with most of the money coursed through implementing agencies.

“We identified the projects that are fast-disbursing but lacking in funds in order to implement them and expand them. Those are the projects we put on the [DAP] list,” she said.

Valte echoed denials of other officials in Aquino’s Cabinet that it was used to bribe senators to vote for Corona’s conviction, but acknowledged that the President approved the release of millions of pesos for lawmakers after Corona had been convicted.

READ: Corona found guilty, removed from office

But while Aquino has control over the disbursement of DAP, Valte said, it cannot be called a presidential pork barrel as labeled by critics, supposedly because most, of the budget items that were released under the program were “utilized by the executive and not the legislators.”

She added: “And also, again, it goes back to misuse.”

The Commission on Audit (COA) has said it is in the process of auditing DAP.

‘Very transparent’

Despite the surprise of certain senators about the existence of DAP, Valte insisted the government had been transparent about the program.

“It started in October 20, 2011, and until May 17, 2012, we detailed when the funds were released, how much, and to which agency. Can I give an example? In Oct 27, 2011, the DBM released P294 million for the employment of more nurses and midwives and this, they categorically mentioned, was part of of the Disbursement Acceleration Program that was recently approved then.”

Valte also said the senator were surprised about DAP because unreleased money from the GAA used to be referred to only as “savings” – they got confused when it was given a name.

Valte acknowledged that citizens have been enraged by the recent pork barrel scam, and gave assurances the DAP was not misused.

“I think once we’ve shown the people which programs have been funded by this mechanism, they will be appeased,” she said.

Among the programs she cited funded by DAP were housing for members of the Bureau of Fire Protection and the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology, modernization of higher education facilities in state universities and colleges, infrastructure projects, and medical assistance to indigent patients. – Rappler.com

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