Department of Budget and Management (DBM) Secretary Florencio “Butch” Abad has been a bad, bad boy. At least according to alleged PDAF scam ringleader Janet Napoles who recently fingered the ex-Batanes legislator as the real brains behind the anomalous scheme.
There’s a growing clamor from many thinking Filipinos that Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales and Commission on Audit (COA) Grace Pulido Tan ought to investigate Napoles’ revelation against Abad instead of the ever-expanding list of senators, representatives and government officials implicated in the pork barrel racket.
After all, everyone familiar with the workings of the bureaucracy knows that no government funds can be released to the implementing agencies without the indispensable imprimatur of the DBM chief.
Even House Speaker Sonny Belmonte seems to agree. He pointed out in previous media statements that reference to PDAF should be linked with the issuance of a Special Allotment Release Order (SARO). He said that without a SARO from the DBM, there would be no PDAF. We agree.
In her expanded affidavit, Napoles revealed that it was Abad who, as then Batanes congressman, influenced her in engaging in the PDAF scam after she met him through Manuel Jarmin, acting director of the Livestock Development Council, an agency under the Department of Agriculture in 2000.
Napoles revealed that Abad taught her how to use non-government organizations (NGOs) to profit from government projects. “I learned from Cong. Butch Abad that NGOs or cooperatives are needed to do business with government agencies,” Napoles said.
As expected, Abad vehemently denied “tutoring” Napoles or any of her associates-turned-whistleblowers.
“I have never dealt with Janet Lim Napoles in any manner, much less through an agent or a middleman. And while I may be acquainted with Mr. Jarmin, I have never transacted with him in any capacity. Ms. Napoles’ claims about me—that I tapped Mr. Jarmin as my ‘agent,’ and that I taught her how to profit illegally from the bureaucracy—are absolutely not true,” Abad declared in media statement.
What is a bit curious, however, is that except for his blanket denials about knowing, mentoring or transacting with Napoles, Abad has not denied Napoles’ accusation that government funds were still being illegally diverted to bogus NGOs or ghost projects during his watch.
Neither has Abad made any categorical statement that the so-called “budget reforms measures” he introduced in the DBM—at least according to the Palace’s chief apologist, Edwin Lacierda—has completely stopped anomalous schemes (such as that detailed by Napoles) from happening during the Aquino administration.
Truth is, however hard Abad tries to wash his hands of any complicity in the PDAF racket, he will have a hard time convincing people of his inculpability especially after his prowess at juggling government money was exposed during a previous fund-diversion controversy.
Our readers will recall that in a privilege speech last September, Senator Jinggoy Estrada revealed that P50 million in additional funds were released to senators who voted in favor of the conviction of former Chief Justice Renato Corona in 2012.
It was Abad himself who admitted that the questionable funds given to senators came from a newly minted program called the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), which is funded by government savings.
Abad explained that the additional discretionary fund given to lawmakers was not hard cash but recommendations for projects where the funds would be allocated, which, to our mind, is basically the same scheme used for the legislators’ PDAF. Perhaps this explains why the DAP funds also ended up in one of Napoles’ bogus NGOs.
Although Abad insists that the DAP funds were not given to senators as a pay-off or bribe for convicting Corona, he never fully explained how and why government money that was supposedly meant only for projects within the executive branch ended up in the hands of legislators. This despite the constitutional prohibition against realigning savings from one branch of government to supplement the funds of another branch, or what Supreme Court Associate Justice Lucas P. Bersamin called “cross-border” fund augmentation.
For the past several months, several lawmakers like Navotas Rep. Toby Tiangco and ABAKADA partylist representative Jonathan de la Cruz have been asking Abad for the list of all the DAP spending as well as the corresponding SAROs issued by DBM. But to this day, Abad has yet to turn over any document to them.
Meanwhile, PNoy refuses to have Abad investigated at all. In fact, he has practically acquitted Abad of any wrongdoing, arguing that the latter had even initiated budget reforms for greater transparency.
Perhaps that’s the reason why many ordinary Filipinos are now asking: Is Abad trying to hide something? Or is he trying to cover up for someone, a bigger fish maybe?