Palace ally says DAP scrap can sap Aquino

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Scrapping the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), funded by unobligated fund and savings that the President taps to spend for his priority social services initiatives, will undermine the Presidency, a House leader warned on Friday.

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Rep. Romero Quimbo of Marikina, chairman of the House Committee on Ways and Means, issued the warning a day after his colleagues party-list Reps. Carlos Zarate of Bayan Muna, Luz Ilagan of Gabriela and Terry Ridon of Kabataan, among others, filed the sixth petition against the DAP before the Supreme Court.

The petitioners argued that the DAP and Budget Circular 541 which implements the DAP are unconstitutional because it grants the President billions in discretionary fund or pork barrel each year by unilaterally impounding the budget approved by Congress and realigning funds to projects selected by the President.

Further, the petitioners questioned the legality of withdrawing budget allotments from their intended projects under the General Appropriations Act (GAA) and realigning them to the pet projects and beneficiaries of the President, many of which were not even provided in the GAA approved by Congress.

”To declare DAP illegal is to convert the Presidency into a very weak institution that will be unable to respond to the needs of his people, making the Chief Executive a book keeper,” Quimbo said in a text message.

Among those who received the DAP were: Department of Transportation and Communications and the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, as well as administration Senators Alan Peter Cayetano, Teofisto Guingona 3rd, Ralph Recto, Antonio Trillanes 4th, Sergio Osmena 3rd and Francis Pangilinan.

”The Supreme Court will not rule to declare it unconstitutional because it falls in all squares how to legally use savings,” Quimbo, a lawyer, added.

Also on Friday, 67 leaders of various civil society organizations expressed their support for the DAP, saying that DAP is a way to fast track the implementation of government projects and public spending, promote economic growth and support government programs and projects which are performing well.

”As a response of those from civil society who also work on reforms for social development to the many misleading attacks on President [Benigno] Aquino [3rd] and Budget and Management Secretary Florencio Abad, especially in relation to the DAP, we aim to defend the significant and concrete gains that have been made and are still being made in the current administration which have improved public transparency and increased the space for participation of citizens in governance,” the group said in their Statement of Support for the Good Governance Reforms of the PNoy Administration and for Budget and Management Secretary Butch Abad.

”With the conflicting claims about its [DAP] constitutionality, we welcome the cases before the Supreme Court on this issue.  It would be best to let the Supreme Court rule and settle this,” the group added.

The group then cited that as much as it welcomes the challenges on DAP, it also supports the efforts of the Aquino administration in going after those liable in connection with the P10-billion Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) scam and the P900 million misuse of the Malampaya fund from the natural gas oil depot in Palawan that were allegedly siphoned off by the fake entities ran by Janet Lim-Napoles.

”We join the calls for the scrapping of the PDAF and other pork barrel funds, funds which are lump sum, non-transparent, have vague guidelines so that one or a few government officials have wide discretion on allocation/ decision-making, and are prone to corruption and misuse. We urge all Filipinos not to lose focus on these corruption cases,” the group pointed out.

”We should not allow the victory of those who wish to divert our attention from these cases by blaming the ‘system’ or by claiming that all other government officials are also guilty,” they added.

It was Sen. Jinggoy Estrada, one of the 38 people charged with plunder before the Office of the Ombudsman over the P10-billion fund mess, who revealed in a privilege speech that the DAP was also released to lawmakers who requested financial assistance for their priority projects in aid of their constituents.

Another senators who were charged with plunder were Senators Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. and Juan Ponce Enrile.

”We strongly believe that all those involved in these misuses and abuses should be thoroughly investigated and speedily prosecuted,” the group added in closing.

Among those who signed the statement of support include: Francisco Mabaso Jr. of Citizens Volunteers Assembly Bukidnon, Sylvia Paraguya of the National Confederation of Cooperatives, Nandy Aldaba of the Civil Society Resource Institute, Maricel Genzola of the Foundation for the Development of the Urban Poor, Annie Sandalo of the Kahugpongan sa Mindanaw, Kim Buñag of Simbahang Lingkod ng Bayan, Maria Tita Butz of Cordillera Network of Development NGOs, Geralyn Janette Corona of Bohol Alliance of NGOs, Benjamin Tolosa of Pugadlawin, Raul Socrates Banzuela of Pambansang Kilusan ng mga Samahang Magsasaka, Mardi Mapa-Suplido of International Center for Innovation, Transformation and Excellence in Governance, Nicasio de Rosas of Alternative Planning Initiatives, among others.

Llanesca T. Panti

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