The distribution of stimulus funds to lawmakers under the Disbursement Acceleration
Program (DAP) has been suspended.
In a text message Monday, Strategic Communications Secretary Ramon Carandang said President Benigno Aquino 3rd froze all DAP releases for the second semester of this year.
DAP has suffered the same fate as the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), which has touched off a controversy following revelations about its misuse.
Carandang said projects proposed by government agencies were not covered by DAP suspension.
According to the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), 20 senators received DAP allocations after the conviction of chief justice Renate Corona by a impeachment court last year.
Budget Secretary Florencio Abad insisted the allocations were not bribes or incentives.
“In the interest of transparency, we want to set the record straight on releases made to support projects that were proposed by senators on top of their regular PDAF allocation toward the end of 2012. These fund releases have recently been touted as ‘bribes,’ ‘rewards,’ or ‘incentives.’ They were not,” Abad said in a statement.
The DAP is savings pooled from unused budgetary items or lower-than-expected expenses of state agencies.
In a privilege speech last week, Sen. Jinggoy Estrada said P50 million was given to each of the 20 senators who voted to convict Corona, on the strength of a confidential letter signed by then chairman of the Senate finance committee Franklin Drilon. But Palace spokesman Edwin Lacierda on Monday drew the difference between the DAP and PDAF.
“It is not a PDAF release,” Lacierda said, adding that the DAP funds were meant to speed up government spending.
”DAP is a program where we induce acceleration spending. There are projects that are worthwhile. There are projects which we can use—to accelerate not only infrastructure projects but social programs,” he said.
According to Lacierda, the releases from DAP went to projects requested by legislators.
”DAP is not a normal PDAF. We have releases, regular releases, of PDAF,” whether a senator voted for or against Corona,” he said.
”It’s not only used by the legislators, (but) by attached agencies also, by Cabinet departments,” Lacierda said.
Even the Executive uses part of the DAP, he said.
”The only reason why it is being connected now is because of what Senator Jinggoy (Estrada) showed. But, again, Senator Jinggoy was very emphatic. No bribes. He stood by his vote to convict Chief Justice Corona,” Lacierda added.
Abad earlier released a breakdown of DAP fund disbursements to senators which were mostly made from October to December in 2012.
Based on “letters of request,” senator Antonio Trillanes received P50 million in October 2012; Manuel Villar (P50 million in October), Ramon Revilla (P50 million in October), Francis Pangilinan (P30 million in October), Loren Legarda (P50 million, October), Lito Lapid (P50 million, October), Jinggoy Estrada (P50 million, October), Alan Cayetano (P50 million, October), Edgardo Angara (P50 million, October), Ralph Recto (P23 million, October, P27 million in December), Koko Pimentel (P25.5 million, October, P5 million, November, P15 million, December), Tito Sotto (P11 million, October, P39 million, November, Teofisto Guingona (P35 million, October, P9 million, December), Serge Osmena (P50 million, December), then-Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile (P92 million, December) and Senate President Frank Drilon (P100 million, December).
”There were two earlier releases made in late August of that same year: Greg Honasan (P50 million) and Francis Escudero (P99 million).
No releases were made in 2012 to Senators Ping Lacson, Joker Arroyo, Pia Cayetano, Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and Miriam Defensor-Santiago,” Abad said.
In 2013, however, releases were made for funding requests from Senators Arroyo (February, P47 million) and Pia Cayetano (January, P50 million),” he added.
Despite the scrapping of the PDAF, two congressmen said on Monday lawmakers can still get funding for their pet projects.
Cavite Rep. Elpidio Barzaga said legislators as well as local executives can request the Budget department for funding for projects in their district or sector.
“It’s not illegal or immoral. What is important is the DBM, through Secretary Abad, is informing the public how funds are released. After all, projects funded through these releases are subject to COA audit,” Barzaga said.
The COA can audit the DAP anytime if it thinks the fund was released or spent anomalously, he said.
Isabela’s Rodito Albano agreed.
Granting the requests of lawmakers and local executives for funding “is a courtesy extended by each branch of government. It is a practice since the time of President [Manuel] Quezon. As for the checking if the funds are spent for public interest, it would be the job of the COA,” Albano said in a separate text message.
Llanesca T. Panti