ADMINISTRATION and opposition lawmakers nominated projects that were funded through the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), Budget Secretary Florencio “Butch” Abad disclosed on Thursday.
Speaking during a hearing conducted by the Senate finance committee, Abad explained that DAP was not offered exclusively to lawmakers allied with President Benigno Aquino 3rd. In fact, even Bayan Muna party-list proposed projects, he said.
Bayan Muna was one of several groups that endorsed an impeachment complaint against Aquino in connection with the DAP, which was recently declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.
Abad was asked by Senate President Franklin Drilon if there are members of Congress not allied with the administration who also nominated projects under the government’s spending mechanism.
“Well, dito ho sa Senado, isa lang po ang hindi humingi ng pondo na napapaloob po dun sa DAP savings at yan po ay si Senator Ping Lacson [Here in the Senate, only Sen. Panfilo “Ping” Lacson did not ask for DAP funds),” the Budget chief replied. “Lahat ng mga senador [all senators]regardless of political affiliations nominated projects that can be funded under this program. How about the House?” Drilon asked further.
“Ganun din po, maski na ho nasa minority ay napapagbigyan din po [It’s the same. Even lawmakers belonging to the minority were also given funds],” Abad answered.
“If the President sees that the nominated project can be good to economy, that’s when the executive can approve and fund the project out of savings by augmenting an existing item,” he also explained.
According to Abad, the Senate became aware of the DAP as early as October 2011, the year the controversial spending mechanism was implemented.
“As the honorable senators must recall, we presented the DAP to the Senate finance committee in October 2011 as a viable solution for accelerating government expenditures,” he said at the start of the hearing.
Abad’s claim contradicted claims of some senators that they are not aware that the P50 million additional allocation they received during the last quarter of 2012 was from the acceleration program.
The additional allocation was revealed by Sen. Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada in a privileged speech last year. According to the senator, the additional fund was released to the senators who voted to convict former Chief Justice Renato Corona.
Like President Benigno Aquino 3rd, Abad insisted that the DAP is legal and was in accordance with Executive Order 292 or the Administrative Code of 1987.
The Budget chief claimed that the program is not new since the past three administrations also had mechanisms for the use of savings.
“The practice of generating and using savings bore different names, because each administration faced its own unique set of economic and fiscal challenges,” he again explained.
Under then-President Corazon Aquino, Abad said it was called Reserve Control Act (RCA). Former President Fidel Ramos also implemented the RCA and released a total of P44 billion from savings.
Former President Joseph Estrada used the reserves from the Ramos administration amounting to P36.8 billion.
In 2002, then-President Gloria Arroyo introduced the Overall Savings and pooled savings of P792.8 billion and was able to release a total of P189.273 billion.
Since 2011, the Aquino administration has been able to pool P237.5 billion in savings and released P144.4 billion to fund various projects to spur socio-economic development.
Abad said of the P144.4 billion, 37 percent were used to support economic services, 34 percent for infrastructure projects and 21 percent for social services such as education and health care.
DAP funds, he added, were also used to pay the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) premiums for teachers and electrification projects.
The Budget chief noted that before DAP was implemented, the country’s Gross Domestic Product grew only by 3.7 percent in 2011 but when the spending mechanism was introduced, the GDP rose by 6.8 percent in 2012, and increased to 7.23 percent in 2013.
”The DAP was an urgent response to an urgent problem where low government expenditures posed significant threat to the country’s economic development,” Abad told the Senate.
He was not alone when he faced the members of the Senate finance committee. Other members of the Cabinet were also present, such as Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, Socio-Economic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan, Interior and Local Government Secretary Manuel Roxas 2nd, Public Works and Highways Secretary Rogelio Singson, Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya, Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman, Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez, Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz, Health Secretary Enrique Ona, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, Agrarian Secretary Virgilio delos Reyes and Commission on Higher Education Chairperson Patricia Licuanan.
In attendance, too, were Metropolitan Manila Development Authority Chairman Francis Tolentino and Malacanang spokesman Edwin Lacierda and his deputy Abigail Valte.