Navotas Rep. Tobias “Toby” Tiangco performed a great service Wednesday when he held his ground for the submission by Budget Secretary Florencio “Butch” Abad of the detailed use of the so-called Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).
People who want accountability and transparency in government support Tiangco’s efforts. Billions of pesos have been spent for DAP but the people, the supposed “bosses” of the administration, are still in the dark on this issue. It’s to the credit of Tiangco that he wouldn’t settle for a wishy-washy submission of DAP details from Abad. He knows that the people wouldn’t want half-truths.
Full details would have validated the administration’s claims that the DAP was conceived to funnel funds from slow-moving projects to the more urgent ones needed for faster economic development. These would have proved that DAP is very different from the unconstitutional pork barrel.
Strangely, Abad has been taking his sweet time in detailing who availed themselves of the DAP, for what projects, and the status of the projects. He promised to give these details last July during a hearing of the Senate Committee on Finance headed by Sen. Chiz Escudero.
The Senate panel never pressed Abad to make good his promise. It didn’t even give a specific date on when should Abad submit the needed data.
When the Senate yellow ribbon committee wanted details on how pork was used, Abad was quick to come out with years-old record of Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and Bong Revilla.
However, Abad has had difficult time giving details on the use of the more recent DAP under the Aquino administration. In this cyber age, that would have taken minimal effort—unless Abad and the administration are reluctant to do so.
Monday evening, at the opening plenary debates at the House on the proposed 2015 budget, Tiangco elicited a commitment from Abad to submit Wednesday a complete list of DAP projects with their corresponding proponents from the House and the Senate. Abad submitted the list Wednesday before the agreed 8 pm deadline but Tiangco considered it unacceptable for lacking so many details.
When 8pm came without the complete details, Tiangco questioned the quorum. Rather than adjourn, and contrary to rules that give questions on quorum of higher priority, House Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales 2nd moved to merely suspend the session until the next morning. Thursday morning came with no complete list yet and Tiangco reiterated his question on the presence of a quorum, forcing the immediate adjournment of the session.
Gonzales obviously did not share Tiangco’s insistence on the full disclosure of the DAP details. He also found nothing wrong in the House’s failure to muster a quorum for the budget debates. What he found wrong was Tiangco’s questioning the presence of a quorum. To him, it doesn’t matter if only a handful are present to discuss what’s supposed to be the most important measure to be passed by Congress in any given year. It doesn’t even matter to him that the DAP had watered down Congress’s power of the purse. What matters to him is the immediate passage of the 2015 budget with or without quorum, with or without Abad’s compliance of a commitment on the DAP made in his presence.
I hope Tiangco will stand his ground and demand Abad’s full compliance with his commitment on the DAP. President BS Aquino The Last, I mean The Third, loves to quote the biblical saying “Truth Shall Set You Free.” The President, if he’s really earnest, should order Abad to comply pronto so the truth shall set all of us free. Tiangco might lose his parliamentary leverage should there be a quorum on Monday but he’ll never lose his moral high ground on the DAP.
Oh yes, Tiangco is also the spokesman of the United Nationalist Alliance headed by the beleaguered Vice President Jejomar Binay.
Last Thursday, the Veep said that the construction of the Makati City Hall building 2 was not overpriced at P69,549 per square meter. (His critics claim it’s P84,000 square meter.)
Binay made an emotional defense but he failed to forward his case when he compared the Makati building cost to the P74,751 per square meter of the Batasang Pambansa Annex Building and the P68,140 per square meter of the two-story Iloilo Convention Center.
There’s no point of comparison with those government buildings. The Makati building has many floors for parking, which means open floors, no divisions or partitions and no tiles. The absence of these features should lower the building cost. I still believe that the true evidence on whether there’s overpricing or not is the building itself. Is it world-class, green, to be worth the P2.2 billion spent for its construction?