Will members of the Senate investigate themselves?
Senators will answer this question when they decide whether to conduct an inquiry into the release of additional incentives to colleagues who voted to convict Chief Justice Renato Corona last year.
Neophyte Sen. Joseph Victor Ejercito on Monday filed a resolution asking the Senate to look into the release of hundreds of millions of pesos under the Development Acceleration Program (DAP), including the allocation of additional funds to a number of senators and members of the House of Representatives.
In a related development Sen. Joseph Victor Ejercito filed a resolution asking the Senate to look into the Aquino administration’s DAP which he said has been drawing criticism from legal experts.
Ejercito said he wants an inquiry on the realignment of P72.11-billion worth of DAP funds from slow-moving projects, considered as savings by the budget department.
He also wants to investigate the release of additional “incentives” to senators and congressmen who convicted Corona.
Ejercito said the inquiry will focus on formulating policies and regulations on the proper use of savings and budget augmentation of the government.
But the six senators who each received P100 million through DAP maintained that the funds were not wasted.
The Commission on Audit (COA) is investigating how senators Ralph Recto, Alan Peter Cayetano, Teofisto Guingona 3rd, Antonio Trillanes 4th, Sergio Osmena 3rd and former senator Francis Pangilinan used the extra allocation approved by the Department of Budget in 2011.
Cayetano admitted in an interview to submitting his proposed project to then Senate finance committee chairman Franklin Drilon, but all senators submit their proposals during every budget deliberation.
“I will confirm that we have been writing letters because all senators and congressmen have their respective advocacies. So usually they tell us P50 [million to]P25 million soft projects or P25 million hard or P100 million, it depends on the priority of the government,” he said.
Cayetano said not all project requests are approved by the Budget department.
To put an end to all speculations on the DAP releases, Cayetano said he wrote the COA asking it to audit all the funds allotted to his office from 2007 to the present.
Trillanes also confirmed receiving DAP funds, but said they were for projects that “benefited our countrymen and these are posted on our website for transparency.”
Trillanes noted that none of the funds went to bogus non-governmental organizations (NGOs) or ghost projects, nor did he pocket a single peso.
Like Cayetano and Trillanes, Panglinan said senators are routinely asked to submit project requests and they assume that it will be sourced from their Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).
He said he never endorsed projects to bogus NGOs.
“The issue here is the abuse and the pocketing of the funds and not its appropriation for legitimate and lawful purposes,” Pangilinan said.
In a separate statement, Drilon insisted that the DAP should not be treated and viewed as another form of PDAF.
He DAP was created to improve the pace of government spending.
“DAP is based on the President’s constitutional power to realign funds. The same power is also granted to the Chief Justice, and heads of the Constitutional and Fiscal Autonomy Group [CFAG],” Drilon said.
The CFAG includes the Judiciary, Civil Service Commission, COA, Commission on Elections and the Office of the Ombudsman.
“This power to realign funds has been exercised by all past presidents, chief justices, Comelec chairmen, etc. The funds are not realigned to the legislature, but from one budget item to another in the same branch,” he added.