MANILA, Philippines – President Benigno Aquino III dodged questions on whether or not he would junk the government’s Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).
When asked whether he was willing to drop DAP, which critics say is illegal and improper, Aquino instead cited its importance, explaining his Cabinet’s policy of using government savings.
“We have a policy in the Cabinet. We termed the policy ‘use it or lose it.’ There is no reason for everybody to be delayed if there is an opportunity to accelerate that project which was approved by Congress, which they found merit with and if we can accelerate the benefits that will accrue to the people, why delay it?,” he said on Monday evening, October 7, on the sidelines of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit.
“Why lose and go to the whole process of having it approved again in a subsequent year?,” he added.
But Aquino also admitted he did not know if lawmakers who requested funds from DAP eventually channeled the money to questionable non-governmental organizations, reminiscent of the way lawmakers misused their pork barrel.
He said DAP was supposed to provide only “a small portion” to lawmakers which the administration felt had “legitimate requests.”
The DBM said only 9% of total DAP releases from October 2011 to Oct 1, 2013 — or P12B — was released to projects identified by legislators. Releases to lawmakers have been temporarily suspended following controversy over the misuse of government funds.
Narrow the menu
Aquino said the government has put in place stricter restrictions on which agencies can implement projects, but admitted even more limitations could be set because corrupt individuals still manage to find ways around the system.
“You expect and trust [funds] will be used properly. How hard is it to use it for the right cause? We narrowed the menu to take away temptation, but the menu is still not as tight as I would want it,” he said.
Aquino insisted his administration did not “force any savings on anybody.”
“It is not a unilateral decision on our part, we can only fund from savings items that have already been approved by Congress. We are not inventing a new budgetary line,” he said.
But former budget secretary Benjamin Diokno has described DAP as “a budget within a budget” and therefore illegal.
The President though argued that giving the funds to “somebody else who’s way ahead of their schedule and thereby get to the fulfillment of whatever that project is at an earlier stage” is a fair decision, adding “maybe the 2014 budget should be very specific with its outlay plus expected outcomes.”
According to the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), DAP – mainly sourced from savings or unreleased General Appropriation Act items, as well as realignment and unprogrammed funds – was designed to ramp up spending and help accelerate economic expansion.
DBM said a total of P137.3 billion has been released under DAP, including P82.5 billion in 2011 and P54.8 billion in 2012, but critics have called for the removal of DAP altogether, decrying the government’s spending of savings as a crime. READ: Palace spending program ‘illegal’
On Tuesday, Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte said the DBM has yet to release a detailed list specifying which projects requested by lawmakers were funded by DAP. – Rappler.com