Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism
THERE are clear winners, as there are clear losers, in terms of provinces and congressional districts and project types, in the distribution of over P11 billion in tax money under the controversy-ridden Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).
Interestingly, the winners that received enormously bigger DAP shares are mostly the bailiwicks or hometowns of legislators and local officials who belong to President Benigno Aquino 3rd’s Liberal Party and political parties allied with the LP-led ruling coalition.
In particular, the leaders and members of the House of Representatives who had served as prosecutors and spokesmen of the prosecution panel during the impeachment of then-Chief Justice Renato Corona from December 2011 to May 2012 were among the most DAP-blessed lawmakers.
Indeed, while all their congressional districts and provinces of origin are classified mostly as first-class to second-class localities, they received multiple times more DAP monies than areas—including some classified income-wise as third-class or fourth-class—without an LP or ruling coalition member as their representative.
These are among the findings from PCIJ’s review of DAP documents provided by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).
Two weeks ago, the DBM also disclosed a list of projects covered by over 3,400 fund releases during the DAP’s nearly 30-month run. (Begun in 2011, the acceleration program screeched to a stop on July 1, 2014 when the Supreme Court ruled that certain actions that the executive had taken under the DAP were unconstitutional.)
In total, DAP’s lump-sum releases that went to “various local infrastructure projects requested by legislators, local officials and national government agencies” reached more than P30 billion. But because available data from the DBM do not provide specifics for all the projects covered by this amount, PCIJ managed to sort and analyze only up to a third or P11.34-billion worth of DAP lump-sum projects by location and project type.
DAP winners all
Of the P11.34 billion with itemized project data, the congressional districts that received DAP windfall amounts of over P60 million each (funds for projects in the district and consolidated amounts for projects in areas covered by the district) included the Lone District of Mandaluyong City (Metro Manila), represented by House Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales 2nd, P203.5 million; First District of Cavite represented by Joseph Emilio Abaya (chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations in the 15th Congress until he became Secretary of Transportation and Communications on October 12, 2012), P186.2 million; Lone District of Batanes represented by Henedina Abad, head of the House Committee on Energy, Deputy Speaker in the 15th Congress and 16th Congress, and wife of Budget Secretary Florencio “Butch” Abad, P133 million; First District of Albay, represented by Edcel C. Lagman, Minority Floor Leader in the 15th Congress until January 2012, P95.5 million; Fourth District of Isabela represented by Giorgidi Aggabao, P88.7 million; Sixth District of Pangasinan represented by Marylyn Primicias-Agabas, P72.5 million; and Fourth District of Cavite represented by Elpidio Barzaga Jr., P60.5 million.
Similarly big amounts of DAP monies—from P10 million to P47.5 million—went to other congressional districts, including those represented by Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr., and Representatives Rodolfo Fariñas, Ben Evardone, Lorenzo Tañada 3rd, Romero “Miro” Quimbo, Danilo Suarez, Neri Colmenares, Arnulfo Fuentebella, Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara, Raul Daza and Reynaldo Umali.
Leaders and prosecutors
Aggabao, Primicias-Agabas, Barzaga, Farinas, Colmenares, Daza and Umali were all members of the House prosecution panel during the impeachment trial of Corona in the Senate. Evardone, Tanada and Angara all served as spokesmen for the panel.
Belmonte, Gonzalez, Lagman, Suarez, Fuentebella and Abad are House leaders.
In lieu of Lagman, Suarez was Minority Floor Leader from January 2012 to June 2013.
The Fourth District of Iloilo represented by Niel Tupas Jr., prosecution panel head in the Corona trial, received P12.5 million in DAP funds.
Except for Colmenares (Bayan Muna) and Lagman (Independent), most of these lawmakers are either LP members or its allied National Unity Party (NUP) and sections of other political parties that make up the LP-led ruling coalition in the House. But Lagman’s son and namesake, Edcel B. Lagman, was elected congressman in his father’s district as an LP candidate in the 2013 polls.
Unfortunately, though, of the P11 billion allotted for local projects or those “requested by lawmakers, local officials and other national agencies,” a huge chunk amounting to P8.86 billion was not specified or itemized by the DBM. Another P864 million was simply listed as “share from LGSF (Local Government Support Fund).” The two figures add up to P9,709,066,961 of DAP funds that remain sub rosa, or not specified or itemized by the Budget department.
