It would be unthinkable that the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP)—a mechanism wherein the President realigns government savings and windfall state revenues to priority programs of the administration—will be declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, a House leader said Tuesday.
Rep. Ben Evardone of Eastern Samar, Vice Chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations, expressed such sentiments a day after the Palace announced that President Benigno Aquino 3rd will go on a DAP blitz by engaging with the people across the country to discuss DAP and its benefits.
“I cannot think of a reason why it should be declared unconstitutional. Why should it be unconstitutional? Under the Constitution, the President can realign the savings of the government agencies under the Executive department in the same vein that the Chief Justice can realign the savings of the Judiciary to the agencies under the Judiciary,” Evardone said during the Ugnayan sa Batasan Forum.
Evardone was referring to the provision of the 2013 budget wherein the Judiciary’s budget earmarked P1 million allocation for the construction of the Hall of Justice. Evardone argued that in th event that the Judiciary accumulates savings, the Constitution allows the Chief Justice to realign it under the P1 million item for the construction of Hall of Justice.
Evardone also invoked the case of the Department of Health which was granted P14 billion for its Health Facilities Enhancement Program but only spent around P5 billion to P7 billion of such allocation because the Health department has only one civil engineer per region who is tasked to oversee construction of barangay and municipal health centers, community hospitals.
In such a situation, Evardone said that the President can realign the slow moving fund to other priority projects which is also of equal importance.
“We [in LP]are unanimous that DAP is legal, constitutional. DAP is just a brand. It has long been practiced because it is unconstitutional. During former President [Joseph] Estrada’s time, it was called the stimulus fund,” Evardone added.
The legality and the propriety of DAP was thrown into the spotlight after Sen. Jinggoy Estrada—who is facing a plunder complaint before the Office of the Ombudsman over the P10 billion Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) scam—disclosed in a privilege speech that the Senators who voted to convict former Chief Justice Renato Corona received DAP for the legislators’ pet projects.
The Palace has admitted that it has released nine percent of the total DAP budget to legislators, but maintained that there was no misuse such funds.
Despite the controversy, Evardone is adamant that there is nothing wrong with releasing a small portion of the DAP to the lawmakers because the issue is public funds misuse, not mere speculation of misuse.
“I do not see nothing wrong with it because as representatives, we always receive tons of Barangay and Municipal resolutions, asking us to provide funding for water systems, health centers, among others. In fact, a lot of Barangay Captains who won last elections are already sending me text messages, asking if I could fund health centers and the like for their constituents,” Evardone, a former Governor of Eastern Samar, argued.
There are already eight petitions questioning DAP’s legality before the Supreme Court, with the eighth petition filed just after President Aquino addressed the nation in primetime television to defend the DAP.
But for Evardone who is a former journalist, the President did not intend to influence the High Court as he was just stating facts.
“The President’s address does not intend to preempt the Supreme Court, contrary to the claims of the critics. He just puts the issue in proper perspective because the issue of fund misuse [in P10 billion PDAF and Malampaya fund mess]is being shifted to mere suspicion of misuse of DAP which confuses the people,” Evardone emphasized.
“DAP is not bad. It is not evil,” Evardone added. LLANESCA T. PANTI