MALACAÑANG officials on Wednesday confirmed that the government had released more than P1.8 billion through the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) for various reintegration programs for the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and other rebel groups.
Palace spokesman Edwin Lacierda said the funds were released as supplemental budget by the Department of Budget and Management in 2011 for the reintegration programs.
But Lacierda said he was not aware about the existence of another P8.6 billion allocated through DAP to the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) as reported by former Ambassador Rigoberto Tiglao, The Manila Times’ editorial board chairman, in his column that was published also on Wednesday.
In his article, Mr. Tiglao said that “P10 billion of the DAP kitty was allocated to the [ARMM], to the Cordillera People’s Liberation Army [CPLA], to one faction of the [MNLF], and for a ‘Reintegration Program’ of New People’s Army guerillas.”
Quoting former Budget secretary Benjamin Diokno, Tiglao said that P1.8 billion was given to the CPLA while P700 million was allocated for the MNLF faction. The P8.6 billion released to ARMM was allegedly to fund its “Transition Investment Support Plan (TISP)”, purportedly intended to fast-track its development for the benefit of the Bangsamoro quasi-state to be set up and led by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
”That’s not OPAPP [Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process] na I think. Let me check how much was given to ARMM,” Lacierda said when asked to comment on Tiglao’s column.
The Palace official only confirmed that some P1.8 billion releases under DAP were made to the government’s Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan (Pamana) program in 2011.
”You’re referring to the Pamana? That’s P1.8 billion. This was implemented by the government through the Pamana program,” he said.
Asked how the budget was allocated for rebel groups, Lacierda insisted: “That’s Pamana. These are part of the Pamana program. They cover MNLF communities. They help.”
The government, he explained, has the Sajahatra program for the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and a Pamana program for the MNLF communities.
”Those who have chosen to return to the fold, we have assisted them and this is part of the program,” he pointed out.
According to Lacierda, the Pamana program is administered by the OPAPP under Secretary Teresita “Ging” Deles.
In a separate statement, Deles confirmed “that OPAPP received approval in October, 2011, for total of P1.819 B supplemental fund under the [DAP] 2011 for the implementation of priority development projects for communities affected by armed conflict and in line with existing peace agreements.”
She said that the 384 projects constitute farm-to-market roads, bridges, agricultural
facilities, communal irrigation systems, potable water systems and livelihood assistance and projects implemented in 199 municipalities in 35 provinces.
“Of these, 216 community and infrastructure projects were for MNLF peace and development communities (PDCs) in 83 municipalities, 14 provinces and four cities while 99 projects were for communities in 32 municipalities and six provinces in Cordillera Region covered by the GPH-CBA/CPLA Closure Agreement,” Deles said.
“Included as well was the assistance provided to complete commitments to former rebels who surfaced prior to the Aquino administration. The projects were implemented by provincial and municipal governments that signed MOAs [memorandum of agreement]with OPA,” she added.
Palace deputy spokesman Abigail Valte also confirmed the P1.8 billion Pamana funds and noted that the program is a continuing item in the General Appropriations Act.
“The [Pamana] program will be provided with an additional P1.82 billion for peace and development activities with the [CPLA], as well as the [MNLF and] as support for the reintegration program of former rebels from the [NPA]. The PAMANA is already an existing program under the budget,” Valte said, adding that it is also subject to government auditing.
Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, on one hand, distanced himself on the issue, saying that Deles and ARMM Gov. Mujiv Hataman will be in a better position to answer queries about these fund releases.
”I suggest you speak with Gov. Mujiv Hataman of ARMM. He has been wanting to speak on the P8 billion plus ‘stimulus fund’ for ARMM that was funded through the DAP,” Abad told The Times.
Meanwhile, in Cotabato City, the ARMM leadership confirmed that they have received P8.6 billion but maintained that it was a legitimate allocation intended as stimulus fund for the several regional line departments of the region.
During the weekly “Tapatan sa ARMM” forum, Regional Vice Governor Haroun Al-Rashid Lucman, Jr, who is currently the officer-in-charge of the Office of the Regional Governor, made the admission.
However, Lucman said there was nothing wrong or illegal with such releases as it was intended as stimulus funds for ARMM offices.
Lawyer Rasol Mitmug, a former speaker of the Regional Legislative Assembly who has joined ARMM as deputy executive secretary, also defended the position taken by Lucman that there was no irregularity involved in the fund allocation though it was partly released through DAP.
In fact, Lucman, who is concurrently the secretary of the Department of Social Welfare and Development in the ARMM (DSWD-ARMM) admitted that his own department was the direct beneficiary of these funds which they used in many rehabilitation projects following man-made and natural calamities like the frequent flooding of many towns of Maguindanao province.
Malacanang also on Wednesday brushed aside Sen. Panfilo Lacson’s claims that DAP was meant to cover the additional funds given to some senators after the Senate impeached Chief Justice Renato Corona.
“No, I don’t think so,” Lacierda said, citing that the DAP is not a fund that can be seen in the national budget but a mechanism to accelerate spending.
“If you look at usage, more than 90 percent of the DAP was used by implementing agencies and a portion of that Executive branch consulted with lawmakers,” he said.
According to Lacierda, President Aquino announced a P72 billion stimulus package in 2011, a product of the realignment of government savings.
“With due respect to Senator Lacson, the fact that he doesn’t know DAP as a term doesn’t negate the fact that it existed. It was in 2011, we applied the program, we used realigned savings to accelerate spending. There was one occasion where President attended a FOCAP event and the President mentioned the P72 billion stimulus package. It’s in the news,” he said. “DAP existed prior to him learning of DAP. DAP was also a P72 billion stimulus package.”