Abad, Cabinet in full force to defend DAP

Ayee Macaraig

This is AI generated summarization, which may have errors. For context, always refer to the full article.

Abad, Cabinet in full force to defend DAP
Abad invites Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima and Socio-economic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan to help him defend the DAP at the Senate

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Budget Secretary Florencio Abad will focus on the economic gains of the administration’s controversial spending program when he faces a Senate inquiry, with the country’s top economic managers joining him in full force. 

Senate finance committee chairman Francis Escudero said Abad asked Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, and National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Director General Arsenio Balisacan to appear at the hearing on Thursday, January 24, to “discuss the finance side” of the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP). (WATCH: Rappler’s live coverage)

Cabinet secretaries are also supporting Abad. Public Works and Highways Secretary Rogelio Singson, Health Secretary Enrique Ona, Tourism Secretary Mon Jimenez, Agrarian Reform Secretary Virgilio delos Reyes, Social Welfare Secretary Dinky Soliman, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, and Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz are also at the Senate’s VIP gallery prior to the hearing. 

The guest list from the committee shows that 3 undersecretaries and 4 assistant secretaries from the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) will attend the inquiry, with the total officials from DBM numbering 52.

Abad, Purisima and Balisacan were the same officials who wrote President Benigno Aquino III in December 2013 recommending the termination of DAP, citing its contribution to the country’s 7.4% gross domestic product in the first 3 quarters of 2013.

Yet while the President’s men want to focus on the economic benefits of DAP, Escudero said his agenda includes how acts under the fiscal stimulus measure violated the Constitution, based on a July 1 Supreme Court ruling. (READ: Understanding the SC ruling on DAP)

“Let us remember: the Supreme Court declared [3] activities under DAP unconstitutional. First, not following the definition of ‘savings.’ Second, funding items not in the budget. Third, what they call the cross-border appropriation. So which ones of the components of DAP were part of those 3?”

Escudero said he will give Abad 30 minutes to make a presentation to explain the DAP, and the 9 senators who confirmed their attendance will then be given a chance to ask questions.

Following criticism of the administration’s belated disclosure of the details and projects under DAP, the senator said this will be Abad’s chance to give a full accounting of the program.

“Hopefully, they can give the full picture, not like what is happening now that details that will make you angry just come out in newspapers, that apparently they gave funds to congressmen, senators, they spent to renovate the Palace,” he said. 

The DAP was the administration’s program meant to address underspending to boost economic growth, spanning years from 2011 to 2013. Yet the Court ruled that key acts under DAP violated the separation of powers between the branches of government. 

Aquino has been mounting a public campaign aggressively defending the legality and benefits of DAP. In 3 major speeches since last week, he criticized the Supreme Court justices while appealing their ruling. Impeachment complaints were filed against the President over DAP, which contributed to his lowest approval rating in his 4 years in office.

The hearing will be the lawmakers’ chance to demand answers from the executive branch on DAP, which Supreme Court justices said “castrated” Congress’ power of the purse and a program that legislators “suicidally consented” to. 

Lawmaker releases boosted economy?

Escudero said that the committee will ask Abad why lawmakers were asked to endorse projects funded by the DAP, when it aimed to pump-prime the economy. Critics said this made the DAP similar to the corruption-ridden Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), which the Court also struck down.

“That will be brought up as a matter of course. Because we want them to identify where they spent the money? Where did it go? What were the expenditures under DAP?”

Incidentally, Escudero was among the 20 senators who received allocations under the DAP, even getting P99 million or more than the P50 million his colleagues received in 2012, months after the impeachment trial of former Chief Justice Renato Corona.

The controversy surrounding the DAP began after Senator Jinggoy Estrada insinuated in a September 2013 privilege speech that senators who voted to convict Corona in 2012 got P50 million each from the administration as “incentive.”

Escudero though said lawmakers had no knowledge of DAP prior to Estrada’s revelation.

“It’s really true. The senators and congressmen, secretary and even the public only found out about DAP after [Abad] responded to the allegation of Senator Estrada in his privilege speech. Before that, no one knew there was this animal called DAP.”

Abad and the Palace said the releases that passed through lawmakers accounted for only 9% of the entire P144.4 billion under DAP but allegations that the funds, like the PDAF, were also funneled to fake non-governmental organizations continue to put the program under question.

Senator Sergio “Serge” Osmeña III earlier said he too will ask Abad about allegations of corruption involving the DAP projects in Aquino’s home province of Tarlac.

‘Best not to invoke executive privilege’  

Escudero urged Abad and the cabinet secretaries not to invoke executive privilege during the hearing.  

I think it’s in the best interest of the administration of President Aquino, for him [not] to invoke either executive privilege or any other privilege. It’s in the interest of the administration that he come out clean about this and explain every point that will be thrown at him and at the panel.” 

The so-called “chief architect” of DAP, Abad has been under fire since the Supreme Court decision came out. The opposition, political observers and civil society groups called on him to resign.

While he kept silent during the first days of the controversy, Abad eventually decided to resign, only for Aquino to reject the resignation of his key ally, adviser and partymate. Aquino and Abad argue that they acted “in good faith,” but critics insist they must be held accountable for violating the fundamental law of the land. 

“I assure the people that we will proceed with a keener awareness of the standards against which our work will be measured, but also with a deeper appreciation of the great opportunities for reform ahead of us,” Abad said in a previous statement. – Rappler.com


Add a comment

Sort by

There are no comments yet. Add your comment to start the conversation.

Summarize this article with AI

How does this make you feel?

Download the Rappler App!