President Benigno Aquino 3rd has been warned by opposition lawmakers against blaming his predecessor, former President Gloria Arroyo, amid the heat that Aquino administration is getting for releasing Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) funds to lawmakers which is on top of the legislators’ Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or pork barrel.
Reps. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez of Leyte, Tobias Tiangco of Navotas and Neri Colmenares of Bayan Muna party-list made the caution a day after President Aquino blasted his predecessor for misusing at least P1 trillion worth of government funds just to stay in power amid corruption allegations.
Romualdez, the President of the Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats (CMD) which is the political party of Congresswoman Arroyo of Pampanga, noted that the Aquino administration should move forward because it has already been successful in detaining former President Arroyo for plunder in the Veterans Memorial Medical Center, ousting former Chief Justice Renato Corona for untruthful disclosure of assets, slapping Corona’s family with tax evasion raps and ousting former Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez who resigned from her post ahead of her impeachment trial in the Senate.
“Congresswoman Arroyo can’t always be the shock absorber of this administration whenever it is confronted by controversy. The buck stops with the President. We are halfway through. Stop the blame game,” Romualdez, the nephew of former First Lady Imelda Marcos, pointed out.
Tiangco, the Secretary General of the United Nationalist Alliance led by Vice President Jejomar Binay, could not agree more with Romualdez.
“GMA is non-issue here. If they are envious, they still have two years and eight months to beat the P1 trillion figure. They should just face the DAP,” Tiangco argued.
“Blaming GMA is definitely a diversion from the DAP issue and is like beating a dead horse,” Colmenares added.
The P1.107 billion worth of DAP was released to lawmakers in the aftermath of the conviction of Corona before the Senate impeachment court in May 2012. Critics of the Aquino administration have viewed this move as bribery, but Budget Secretary Florencio Abad has denied this and argued that the DAP is designed to ramp up government spending and provide social services to people.
But for Aquino allies and Reps. Walden Bello and Ibarra Gutierrez of Akbayan party-list, the DAP issue should not distract the public from punishing pork barrel plunderers.
Gutierrez cited that the public should not to be swayed by efforts from some quarters to use the issue to deflect attention on the plunder charges filed against several lawmakers involved in the multi-billion Janet Lim-Napoles pork barrel scam, including Senators Jinggoy Estrada, Ramon “Bong” Revilla, Jr. and Juan Ponce Enrile.
“Even as we seriously express our alarm and concern on the DAP, we should not forget that this issue was first raised by Senator Jinggoy Estrada, who together with other lawmakers were caught with their hands in the cookie jar. This is clearly an attempt to distract the public from the immediate objective of exacting accountability for their colossal crimes,” Gutierrez said in a separate statement.
“The public must not fall for Estrada’s diversionary tactic. We cannot realize our strategic reform goals if the immediate task of punishing these transgressors is sidelined,” Gutierrez added. LLANESCA T. PANTI