PRESIDENT Benigno Aquino 3rd’s home province of Tarlac and his family’s Hacienda Luisita may have been the biggest gainers from the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) at the height of its implementation in 2012, according to a petitioner against the DAP at the Supreme Court (SC).
Renato Reyes, secretary general of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan), noted that P2 billion in DAP funds was released for the construction and repair of national roads in Tarlac in 2012 while the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) paid out P5.4 billion through DAP for “compensation of landlords” under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program.
Reyes said DAR Secretary Virgilio delos Reyes and Budget Secretary Florencio Abad should make a full disclosure on how the P5.4 billion was spent and for whom, since there are allegations that the P471 million compensation and interest paid by DAR to Hacienda Luisita Inc. (HLI) through Land Bank came from DAP.
When asked to comment on Reyes’ claims, Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Secretary Herminio Coloma said his office will verify first.
“We have so far no direct [evidence]that DAP went to Luisita. However, some P5.4 billion in DAP was approved as landowners’ compensation according to the DBM [Department of Budget and Management]. Aquino signed the approval. The DAR should report how the DAP for landlords was actually spent. How much went to Luisita, if any?” Reyes said in an interview with The Manila Times.
The Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) had also sought an independent probe of the use of P7.2 billion in DAP funds funneled by Malacanang to DAR.
Abad himself admitted that in 2011, P5.4 billion in DAP money went to the compensation of landlords, which was administered by the DAR. In 2012, P1.8 billion from DAP funded the DAR’s “Tulay ng Pangulo” program.
Paid in full
Like Reyes, KMP officials wanted DAR to identify the landlords who benefited from the DAP, what and where the lands covered are.
In its landmark ruling in 2012, the SC ordered the distribution of more than 4,000 hectares of Hacienda Luisita to tillers. The High Court also ordered the payment by the DAR of just compensation to HLI for agricultural land at the price prevailing in 1989, which was P40,000 per hectare.
During a congressional inquiry, delos Reyes revealed that P471.5 million had been paid to HLI in so-called “just compensation,” which is more than double the value initially prescribed by the SC.
The DAR chief explained that P304 million of the amount was the actual cost of the land while the remainder was the cash equivalent of matured 10-year LBP (Land Bank of the Philippines] bonds computed using the prevailing 91-day T-bill rates from 1989 to 1999.
The President’s relatives, however, wanted a bigger compensation ranging from P700 million to more than a billion pesos, which critics feared would only be used against the supposed beneficiaries.
The payment, according to ACT Teachers party-list Rep. Antonio Tinio, was “grossly disadvantageous” since the formula used by the DAR led to the “overpayment” of P167 million in interest.
Tinio said the decision to pay interest on top of the valuation for the 4,500 hectares of land acquired from HLI was unnecessary.
The lawmaker argued that the P167 million interest that represented the cash equivalent of matured 10-year Land Bank bonds computed using the prevailing 91-day T-bill rates from 1989 to 1999 was wrong because the law only allows the payment of 25 percent in cash and the remainder in 10-year Land Bank bonds as a mode of payment of just compensation to landowners.
Such a formula, he said, was grossly disadvantageous to the government and taxpayers because the DAR will not be paying HLI over 10 years as contemplated in the law.
He said the compensation was already “paid outright and in full” so that there should be no more computation for interest.
Meanwhile, Reyes scored the Aquino administration for treating his province like a “spoiled brat” by allocating huge funds for infrastructure such as the P2 billion requested by Rep. Henry Cojuangco of the First District of Tarlac and the provincial government and the P80 million for the portion of the Subic Clark Tarlac Expressway that cuts across Hacienda Luisita.
“This is too much. Even the P2 billion Tarlac road project, it is only them who got this huge amount from DAP among all other provinces in the country,” he pointed out.
Reyes said the DAP-funded project was endorsed by Abad in a memo dated June 25, 2012, and was eventually approved by Aquino.
In the memo, Reyes said the Budget chief explained the fund disbursement was needed to “complete the rehabilitation and paving of all arterial and secondary national roads and bridges in the province of Tarlac.”
The DBM originally proposed the release of only P1.1 billion for the project but the Department of Public Works and Highways eventually adjusted its costing, reaching P2 billion.
“No other lucky province received such an allotment for that year based on the memo. When the Aquino government utilizes DAP, what are the criteria for spending?” he asked.
But Malacanang defended the project, saying the people of Tarlac also pay their taxes. Aquino, who was with the opposition when he was a lawmaker, had no pork barrel appropriation. This made him unable to implement projects in his home province or anywhere else.