OPPOSITION lawmakers on Thursday questioned the Senate’s reluctance to investigate the use of funds released under the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).
Senator Joseph Victor (JV) Ejercito bewailed the Senate leadership’s lack of interest to verify reports that millions of pesos released through DAP were used to bribe lawmakers and fund ghost projects.
Last year, Sen. Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada claimed that several lawmakers who voted to impeach former Chief Justice Renato Corona received additional allocations from DAP, whose existence was little known.
Ejercito said the bill he filed last year calling for an investigation is gathering dust at the Senate.
“It’s a legitimate issue. How come it is not being acted upon? I filed the resolution last year,” he told reporters.
Ejercito was referring to Senate Resolution 287, which he filed on October 14, 2013, calling on the Senate to scrutinize the use of DAP funds.
The acceleration program was introduced by Malacañang supposedly to fast-track public spending and push economic growth.
The DAP was approved by President Benigno Aquino 3rd on October 12, 2011, on the recommendation of the Development Budget Coordination Committee and the Cabinet Clusters.
Malacañang only admitted DAP’s existence after Estrada mentioned it in his privileged speech last September 25.
According to Estrada, senators who convicted Corona got P50 million more in discretionary fund.
At least 20 members of the Senate received additional allocations in 2012 ranging from P50 million to P100 million.
Senate President Franklin Drilon admitted receiving P100 million, which he said financed projects in his home province of Iloilo.
Ejercito cited allegations that funds from DAP were used to bribe senators and congressmen who helped ensure Corona’s impeachment.
But instead of referring it to the Blue Ribbon committee, the Senate leadership referred the bill to the committee on finance chaired by Sen. Francis “Chiz” Escudero.
The panel has not acted on the bill.
Ejercito said the fact that his request for a DAP inquiry has been pending for more than four months proves the administration is being selective and will focus only on cases where the members of the opposition are being implicated.
He said the controversy involves allies of the President such as Budget Secretary Florencio Abad.
At the House of Representatives, Rep. Toby Tiangco, secretary general of the United Nationalist Alliance, said he has no plans to file a bill similar to Ejercito’s because it will only be blocked by the House leadership.
“I’m worried that they will not take jurisdiction on it because they will say that it is already in the court,” Tiangco said.
He said it would be better if the Budget department or the office of the Speaker make public the list of lawmakers who received DAP, for the sake of transparency and accountability.
Tiangco pointed out that if Abad believes that there is nothing wrong with DAP, he should disclose to the public names of lawmakers who benefited from the program.
“Are they hiding something about DAP? We just want to know how Malacanang and its allies used it. The people have the right to know,” he added.
The Senate Blue Ribbon committee will resume its inquiry into the pork barrel scam on March 6 and has invited former Technology Resource Center general manager Dennis Cunanan to testify.
Escudero, in a text message to The Manila Times, assured that all bills and resolutions referred to the committee on finance would be heard in March.
Congress will go on a break starting March 15, which means the finance panel only has two weeks to act on all the measures referred to it.