THE National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) has started investigating five senators who reportedly received huge allocations under the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) and who poured the money into fake non-government organizations (NGOs) owned by businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles.
Three of the lawmakers are already in detention for their alleged involvement in the pork barrel scam—senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. and Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada.
The two others are senators Vicente Sotto 3rd and Ferdinand Marcos Jr.
The probe was ordered by Justice Secretary Leila de Lima.
“We’re investigating that already. The NBI is investigating those . . . the alleged use of DAP funds through Napoles NGOs, as claimed by Benhur Luy,” de Lima told reporters on Monday.
“All that I am saying is that the DAP is being investigated by the NBI… [on the alleged involvement of the]five senators,” she said.
The Justice chief did not directly identify the five senators, but in their affidavits, pork scam witnesses Luy and Merlina Suñas said P425 million in DAP funds were allocated to Enrile, Revilla, Estrada, Marcos Jr. and Sotto 3rd.
Raji Mendoza, the lawyer for Luy and some state witnesses now in the custody of the NBI, earlier said the DAP funds were subjected to the same methods as in the pork barrel scam, wherein billions of pesos released to lawmakers went to fake NGOs or ghost projects.
“We have the documents on that already. We are evaluating… whether we have cases against those senators and, if confirmed, then what to do about it,” de Lima said.
She added that once probable cause has been established, the Department of Justice will endorse the case to the Ombudsman. It is also possible that the NBI will just file a separate complaint.
The Justice chief said the evidence they have gathered includes the special allotment release orders (SAROs) which carry the name of the NGO, the name of the lawmaker who released the fund, the name of the project and the amount of money involved.
Enrile, Revilla and Estrada are detained at the Philippine National Police Custodial Center for plunder. They are also facing graft charges, along with several other co-accused.
De Lima said they had to look into allegations that DAP funds were also misused.
The Supreme Court last week declared the acceleration program unconstitutional.
“For all the good intentions that DAP had been envisioned, nakikita natin, nalalaman
Justice Undersecretary Jose Justiniano, who also handles all cases on the pork barrel scam, will oversee the DAP investigation.
In the digital files submitted by Luy to the NBI, Estrada allegedly received P100 million in DAP funds. Marcos and Revilla also each got P100 million, Sotto, P70 million and Enrile, P55 million.
Explain DAP funds’ use
Immediately after the High Court declared the DAP unconstitutional, Malacanang justified the controversial acceleration program by saying the nation benefited from it.
But senators Grace Poe and Francis Escudero demanded that the executive department, particularly Budget Secretary Florencio “Butch” Abad, explain how billions in DAP funds were used.
“Public service is a public trust and there should be no exceptions, even us senators, if there are issues concerning the Senate, we should explain our position because the public deserves it,” Poe said.
She noted that everyone involved in the DAP should explain, especially officials who authorized the program and those who implemented it.
The program, according to Malacanang, was a stimulus package designed to fast-track public spending and stimulate economic growth.
Poe also called for a thorough audit of DAP funds to determine if these were used properly.
She said if Abad cannot explain how the DAP funds were used or show proof that DAP projects really benefited the country, the President should name a new Budget chief.
Escudero agreed that Abad should explain everything about the DAP.
He said the Senate finance committee is planning to resume its investigation of the DAP to find out how much was released through the program.
Escudero added that the committee has a list of all appropriations and allocations made through the program.
“We already have the list [but]the figures reported in the media did not match the figures that were on the list, that is why we want to continue with the DAP probe,” he said.