After having written a total of eight articles on the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) and the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), I had wanted to take break from the pork barrel issues that have been in the news for the past three months.
However, the recent statements of President Benigno S. Aquino 3 on the DAP and PDAF moved me to continue with the series on the despicable congressional pork barrel scandal.
Speaking before the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (FOCAP) last Wednesday, President Aquino said: “It is difficult to fathom how one could equate this program (DAP) with the PDAF.” P-Noy must really be mentally-challenged either not to be able to “fathom” why DAP has been “equated” to PDAP or not to be able to discern that his speechwriters are making him sound like an imbecile.
The Disbursement Acceleration Program or DAP has become synonymous to the PDAF for the simple reason that both are pork barrel given to the senators and congressmen by the sanctimonious Aquino administration. On top of the P24.8 Billion in PDAF given in 2011 and 2012, the lawmakers received an additional pork of more than 50 percent to the tune of P12.8 Billion from the DAP funds.
What makes the DAP issue even worse is that some 20 senators received a total of more than P1.0 Billion in pork barrel after the removal from office of Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona upon his conviction in the Senate Impeachment Trial. Likewise, the members of the House of Representatives received between P10.0 Million to P15.0 Million each, or a total of P2.0 Billion to P3.0 Billion if at least 200 congressmen availed themselves of it.
In his speech before the prestigious FOCAP forum, President Aquino defended the nefarious Disbursement Acceleration Plan (DAP) anew, which he said should not be likened to the much-maligned Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF). He reiterated his administration’s position that DAP is a “Stimulus Program” to induce and hasten spending of government funds in order to spur economic growth.
The use of DAP funds may have been justified when it started in October 2011 due to the sluggish growth in the economy then, but there was really no more need to continue it in the succeeding two years. In 2012, the GDP growth was already 6.8 percent compared to 3.7 percent of the previous year. In the first semester of 2013, the growth in the economy was an awesome 7.6 percent compared to 6.4 percent of the same period in the previous year.
So it is obvious that there is really no reason to continue with DAP in 2013 other than for political purposes. The genius of the DAP creation allows the Aquino presidency to impound alleged savings in the national budget, realign them and transfer the funds from one department or national agency to another. A total of P142.23 Billion in DAP funds were used in government projects in the past two years alone (2011-2012).
PNoy justifies the P12.8 Billion given to the lawmakers in 2011 and 2012 because it is a “mere nine percent” of the P142.23 Billion in DAP funds. He further asked: “Why, then, is the DAP being made an issue?” Yes, it is “only” an additional 50 percent to the P25 Billion in PDAF. So what is the Big Deal with giving legislators an extra fund of almost P13.0 Billion?
It is truly amazing how President B. S. Aquino 3 can rationalize the additional multi-billion DAP funds as if the members of FOCAP and the Filipino people were born yesterday. PNoy asserts that “the only thing one could remotely relate to PDAF were those projects undertaken through consultation with our legislators.” However, “consultation with legislators” means for them to identity their projects for funding.
The mental dishonesty of Mr. Aquino is evident in this following statement: “After all, just as we engaged regional offices, local partners, and civil society in identifying projects, was it not also appropriate to hear the proposals of the elected officials of the land?” Just “proposals” where they will identify projects for funding from the DAP? Come on, Mr. President, kindly give us break!
PNoy until now continues to defend the DAP that he claims to be a “successful” program. Once again, Mr. Aquino could not understand why people would lump PDAF and DAP together. “I was perplexed to hear that some people equated the DAP with PDAF, when, simply, it was a program that strategically allocated funds to agencies that had already proven the capacity to implement projects and programs rapidly and efficiently, ” said he.
However, the issue with DAP is on impounding the savings and realignment and transferring the funds from one department to another, which according to legal luminaries, are not allowed under the present Philippine Constitution. There are now petitions filed with Supreme Court questioning the constitutionality of the DAP. Thus, it is not just a small matter of “a program that strategically allocated funds … “ as Mr. Aquino would like to put it.
Budget Secretary Abad has said that DAP releases came from overall savings of the national government, which include unprogrammed funds generated from windfall revenue collections, unreleased appropriations for slow-moving projects, terminated contracts based on evaluation of zero-based budgeting and the withdrawal of unused allotments already released to agencies. (Philippine Star October 7, 2013)
Fortunately, in his column of two weeks ago, my colleague Rigoberto Tiglao cited disturbing abuses on how the savings were impounded and how the DAP funds were apparently misused. The examples cited by Mr. Tiglao through his impressive research clearly showed how devious the Aquino administration can be in spite of its sanctimonious pronouncements. This is the Height of Hypocrisy!
PNoy cannot “fathom” and was “perplexed to hear” that people would “equate” the devious DAP with the nefarious PDAF. The president seems to be a hopeless case.
Rick B. Ramos’ email is address is firstname.lastname@example.org