How did President Aquino use the money he had hijacked from the regular budget and corralled into a fund for what he called the “Disbursement Acceleration Plan” (DAP)?
Other than the P13 billion de facto pork barrel given to members of Congress as reward for taking out Chief Justice Renato Corona, another major use of the DAP Fund would be controversial, even shocking.
P10 billion of the DAP kitty that totaled P142 billion from 2011 to 2012 was allocated to the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), to the Cordillera People’s Liberation Army (CPLA), to one faction of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), and for a “Reintegration Program” of New People’s Army guerillas.
This is according to Malacañang itself. An October 12, 2011 press release of the Budget and Management Department posted in the Office of the President’s website (www.gov.ph) entitled “Aquino government pursues P72.1 billion disbursement acceleration plan” lists nine uses of the fund, the seventh of which is as follows:
“The government will implement a Comprehensive Peace and Development Intervention package, worth P8.59 billion to be disbursed to the ARMM. . . .An additional P1.82 billion will be provided for peace and development activities with the Cordillera People’s Liberation Army and the Moro National Liberation Front and support for the Reintegration Program of former rebels of the New People’s Army, among others.” (Italics mine.)
Former Budget secretary Benjamin Diokno, based on information from his sources in the department he once headed, claimed that P1.8 billion was solely for Cordillera People’s Liberation Army while P700 million was allocated for an MNLF faction that broke away from its founder Nur Misuari.
The P8.6 billion released to ARMM was allegedly to fund its “Transition Investment Support Plan” (TISP), set up simultaneously with DAP fund. This was purportedly intended to fast-track ARMM’s development for the benefit of the Bangsamoro quasi-state to be set up and led by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
But “investment” appears to be hardly the thrust of the TISP. ARMM’s Department of Social Welfare and Development for instance was allocated P2 billion out of the fund, for “day care centers”—in a region where most mothers stay at home, and even culturally required, to take care of their children. ARMM’s Department of Interior and Local Government was given P1.3 billion. Some P2 billion of the fund was marked “unallocated”, but placed at the disposal of the ARMM governor.
Aquino’s allocation of P8.6 billion through the sole power of his signature emphasizes the fact that through DAP, he totally disregarded the power of Congress to determine the nation’s priorities.
Each year, ARMM officials—as well as all government agencies—are required to argue in Congress why the region (or their unit) requires the budget they are asking for. For 2012, Congress allocated ARMM P11.2 billion.
But Aquino ignored Congress and increased the ARMM budget by P8.6 billion—sourced from DAP—nearly doubling it to P20 billion. That’s bigger than, say, the budget of P14 billion of the Philippine Navy, P13 billion of the Air Force, and several other departments.
Congress priorities’ —which it has the constitutional mandate to determine through its power of the purse, i.e., approving the government’s annual budget—for instance could have been to use that P8.6 billion to buy two warships (which cost P4 billion each) to patrol our seas, to finance government hospitals, or even to organize a special forces brigade to wipe out separatists and communists. But Aquino ignored Congress and its 2012 appropriations law and decided on his own that P8.6 billion would be given to ARMM.
Quite significantly, Aquino also made sure that his people, and his people alone, would control ARMM’s new, huge budget.
He got the Senate in June 2011 to pass a law postponing ARMM elections, which had been originally scheduled in August 2011, on the flimsy excuse that state funds would be saved if the elections were held at the same time as the May 2013 elections.
With the acting governor stepping down and with elections postponed for nearly two years, Aquino handpicked as ARMM “officer-in-charge” party-list (Anak ng Mindanao) representative Hajiv Hataman, who is from Basilan and who had never figured in region-level politics. Hataman was a leader of a coalition of NGOs that lobbied for the postponement of the August elections.
Hataman became de facto ARMM governor and would portray himself as the Muslim patron distributing largesse in the region, in such forms as P10 million checks coming from the P8.6 billion DAP fund to each ARMM governor for their projects. With his control of ARMM and its funds, Hataman trounced his rival in the May 2013 elections, making him the longest-serving ARMM governor ever.
How did ARMM use the P8.6 billion that came from DAP?
It certainly didn’t achieve one of its main objectives, which was to accelerate government spending in order to stimulate the economy. That’s according to Aquino himself. He said in a speech in Davao City on June 2012: “Gusto ko ho sanang maibalita sa inyo ‘yung mga accomplishments. Pero dito po sa status, as of May 31, 2012, napakarami po dito ay ‘not yet started’ or ‘ongoing,’” (“I want to report the accomplishments of the Transition Investment Support Plan. But based on its status report as of May 31, 2012, so many have not been started yet or are reported as ongoing.”)
Slow projects, or were the DAP funds intended for ARMM used for other purposes not in the official list Aquino was reading?
Former Senator Joker Arroyo’s demand that DBM explain the use of DAP fund and the Commission on Audit’s promise to audit it have become a matter of national security.
The ARMM government since it was set up in 1999 has been notorious for siphoning government funds to its leaders’ pockets , which is one reason why it has failed and why Sulu, Basilan, Maguindanao, and Lanao del Sur have remained as the country’s poorest provinces.
COA auditors in the region who were too serious in their jobs have been killed and auditors there refuse to undertake ocular inspections of projects in the field for fear of their lives.
Aquino’s success in getting MILF to the negotiating table couldn’t have been simply due to his promise that he would give the insurgents their virtually independent Bangsamoro state.
They must have demanded something more concrete to believe in his promises. They must have asked for some money down first.
Aquino dramatically flew to Tokyo to meet with MILF leaders on August 6, 2011; he set up DAP on October 12, 2011, simultaneous with the announcement that P8.6 billion of that would be for ARMM. Talks with the MILF commenced a few days later and on October 15, 2012 his chief peace negotiator Marivic Leonen and the MILF head signed in a much-hyped ceremony in Malacañang the Framework Agreement for the Bangsamoro.
Aquino dramatically flew to Tokyo to meet with MILF leaders on August 6, 2011; he set up DAP on October 12, 2011, simultaneous with the announcement that P8.6 billion of that would be for ARMM; and three days later, on October 15, he and the MILF head signed in a much-hyped ceremony in Malacañang the Framework Agreement for the Bangsamoro.
About 60 percent of the population of ARMM to which Aquino gave P8.6 billion is in Lanao del Sur and Maguindanao, where the MILF is based.
Other than for rewarding Congress for taking out Corona, was it DAP’s main objective to raise funds to buy off the MILF, so they would agree to the charade of the peace talks? Could the funds have come from TISP’s unallocated P2 billion?
For that matter, how was the P1.8 billion allocated to CPLA and the P700 million to an MNLF faction used?
Did some of these funds end up in the war chests of MILF, CPLA, MNLF faction, and the NPA because of the stupidity of this student council-type administration?
Only a full COA audit of the P10 billion fund would determine whether Aquino did or did not stupidly hand over taxpayers’ money to rebel groups—at a time when our officers and soldiers were being massacred in battlefields in ARMM, the Cordillera, and Surigao and when China was laughing at our tiny Navy and Air Force.
“Bastusan na yun (That was patently an insult to Congress).” That’s former Budget Secretary Diokno’s description of how Aquino pushed Congress aside and created his own budget.
Congress’ integrity will sink deeper in the gutter if it doesn’t investigate how Aquino used the DAP fund he had hijacked.
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