By insisting that the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) is legal, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad is justifying technical malversation, opposition Sen. Joseph Victor Ejercito said on Friday.
Ejercito, who had filed a resolution calling for a Senate inquiry into the controversial spending program, said no amount of justification could absolve Abad.
At Thursday’s hearing of the Senate finance committee, the Budget chief cited Sections 38 and 39 of the Administrative Code, which he said give President Benigno Aquino 3rd authority to suspend or stop the use of funds allotted to an agency, declare it as savings and divert it to other projects.
Ejercito said if Malacanang is really sincere in advocating transparency and accountability, it should have first asked Congress to pass legislation authorizing the utilization of government savings.
“They could have passed an appropriation measure from Congress, but instead they ignore the co-equal branch of government,” Ejercito pointed out during the hearing.
Technical malversation is when a public officer applies public funds to uses other than that for which they were appropriated.
“The road to hell is paved with good intentions. That’s the intent of passage of the law against technical malversation, to tell people like him [Abad] that one cannot juggle funds no matter how good the intention,” Ejercito said.
He and Nancy Binay, who were the only opposition senators at the DAP hearing, asked Abad some pointed questions.
The other senators took turns in assisting the Budget secretary defend the program, portions of which have been declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.
Abad said legislators, Cabinet members and even ordinary citizens are allowed to nominate or endorse government projects for DAP funding.
But unlike allocations from the recently outlawed Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or pork barrel, that is limited to P200 million for a senator and P70 million for a congressman, there is no ceiling for DAP allocations, which could exceed P200 million, Binay said.
She noted that legislators could nominate any project and if the President deems the project as urgent and necessary, he will release funds for it.
An official of the Catholic Church, meanwhile, urged the Senate finance committee to summon Senate President Franklin Drilon to its hearing.
Retired Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Oscar Cruz said Drilon appeared to know more about the DAP than Abad did.
Cruz said he was disappointed with how Drilon and pro-administration senators defended the DAP and Abad.
The bishop added that the hearing created a negative impact on the public and revealed the partisan lines in the Senate.
Still, he believed that the hearing was a “minus factor” for the Palace.
“In short, the Senate hearing did not help the defense of the DAP, but in fact it exposed more,” Cruz said.