So … now what?


The Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) has been declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.

It is difficult not to gloat a little.

It doesn’t even matter that it won’t be retroactive, and will only apply from here on in, and not to past DAP allocations.

What matters is that the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) released P83.53 billion in 2011 and P58.70 billion in 2012 under the DAP mechanism. What matters is that the President signed off on these DAP allocations, purportedly for projects that cut across healthcare, public works, housing and resettlement, and agriculture, among others (DBM Website, “Frequently Asked Questions about the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP),” no date.)

What matters is that the President himself signed these DAP documents.  And more than that has defended it with gritted teeth since late last year.

DAP as Jinggoy’s weapon
It might be the only Privilege Speech of Senator Jinggoy Estrada that I remember: he talked about millions of pesos in bribes or “incentives” for each of the senators who impeached Chief Justice Renato Corona in May 2012.

This forced DBM Secretary Florencio Abad to confirm not millions, but P1.107 BILLION pesos released to 20 senators after the Corona impeachment. This money came from the DAP.

But it’s been spun since, and mainstream media was obviously complicit in keeping many stories under the radar, if not allowing them to be totally forgotten. Say, Senate President Franklin Drilon’s admission that he received P100 MILLION after the Corona impeachment. What we were given was some lame excuse about using all that money for Iloilo, even as the public wasn’t given a sense of where it went, and certainly we were not given a detailed accounting of how it was spent either.

Ah, but soon enough the stories about who got which amount under the DAP, in relation to and beyond the Corona impeachment disappeared from the mainstream; TV news and public affairs shows barely discussed the DAP in detail.

Senator Drilon was his defensive self, almost smug in fact, saying that “The release of funds does not necessarily mean that it was pocketed [by the official].” That in the end what matters is how these officials use it. Many other senators feigned innocence: DAP? We thought it was still the PDAF!

DAP as PNoy’s pawn
The aftermath of the DAP’s great reveal by Senator Jinggoy also inadvertently exposed why there’s something fundamentally wrong with the system of the Executive releasing fund allocations for senators’ and congressmen’s projects.

The senators expected to be given PDAF in relation to the impeachment of Chief Justice Corona. Like a gift maybe? A bribe, an incentive—all the same banana. We now know this about the PDAF: the loyalty of members of the Legislature and the Judiciary is interwoven with the possibility of getting funds for their “projects.”

The loyalty is bought, if not votes on bills that are important to the President.

Now of course we are being told—we were told last year—that the DAP is not PDAF. And that it is all above board. The President himself was adamant in October last year.

“The Disbursement Allocation Program is not pork barrel. Spending through DAP is clearly allowed by the Constitution and by other laws. DAP is only a name for a process in which government can spend both savings and new and additional revenues.

“The issue here is theft. I did not steal.

“Those who have been accused of stealing are those who are sowing confusion; they want to dismantle all that we have worked so hard to achieve on the straight path. We were stolen from, we were deceived—and now we are the ones being asked to explain? I have pursued truth and justice, and have been dismantling the systems that breed the abuse of power—and yet I am the one now being called the Pork Barrel King?”

This is the point Mr. President: you are now being asked to explain. This defense of the DAP now declared unconstitutional. And where exactly all that money went. Because the billions of pesos from the DAP are not at all something we’re seeing or feeling.

Now what?
Senator Jinggoy says heads must roll. And he would be correct. That has to be Secretary Abad’s head first, functioning as he does as this government’s Budget Secretary and, it seems, the President’s real alter ego. In the case of the DAP, Abad’s undoing as well is that he let media run with the idea that the DAP is the brainchild of DBM itself; now it’s too late to say that it’s the President’s idea.

Not that it matters. The President signed DAP allocations after all, and we’ve got documents to prove that. With the voice of the President defending the DAP ringing in our heads, it’s also clear that PNoy truly and really believed this to be a legal and lawful mechanism that’s not only unique to his government, but something that it takes pride in.

This is a President of course who has dared critics, time and again, to impeach him. He keeps giving us ideas.


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