The Commission on Audit (COA) has been urged to start issuing Notices of Disallowance on fund releases made under the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), which would involve the return of illegally disbursed money to the government.
Greco Belgica, a former Manila councilor and one of those who challenged the legality of the DAP at the Supreme Court (SC), said COA should not shield officials who disbursed DAP funds.
“As one of the petitioners [against the DAP], may I humbly request that your honor’s office begin the issuance of the Notices of Disallowance ‘motu propio’ against all these unlawful disbursements?
To begin with, looking into the seven-evidence packet which the Solicitor General submitted to the Supreme Court during the oral arguments for DAP will be most appropriate,” Belgica said in a letter to COA chief Grace Pulido-Tan dated July 21.
The SC, in a unanimous vote, recently ruled that the DAP was unconstitutional.
“As directed by the Supreme Court, investigation and prosecution filed in its proper venue must be done. But without concrete evidence, which only your office can unearth, none will ever prosper. This will result [in], at the least, grave injustice,” Belgica said.
He noted that Tan’s faithful performance of her constitutional mandate of issuing Notices of Disallowance, including auditing of all DAP transactions, will begin the process of giving justice to the unjustly accused and to the “abused” Filipinos.
“They feel betrayed by this breach of conduct, perceived or real, on the part of high officials of the land. Entrusted with the noble mandate to safeguard the people’s hard-earned taxable money, your immediate valiant action on this extremely serious situation will somehow assuage the hurt feelings of millions of our countrymen,” Belgica said.
Also on Monday, senators called on the Department of Budget and Management to release all DAP documents, including Special Allotment Release Orders (SAROs) for the sake of transparency.
“These are public records and it is only right that the public be given access to these documents so that they can scrutinize and find out if public funds were indeed put for public use,” Senate President Franklin Drilon said.
He reiterated his call for COA to conduct a comprehensive audit of the DAP and investigate if there were red flags in the implementation.
The Senate Committee on Finance will be holding a public hearing on DAP on Thursday and has invited Budget Secretary Florencio Abad to provide details of the disbursement program.
Also on Monday, Malacañang said it will soon release a more “detailed” list of projects funded through the DAP after the first list of 116 DAP projects drew harsh reactions from the public last week.
Abad in a statement said the DBM is now preparing the list of projects funded through the program to distinguish legislator-backed projects from those housed under government departments and agencies, local government units and government-owned or –controlled corporations.
“Most of the funds released through the DAP were in fact made to National Government departments. After all, we were looking at accelerating government disbursements, and we could do that by supporting fast-moving and high-impact projects, many of which are under national agencies. The list we will soon be releasing will show just that,” he added.
According to him, it is not uncommon for lawmakers to use their respective allocations for several projects under various implementing agencies.
“The number of projects supported by a single allocation can easily go up to around 20 projects per legislator, and if you multiply that by the number of House Representatives, you will naturally arrive at a large figure,” Abad explained.
The total DAP funds that went to Congress only comprised nine percent of the whole allocation of P144 billion. Abad said lawmakers normally use their allocation for several projects to respond to as many of their constituents’ needs as possible.
“Lawmakers direct their allocations to multiple projects because that permits them to fan out key economic and social support services to a broader range of their constituents. Of course, we rightly expect that the funds we release to the implementing agencies will be used properly,” the Budget chief said.
“If there are irregularities in the implementation of these projects, the burden of accountability rests on the implementing agency or the legislator, depending on findings from the Commission on Audit,” he added.
But contrary to the nine percent estimate, which was P12 billion, the list that was released last week showed that the DAP funds released to members of Congress reached P17 billion.
Malacañang spokesman Edwin Lacierda said they will ask Abad to clarify the discrepancy.
With Joel M. Sy Egco