FORMER senator Panfilo Lacson is convinced that the Executive department created the highly controversial Development Acceleration Program (DAP) to cover the release of additional P50 million to P100 million to some senators who convicted former chief justice Renato Corona in 2012.
The former lawmaker also made it clear that although he was among those who voted to convict Corona, he never availed of the DAP fund because he believed that the additional allocation was part of the priority development assistance fund (PDAF) or pork barrel.
Lacson did not get any pork barrel during his entire term as senator.
However, the former senator said that the additional allotments given to lawmakers should be considered pork and that the executive had to come up with DAP to hide the fund’s true nature. Lacson however said that the funds distributed to senators cannot be considered as bribe because the fund was released after the impeachment trial.
It was Senator Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada who revealed last month the P50 million additional incentives given to senators who voted to convict Corona. Apart from the senators, congressmen also received additional pork, but lower than what the senators got.
President Benigno Aquino 3rd and Budget Secretary Florencio Abad had denied that the extra allocation was a bribe.
Based on DBM records, Senator Franklin Drilon, who was then the chair of the Senate finance committee, got P100 million, then Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile received P92 million while Sen. Francis Escudero got P96 million.
DAP, according to the DBM, was created in 2011 as part of efforts to boost government spending in infrastructure projects.
According to the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), Lacson and Senator Pia Cayetano released part of their DAP to fund projects of the department.
DOST Secretary Mario Montejo said that Lacson and Cayetano endorsed the agency as recipient of their DAP. He said Cayetano released P10 million for his department.
This was denied by the senator, who maintained that she is not even aware of the disbursement program, further raising questions on Malacañang’s true intent behind its creation.
Montejo said that his department received a total of P2 billion from DAP in 2011 which they used for the creation of Project NOAH (Nationwide Operational Assessment of Hazard) and the development of complementary baby food as part of the government’s efforts to fight malnutrition.
“I did not request nor did I authorize the release of funds under the DAP. I don’t even know that term,” Cayetano said in a statement.
The senator, who is currently in Geneva attending the 129th assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), explained that the P10 million which supposedly came from her DAP could have been based on her proposed amendments during the deliberation of the 2012 General Appropriations Bill.
According to Cayetano, the amendments were coursed through Sen. Franklin Drilon, who was then the Senate Finance Committee chairman.
She said that her office even submitted in writing the breakdown of the P10 million to the DOTC as follows: P2 million for training and scholarships; P1 million for the purchase of Starbooks facilities under the Science and Technology Information Institute; and P7 million for financial assistance for Research and Development.
“I proposed these amendments to support various DOST programs in line with my belief that we need to continuously innovate and invest in Science and Technology in order for our country to be more competitive and progressive,” Cayetano explained.
She said that the DOST realigned the allotment and used it for the Malnutrition Reduction Program of the Food and Nutrition Research Institute without her knowledge.
When she learned about the fund realignment, the senator said that her office tried to ask the DOST and the Department of Budget and Management to revert the funds to their original intention.
But instead of heeding her request, the DBM in a letter dated March 12, 2012, informed Cayetano that it was the DOST’s decision to realign the P10 million under DAP for Fiscal Year 2011.
“I could not have possibly authorized nor realigned funds through DAP, a funding entity whose mechanisms were unknown to me until it became the subject of controversy in recent news,” the senator said.
Lacson also said that there was no way that he could have allotted any amount to the DOST especially coming from his supposed DAP considering that he chose not to get his pork barrel when he was a senator.
He added that if there was some sort of additional allocation to the DOST, it could have been part of an amendment he introduced during the budget deliberation in plenary.
Lacson also said Malacañang did not handle the DAP controversy well.
He cited the actions of Palace spokesman Edwin Lacierda and Secretary Ricky Carandang who spoke on behalf of the Budget secretary.
“I already saw a problem. Seeing the spokesman of Malacañang answering the issues that should be explained by the Department of Budget and Management is wrong,” he said.
According to Lacson, it is for the DBM to explain the allocations, not the Palace spokesmen.
“The buck always stops at the table of the President. Whenever there is a crisis the correct way of dealing with the crisis is to insulate the President,” he said.
Former senator Joker Arroyo also found fault with the way Malacañang spokesmen handled the DAP problem.
“They play things by ear and pass it off as facts,” Arroyo said.
He took a swipe at Lacierda for saying that Arroyo did not react to irregularities that took place in the past administration, particularly to the fertilizer scam and the ZTE scandal.
The former senator however dismissed Lacierda’s claim, saying that he co-chaired a Senate probe on the alleged fertilizer fund scam.
“Staff indolence, that’s why the President gets into trouble for missteps that are not his,” Arroyo said.
THE Department of National Defense (DND), the Air Force and the Presidential Security Group (PSG) were also recipients of the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), according to Defense spokesman Peter Paul Galvez.
From 2011 to 2012, the DND received P665.6 million which it used for its on-base housing and for the repair, renovation and rehabilitation of different facilities.
The PAF got P397.3 million, while the PSG was allotted P248.3 million which it spend for its communication enhancement project.
Galvez said the PSG’s communication enhancement project was implemented in January 2012.
William B. Depasupil