SIX administration senators who each received P100 million under the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) are being investigated by the Commission on Audit (COA).
Palace deputy spokesman Abigail Valte on Sunday said senators Alan Peter Cayetano, Teofisto Guingona 3rd, Ralph Recto, Antonio Trillanes 4th, Sergio Osmena 3rd and Francis Pangilinan were given additional allocations in 2011.
But Valte was quick to add that there was nothing wrong in the release of the DAP allotments, saying it was meant to stimulate the economy.
She said the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) released the funds after the lawmakers requested more funds for their priority projects from Sen. Franklin Drilon, who was then chairman of the Senate Committee on Finance.
In a radio interview, Valte defended the releases, saying the savings in 2011 were re-channeled to stimulate the economy.
”In terms of projects, according to [Budget] Secretary [Florencio] Abad this was in November of 2011 when we were trying to catch up with spending,” Valte said.
Asked if the funds could be fully accounted for, Valte said the COA is looking into the DAP releases.
“There [were]details on the projects that were spent on at least by the six [senators]… But, yes, ideally that is the subject of COA audit also,” Valte said.
“I understand that COA is already in the process of auditing projects that were identified under the DAP mechanism, so let’s wait for the results of the audit,” she added.
The Palace hopes COA will release its audit findings soon, Valte said.
The DAP funds, she noted, were released to the implementing agencies and not directly to the lawmakers.
She said that aside from the legislators, the government also welcomed project proposals from national government agencies and bureaus.
“And they were allowed to identify a certain project as long, provided that it would fall under the requirements for the mechanism,” she said.
The government “sorely needed to catch up or to accelerate on spending,” Valte said, noting that the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) at that time was a sluggish 3.6 percent.
”While there were inputs, there were suggestions from the legislators, the implementing agencies were still in charge of making sure that the projects were implemented,” she added.
Valte justified the allocation of multi-billion profits of Government Owned and Controlled Corporations (GOCCs) to the DAP after The Manila Times columnist, former ambassador Rigoberto Tiglao, said in his column that President Aquino “hijacked” P12.3 billion from GOCCs.
These were from the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office, Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp., Development Bank of the Philippines, and the Land Bank.
Valte said the President is authorized by the Constitution and by law to use “unprogrammed funds” as savings.
Unprogrammed funds are standby appropriations authorized by Congress in the annual General Appropriations ACT which may be used only “when the revenue collections exceed the original revenue targets,” she explained.
”If you’re looking for the law, then the legal basis is the provision on unprogrammed funds found in the General Appropriations Act,” Valte said.
Under Republic Act 10147, the special provisions of the unprogrammed funds “shall be released only when the revenue collections exceed the original revenue targets submitted by the President of the Philippines to Congress pursuant to Sec. 22, Art. VII of the Constitution, including savings generated from programmed appropriations for the year: Provided, That collections arising from sources not considered in the aforesaid original revenue targets may be used to cover releases from appropriations in this Fund: Provided, Further, That in case of newly approved loans for foreign-assisted projects, the existence of a perfected loan agreement for the purpose shall be sufficient basis for the issuance of a SARO covering the loan proceeds.”
According to the Budget and Management (DBM), funds used for programs and projects identified through DAP were sourced from government savings, the realignment of which was subject to approval by the President.
DAP may also come from windfall revenue collections, dividends from government-owned and controlled corporations as well as from proceeds of sale of government assets.
The DBM said that under Section 25 (5), Article 6 of the Constitution, the President, the Senate president, the Speaker, the chief justice and the heads of constitutional commissions may be authorized to augment any item in the general appropriations law for their offices from savings in other items of their budgets.
It said savings may also be used to cover any deficiency in peso counterpart funding for foreign-assisted projects, as may be approved by the President, as well as “priority activities” that enhance the economy, such as food production, agrarian reform, and energy development.
”Except as otherwise provided in the General Appropriations Act and whenever in his judgment the public interest so requires, the President, upon notice to the head of office concerned, is authorized to suspend or otherwise stop further expenditure of funds allotted for any agency, or any other expenditure authorized in the General Appropriations Act, except for personal services appropriations used for permanent officials and employees,” the DBM said.