The balance of P1.64 billion, however, apparently went to specific projects that, by volume of the amounts provided under the DAP, included road work, medical assistance, “various projects,” farm-to-market road works, buildings/structures, public market, livelihood programs, “various infrastructure projects,” creek/dike/seawall, “various purchases,” beautification programs, “financial assistance for various reasons,” multi-purpose buildings, drainage/canal, health center, water supply/irrigation system, school buildings/structures and programs, alternative learning system, flood control system, day care center, social services, and housing projects.
PCIJ’s review of DAP documents from DBM also showed that at least 93 combined provinces and cities directly received funds from the lump-sum funds that DBM released in five tranches across the brief 30-month life of the DAP.
Most indications are that the acceleration program served as an additional source of largesse for congressional districts and local government units, according to the patterns of the distribution of pork-barrel funds.
Aside from DAP’s lump-sum funds for various local projects, the senators each had P200 million in pork-barrel monies, and House members, P70 million each, until the program was scuttled and declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in November 2013.
Cut and restored
For sure, Malacañang’s decision to give more money to legislators and local officials was out of synch with its own decision in 2011 to slash to a pittance the proposed budget for “Financial Subsidy to Local Government Units” or FSLGU.
The Budget department under Aquino’s predecessor Gloria Macapagal Arroyo had prepared the 2011 budget proposal with a proposed P5.67-billion allotment for FSLGU.
After Aquino came to power on June 30, 2010, the DBM rushed to revise Arroyo’s proposed 2011 budget, slashed the FSILGU figure to P200 million and directed the release of funds to adhere to menu selections of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or pork-barrel funds.
The President eventually placed the FSLGU under “conditional implementation,” saying the releases must be guided by rules to be set by implementing agencies.
But come October 2011 when the DAP was born, Aquino reversed himself—he restored and even approved a bigger amount of P7 billion in DAP monies as supplemental financial subsidy to LGUs.
The provision for this subsidy is officially reflected at only P200 million in the General Appropriations Acts (GAAs) for 2012 and 2013. Huge amounts from the DAP continued to pour in, however, as off-GAA projects and funds for the LGUs from October 2011 to July 2014.
In 2012, the DBM released an additional P2.6 billion, and in 2013, an additional P1.7 billion, in financial subsidy to the LGUs.
In total, under Aquino, P11.34 billion in DAP funds was released directly to the LGUs from 2011 to 2013, even as the GAAs for the same years enrolled pithy amounts for financial subsidy to the LGUs.
The DBM’s “detailed” list of DAP-funded projects showed that the P11.34 billion actually corresponded to over a third or 37 percent of the P30 billion that went to “various local and infrastructure projects” that had been “requested by legislators, local government officials and national agencies.”
The other P18.81 billion, meanwhile, was coursed through different national agencies, state universities and colleges (SUCs), government-owned and-controlled corporations (GOCCs) and government hospitals.
How provinces rank
Among the provinces, Leyte received the biggest amounts of DAP funds, raking in a total of P496 million. Four-fifths of the total amount, or P413 million, had been released as financial subsidy to the province of Leyte and its select municipalities between August and November 2012.
Surprisingly, Leyte received only P13.4 million in subsidy last year, when the province was greatly devastated by Typhoon . But then, over P3 billion in DAP funds were released to the GOCCs and agencies for calamity assistance in 2013.
The second highest recipient of DAP funds was Cavite at P492.8 million. The DAP funds flowed generously into the province between 2011 and 2013, although the amounts would decline a little each year. In 2011, Cavite received P157.4 million. Its DAP funds increased by roughly P43 million the next year. By 2013, its DAP infusion was down to P135 million.
Other top recipients were Batangas (P394.7 million), Nueva Ecija (P364.4 million), Davao del Sur (P358 million), Albay (P357.8 million) and Pangasinan (P307.8 million). Much like in Cavite, each of these provinces received their biggest chunk of DAP funds in 2011, with the allocations progressively shrinking in 2012 and 2013.
Then again, some provinces received much less. Among those which got P10 million or less in DAP funds were Dinagat Island (P6.5 million), Aklan (P5.5 million) and Siquijor (P5 million).
WITH ADDITIONAL RESEARCH BY FERDINAND CABIGAO JR.