Senators want to probe DAP, Malampaya scam next
MANILA, Philippines – The Senate has yet to conclude its probe into the pork barrel scam, but its members are already calling for investigations into other controversies.
Sen JV Ejercito filed a resolution urging the chamber to investigate the controversial Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) of the Aquino administration. Senate Majority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano wants a separate probe into the P900-million Malampaya scam involving the Department of Agrarian Reform.
In his Senate resolution released on Monday, October 14, Ejercito urged “the proper Senate committee” to look into the DAP “with the aim of recommending and formulating laws, policies and regulations for the proper use of the savings of different departments of the governments (sic) and proper use of budget augmentation.”
Ejercito is the half-brother of Sen Jinggoy Estrada, who is among 3 senators facing a plunder complaint for allegedly channeling pork barrel funds to fake non-governmental organizations in exchange for kickbacks. The Senate blue ribbon committee is currently investigating the scam.
Ejercito also called on the Senate to probe whether or not funds from the DAP “were used to ‘bribe’ or give incentives to senators and congressmen who voted for the impeachment of former Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona.”
The DAP became the subject of controversy after Estrada said in a privilege speech on September 25 that senators who voted to convict Corona got P50 million each in additional Priority Development Assistance Fund after the impeachment trial in May 2012.
Budget Secretary Florencio Abad later admitted that most senators got P50 million each in 2012 but said the money came from the DAP and was meant to boost spending. Abad and the Palace stressed the amount was not a bribe.
Legal experts though including former Sen Joker Arroyo, Sen Miriam Defensor Santiago, and Fr Joaquin Bernas Jr said the DAP is unconstitutional and undermined Congress’ power of the purse. The issue was raised before the Supreme Court, which will hear oral arguments on October 22. The Commission on Audit (COA) is also investigating the use of the DAP.
Abad has said that the P72.1-billion DAP is a spending acceleration mechanism to address underspending that slowed the country’s growth. As of October 1, P137.3 billion was released from the DAP. Of the amount, P82.5 billion was disbursed in 2011 and P54.8 billion in 2012.
The budget department said 91% of the DAP releases for 2011 and 2012 was channeled to projects under various government agencies and local government units. Only 9% of releases was for projects identified by legislators.
‘Clear violation of the Constitution’
In his resolution, Ejercito cited the provision in the 1987 Constitution stating that the President has the power to realign savings to augment items in the budget.
Yet he also cited definitions of “savings” found in the budget law and past Supreme Court rulings like the 2008 case of Sanchez et al v Commission on Audit.
“The Supreme Court declared that the President cannot indiscriminately transfer funds from one department, bureau, office or agency of the Executive Department to any program, project or activity of any department,” Estrada said in his resolution.
Ejercito said that the Supreme Court set conditions for the realignment of the savings:
- There must be savings in the programmed appropriation of the transferring agency.
- There must be an existing item, project or activity with an appropriation in the receiving agency to which the savings will be transferred.
The senator said, “There are allegations that the funds used in the DAP were not actually taken from the savings of the government but was taken from discontinued or slow-moving projects in 2010 thus, a clear violation of the provisions of the Philippine Constitution as to the use of government’s money.”
The Senate has yet to act on Ejercito’s resolution.
‘Scandal can’t go uninvestigated’
In a separate resolution, Cayetano called on the blue ribbon committee to investigate reports that P900 million from the Malampaya fund was siphoned off to fake non-governmental organizations of Janet Napoles, the alleged mastermind of the pork barrel scam.
Cayetano’s resolution comes after whistleblowers said during the pork barrel hearings that Napoles was also behind the Malampaya scam. The justice department has filed a plunder complaint on the Malampaya case before the Ombudsman, with former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo as one of the respondents along with Napoles.
The fund comes from the Malampaya natural gas project operating off the shores of Palawan for 13 years. It is the single biggest investment in the Philippines, with proceeds amounting to P170 billion over the years.
The P900 million was the allocation of the Department of Agrarian Reform, and was meant to assist typhoon-hit farmers. Whistleblowers said though that the amount entirely went to ghost projects of Napoles’ bogus NGOs.
Cayetano said he already discussed his resolution with blue ribbon committee chairman Sen Teofisto “TG” Guingona III.
“I want to investigate the Malampaya scam so that each issue will come out, we investigate it in the open and the people can see who is corrupt, what happened. Sen Guingona is very supportive. That’s the reason he also wants to subpoena Napoles.”
The calls for investigation come as the Senate has yet to resolve whether or not to subpoena Napoles in the pork barrel scam probe.
The chamber was supposed to decide on Monday but Senate President Franklin Drilon moved the caucus to Wednesday, October 16, saying there were senators on sick leave or official business abroad. Five senators were absent on Monday.
Do you think the Senate should investigate the DAP and Malampaya scam? Let us know in the comments section below. – Rappler.com