Budget Secretary Florencio “Butch” Abad on Thursday said his office is sorting out a list of requests from opposition lawmakers who availed of funds from the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) to dispel speculations that only allies of President Benigno Aquino 3rd got huge chunks of the DAP pie.
In an interview with The Manila Times, Abad said they have started to collate materials related to disbursements for lawmakers who are not members of the ruling Liberal Party and its allied parties.
“We are still tracing the letters of request and matching them with the SAROs [special allotment release orders],” the Budget chief said, adding that once the list has been completed, they will release it to the public.
At the same time, Abad belied a report by the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) that alleged, among others, that Aquino’s allies got the “biggest shares” of the DAP. He maintained that the claim was “grossly exaggerated.”
“To say PNoy allies got [the]biggest DAP [shares]is a gross exaggeration,” Abad said. Pnoy is short for President Noynoy, Aquino’s nickname.
He challenged those who believe in the accusation to see for themselves the detailed list of DAP disbursements on the website of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to prove that opposition lawmakers in the Senate and House of Representatives also got their respective allocations.
“Go over the list of projects on the DAP website of the DBM and judge for yourself,” Abad said.
In its report, the PCIJ said the “winners” that received bigger DAP shares are mostly the bailiwicks or hometowns of legislators and local officials who belong to Aquino’s Liberal Party and political parties allied with the LP-led ruling coalition. The DAP allocations to them totaled at least P11 billion.
In particular, the leaders and members of the House of Representatives who had served as prosecutors and spokesmen for the prosecution panel during the impeachment of then-Chief Justice Renato Corona from December 2011 to May 2012 were among the most DAP-blessed lawmakers.
But Rep. Rodolfo Fariñas of Ilocos Norte and Rep. Neri Colmenares of Bayan Muna party-list, who both served as prosecutors during the impeachment trial of Corona, pointed out that the DAP funds given them were not their reward.
“As far as I am concerned, a lot of my requests for funding of projects in my district have been approved by the executive department. I will continue to work getting more projects for my district as that is one of the more pressing concerns of my constituents,” Fariñas, the deputy lead prosecutor during the Corona trial, said in a text message.
“In fact, I’ve been able to make the executive deliver much more than P47.5 million for my district in the last Congress. As the President announced during his last SONA (State of the Nation Address), the Laoag bypass road project amounting to P1.2 billion has also been approved by NEDA [National Economic and Development Authority],” he added.
Laoag is Laoag City, provincial capital of Ilocos Norte.
Colmenares said he did not know that funding for the projects he endorsed came from the DAP.
“Had I known that the projects I supported would be funded thru the DAP, I would have withdrawn my endorsement similar to my withdrawal of my endorsement [for]a milk feeding project in October 2014,” he added.
Rep. Tobias Tiangco of Navotas City (Metro Manila) said the DAP funds that went to the lawmakers’ projects prove that the DAP was used to bribe the prosecutors who successfully ousted Corona from office.
Two weeks ago, the DBM also bared a list of projects covered by over 3,400 fund releases during the DAP’s nearly 30-month run.
In total, lump-sum releases that went to “various local infrastructure projects requested by legislators, local officials and national government agencies” reached more than P30 billion. But because available data from the DBM do not provide specifics for all the projects covered by this amount, PCIJ managed to sort and analyze only up to a third or P11.34-billion worth of DAP lump-sum projects by location and project type.