No matter what the Palace calls it, the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) is merely another form of presidential pork barrel, a lawmaker said on Tuesday.
Rep. Fernando Hicap of Anakpawis party-list said that the DAP is essentially a pork barrel since the executive branch has sole discretion on these funds as shown in the million-peso allocation by the Department of Budget and Management to senators after the impeachment of former Chief Justice Renato Corona.
“The [DBM] admission that it indeed released funds from the so-called [DAP] shows that the President has discretion over multibillion in public funds,” Hicap said in a statement.
“Whatever Malacañang chooses to call it, DAP is still part of President Aquino’s pork. DAP was sourced from government savings supposedly spent for programs,” he added. “DBM holds the key to Aquino’s treasure box of ‘unlimited pork funds.’”
The DAP is the source of the controversial P50-million allocation given to 20 senators a few months after Corona was convicted. But DBM Secretary denied that it was a bribe as it was merely a part of the government’s efforts to accelerate expenditure.
Most releases were made in October 2012, five months after the impeachment. Some lawmakers, like Senate President Drilon and Sen. Francis Escudero, received more than P50 million as they got P100 million and P99 million, respectively.
The fund is on top of the senators’ annual P200-million Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).
According to a DBM statement dated October 12, 2011, DAP was formed as a solution to government’s underspending and to boost the country’s low gross domestic product at that time. It was sourced from the unused 2010 and 2011 appropriations that was realigned to fund different programs for social services, public works, agriculture programs, among others.
The initial DAP fund in 2011 was P72.2 billion. Abad noted in his statement on Monday that DAP is not a part of the General Appropriations Act annually approved by the Congress.
Meanwhile, economist and former budget secretary Prof. Benjamin Diokno told The Manila Times that the mere existence of DAP is an “abuse of presidential power to augment items” in the national budget.
“How can the president generate P72.2 billion worth of savings when he can’t even implement projects already authorized by Congress?” he said in a text message.
Diokno also suggested that the Congress should summon Abad for him to explain the sources and uses of DAP and why he did not consult the lower chamber when he realigned the budget.
However, under the Constitution, the President has the power to augment the budget passed by the Congress whenever he deemed necessary, especially in times of economic crisis. This act is called impoundment.
Ironically, when Pres. Benigno Aquino 3rd was still a representative of Tarlac, he filed—together with then-Senator Manuel Roxas 2nd—an anti-impoundment bill to limit the president from not releasing the appropriations approved by the Congress.
The bill, as expected, just did not prosper at the House of Representatives. JHOANNA BALLARAN