MALACAÑANG continues to withhold information on where funds released through the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) went, stressing that this would be done only after Budget Secretary Florencio Abad and government lawyers have decided what legal action to take in light of an adverse Supreme Court (SC) ruling on the controversial stimulus program.
On Tuesday, Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma said any information on DAP projects will be revealed “in the proper forum,” noting that the Palace’s top priority at the moment is to carefully study the High Court’s decision and come up with a firm legal remedy.
“In the right time, there will be a proper forum to discuss these issues. Right now, we give priority to studying the decision. There is a need to be focused,” Coloma told reporters.
According to him, Abad has been conferring with government lawyers on how to deal with the SC ruling that declared DAP unconstitutional.
“[Secretary Abad] is involved in the study of the decision and legal options,” Coloma said.
Abad, said to be the main architect of the stimulus program, will exhaust the 15 days allotted by law to respond to the DAP ruling, the Palace official added.
“Secretary Abad is performing his duty as Budget chief and the government, the administration, is performing its duty to carefully study the whole decision of the [SC] to come up with a [response]. . . That’s the ongoing process. I hope you understand this concern in light of that process,” Coloma explained.
Despite repeated demands for Malacanang to specify where the DAP funds were actually spent, officials continue to be evasive, often pointing to the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) as the right agency to respond to the requests.
On Monday, Malacañang spokesman Edwin Lacierda admitted that they are yet to get hold of a list of DAP-funded projects. According to him, the matter should be discussed with the DBM first.
On the other hand, Coloma asked for more time before all information can be made public.
“The Solicitor General received the [High Court] decision on July 4, 2014 and under the rules of the court, the government as respondent is given 15 days from the receipt of the decision within which to file a motion for reconsideration. So there’s a continuing study of the decision including the legal options that may be taken,” he said.
Coloma added that he would not want to address issues that are not part of those stipulated in the SC decision.
He noted that the High Court made no specific mention of any project or number of DAP-funded projects that were the subjects of its decision.
Reports indicated that there were 116 projects that got funds from the program.
Coloma, however, argued that they were not included in the evidence submitted.
“If we will review the findings of the court, there is no specific mention of any of the 116 [projects]that are included in the evidence submitted. And I think there is some portion there where some of the justices expressed the opinion that it will, it is not appropriate to comment on the status of those projects whether constitutional or unconstitutional in one breadth,” he said.
Coloma added that it is possible that the government will file a motion for reconsideration.
“In the rules of court, [it]gives the respondent a certain period within which to avail itself of certain legal options including a possible motion for reconsideration,” he pointed out.
Even the filing of a motion for reconsideration, however, is not yet final since it is also possible that the team of Abad and the government lawyers may have other legal options.
But Coloma maintained that they are not withholding any information on the DAP projects, saying they are just “conducting a comprehensive review of the decision.”
“It is our view that [the]discussion of the projects is part of the active case and we observe certain rules whenever there is still an active case,” he said.
In fact, according to Coloma, there is no prohibition on government agencies that would want to explain their share of DAP funds.
“Nobody prevents [them]because since last year, there were discussions, there were departments that made an explanation, remarks about their projects. There is no prevention or withholding of information since the very beginning,” he said.
Coloma added that the public should not suspect that the government is trying to withhold information on the DAP.
While the Palace would rather keep mum on the DAP projects, some senators released documents to show where their DAP allocations went.
Senate President Franklin Drilon also on Tuesday said his P100-million DAP funds were used to construct the Iloilo Convention Center that President Benigno Aquino 3rd inspected in June.
He added that the construction of the Iloilo Convention Center is in line with the objective of the DAP “to boost growth” as the project will create more job opportunities, generate economic activities, promote tourism in the country and pump-prime the economy.
The Senate leader said the project was funded upon his request to the DBM on November 14, 2012.
On Monday, Sen. Francis Escudero said his own P100-million DAP funds were used in helping poor patients, hospitals and rehabilitation of public markets.
Escudero added that no non-government organizations benefited from his share of DAP funds.
Sen. Antonio Trillanes 4th also named at least 10 projects funded by his DAP allocationsin nine areas in Luzon and Visayas such as construction and rehabilitation of multi-purpose buildings, fire stations, gymnasiums and film centers.