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DAP: ‘Budget within a budget, illegal’

Raisa Serafica

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Former Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno says government 'can't use savings to augment a non-existing item in the budget'

FROM PDAF TO DAP. President Aquino faces a new controversy in the form of the DAP

MANILA, Philippines – “DAP is illegal. You can’t use savings to augment a non-existing item in the budget.”

In an interview on Headstart on ANC, the ABS-CBN News Channel, on Wednesday, October 2, former Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno questioned the constitutionality of the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP). 

The DAP is being criticized following allegations it has been misused as a reward for lawmakers who impeached and later convicted Chief Justice Renato Corona. Senator Jinggoy Estrada said in a recent privilege speech that the senators who convicted Corona in May 2012 were rewarded at least P50M each. House representatives also got P10M each after the Corona conviction, but Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr denied this was a bribe.

READ: Corona found guilty, removed from office

READ: Jinggoy: P50M for each convict-Corona vote

Diokno said that by realigning savings to non-existing budget items in the General Appropriations Act, the government ended up creating a budget within a budget without consulting Congress. 

Ito bastusan eh… Ang ginawa ng executive is that they sliced and diced the budget and repackaged it and came out with a new budget which is 72-billion worth,” Diokno said. (What the government did was rude. The executive branch sliced and diced the budget and repackaged it and came out with a new budget which is 72-billion worth)

According to Diokno, the appropriation rules state that the executive branch must  consult Congress if they intend to appropriate funds for an entirely different item.

Created by the Aquino government in October 2011, DAP was meant to hasten expenditures to address slugging spending.

“DAP was thus developed to remedy our expenditure shortfalls and ensure that public funds continued to support priority programs and projects that could not only prime the economy, but address citizens’ basic needs as well,” Budget Secretary Florencio Abad said in a statement. 

Malacañang insisted that the creation and use of DAP is legal, adding that the Constitution allows the President to realign savings

READ: PNoy dares critics: Impeach me


But Diokno said the President is empowered to realign savings only in existing budget items.  Since DAP has been used to fund entirely new budget items, they have become new appropriations and are therefore unconstitutional, he added.

Diokno mentioned the following appropriations funded by DAP as entirely new items:

  • P1.5 billion for the Cordillera People’s LIberation Army
  • P1.8 billion for the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF)
  • 700 million for assistance to Quezon province

Diokno also defined savings as the remaining funds from already enacted projects, citing a constitutional provision. If the money was never used, then it cannot be classified as savings, according to him.

In the same interview on ANC, Fr Joaquin Bernas, one of the authors of the 1987 Constitution, agreed with Diokno that savings should only be spent to augment existing line items in the budget. 

Bernas also mentioned two enabling conditions for realigning savings. “One, you have to have savings. Two, if these savings are to be transferred, they have to be transferred in the same department.”

Worse than PDAF?

According to Diokno, there are two appropriate ways to fund a supplemental budget.  The first is to wait for the next fiscal year and appropriate another budget. In the absence of a new source of income, senators or implementing agencies may also approach Congress and request for a supplemental budget.

The former budget secretary said the unconstitutional nature of the DAP makes it worse than the controversial Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), which is now being investigated. “At least PDAF is in the budget.”

The President should seize this opportunity to fix the broken budget system, Diokno said.

He proposed that President Aquino certify as urgent a bill that he himself filed when he was a senator, the “Budget Impoundment Control Act.”

Once enacted, the law will oblige the President to release the entire budget as approved, thus preventing the executive branch from “playing around with the budget.”  Then Senator Mar Roxas and former Representative and now Senator TG Guingona filed similar bills.

Diokno also asked the President to support the Freedom of Information Bill (FOI) and give up his presidential pork. – 

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Raisa Serafica

Raisa Serafica is the Unit Head of Civic Engagement of Rappler. As the head of MovePH, Raisa leads the on ground engagements of Rappler aimed at building a strong community of action in the Philippines. Through her current and previous roles at Rappler, she has worked with different government agencies, collaborated with non-governmental organizations, and trained individuals mostly on using digital technologies for social good.