THE proposed Senate investigation of the “incentives” allegedly given to senators and congressmen who voted for the impeachment of former chief justice Renato Corona, coursed through the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) is unlikely to happen this year, according Senator Francis Escudero.
Escudero, who heads the Senate committee on finance, said that although the panel is willing to conduct an investigation, it may be difficult to schedule it since the chamber will be focusing on the P2.268-trillion proposed 2014 budget once sessions resume on November 18.
The senator also admitted that the committee has yet to read the resolution although it has already be referred to the panel before Congress went on a three week break last month.
It was Senator Joseph Victor Ejercito who filed Senate Resolution 287 which seeks an inquiry, in aid of legislation, into the realignment of P72.11 billion funds from slow-moving projects into DAP.
Ejercito wants the Senate to examine the Aquino administration’s controversial DAP which drew flak from legal experts for being unconstitutional.
The neophyte senator wants the panel to look into the supposed “incentives” allegedly given to senators and congressmen who voted to convict and indict Corona in 2012.
“As fiscalizer, the inquiry would focus on formulating policies and regulations on the proper use of savings and budget augmentation of the government,” Ejercito said.
Escudero admitted that since the Senate plans to conduct morning and afternoon sessions for the budget deliberation, it would be difficult for the committee to find time for an inquiry.
But he added that if the senators really want to scrutinize DAP, they can do it during the budget deliberation.
“I don’t want to make promises that I will schedule a hearing on DAP, since we will have a morning and afternoon session, but I will not prevent any senator who wanted to raise the DAP issue during the plenary debates on the budget,” he said.
Escudero explained that the committee on finance can be converted into a committee of the whole so that senators can grill Budget Secretary Florencio Abad about DAP.
Meanwhile, the Senate remained undecided on what to do with its priority development assistance fund (PDAF) or pork barrel despite the pronouncement of Senate President Franklin Drilon that 17 senators have already expressed their support for the total abolition of PDAF.
According to Escudero, the number given by Drilon is merely an estimate based on the statements made by some senators.
He said that while most of the senators are in favor of PDAF abolition, they have different views on how it should be done aside from totally subtracting the P4.8 billion from the 2014 proposed national budget.
He said that there are some who wanted the pork barrel allocation realigned and used for health, education, while others wanted it to be merged with the calamity fund.
“So this will be the issue and all of us will be submitting our respective positions on what to do with the PDAF by November 11,” Escudero said.