The good news with the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) is that the Office of the President in Malacañang has suspended its allotments to projects of lawmakers after admitting of its possible misuse. No less than Communications Secretary Ramon “Ricky” Carandang finally admitted that “it’s very clear that there is a problem.” He added that “… the responsible thing to do is to suspend that portion of the program.”
So together with the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) that has been stopped by the Supreme Court with its issuance of a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO), the evil pork barrel system, composed of DAP and PDAF, is now fortunately held in abeyance. The High Tribunal has started early this week on the enlightening oral arguments on the petition to declare the PDAF as unconstitutional.
Associate Justice Antonio T. Carpio observed that the provisions in the General Appropriations Act (GAA) of 2013 involving the pork barrel (PDAF) were “riddled with unconstitutionalities.” Malacañang responded through Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda that there is really no problem because the PDAF has already been abolished by President Benigno S. Aquino III.
However, in the resumption of the hearings last Thursday, Justice Carpio wondered why the Supreme Court is still asked for the lifting of the TRO on the PDAF when it has supposedly been abolished? Carpio revealed that there is still some P13.0 Billion or P14.0 Billion left in the PDAF for 2013 that Malacañang wants lifted. He exposed the mental dishonesty of Malacañang: “Why are you still asking for its release? Does it mean that it (PDAF) has not been completely abolished?”
Hence, Solicitor General Francisco Jardeleza had no choice but to divulge that what was only abolished was the “soft” component of PDAF (livelihood, various assistance, others) and not the “hard” portion that involves infrastructure projects. While the President is asking for a partial lifting of the TRO to continue the financial assistance and medical services to the hundreds of thousands of government scholars and indigent patients, respectively, the Aquino government also wanted to continue its public works projects.
Justice Carpio told Jardeleza that “the PDAF can only be abolished by Congress or only the Supreme Court can declare it as unconstitutional.” As a final lecture to the Solicitor General by Justice Carpio, who would have been the Chief Justice if seniority was followed, declared: “He (the President) has no power to abolish the PDAF.”
Solicitor General Jardeleza was also asked by Justice Carpio to study how the PDAF had eliminated the presidential veto power since the pork was listed as a lump-sum appropriations with the list of projects. Carpio rightly noted that without the power to veto line-items in the national budget, the President has given up his control against wasteful spending to the lawmakers. In the 2013 GAA, there is only just a lump-sum amount of P24.7 Billion for all projects under their PDAF—roads, schools, hospitals and others.
Former Senator Joker Arroyo wants Secretary Florencio Abad of the Department of the Budget & Management (DBM) to make public on how the P127.0 Billion DAP funds were spent in the past two years. The former Executive Secretary of President Corazon C. Aquino said that DBM Secretary Abad should explain to the Filipino people on how P75.0 Billion and P55.0 Billion of DAP funds were spent in 2011 and 2012, respectively.
I completely agree with former Senator Arroyo of the serious concern on DAP that the Aquino administration “may spend (government money) at will.” The DBM under Secretary Abad cannot just divert the alleged savings and use the funds arbitrarily as he sees fit. “Whoever gave them (DBM) the power to switch (the funds),” asked the distinguished senator who did not avail of his annual PDAF of P200.0 Million for 12 years.
What is difficult to comprehend with the newly-discovered DAP created by DBM is why expenditures cannot be included as line items in the General Appropriations Act (GAA). Take the case of the ‘manna’ from heaven of P8.5 Billion that came from the DAP funds for the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) on top of its P11.8 Billion regular budget for the five provinces under ARMM. Why not just give ARMM a P20.0 Billion with specific line items in their budget?
The southernmost province of Tawi-Tawi in Mindanao is supposed to have a P1.0 Billion share from the P8.5 Billion “Stimulus Fund” from DAP. However, while P1.9 Billion has been allotted for security, rehabilitation and livelihood projects in its communities, there is no allocation for the improvement of its pathetic airport in the capital of Bongao that is in a state of disrepair for many years now. Even just P100.0 Million would be a big help for a new domestic airport that can attract more trade and tourism.
The Governor of Tawi-Tawi province said that there is a P200.0 Million allotted for its electric cooperative. If power generation is funded by DAP, why not for a critical public transportation project such as an airport? So there apparently are no clear guidelines on what projects will be supported by DAP funds. Senator Arroyo is right: It is Arbitrary!
The case of the Bongao Airport in Tawi-Tawi illustrates that the DAP funds are not really used to spur economic growth as what it is supposed to do. Hence, the Department of Transportation & Communication (DoTC) can simply include a line item of P100.0 Million for the Bongao Airport in the preparation of its 2014 Budget. No need for DAP at all!
Rick B. Ramos at email@example.com