Without Congress’ approval, Aquino set up own P72-B pork barrel fund

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It’s amazing how the pork barrel scam, initially intended to politically bury the opposition early for the 2016 elections, has boomeranged against this administration and opened up to public view its horrific can of worms.

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Unveiled only in the past few days, it is a mostly unknown fund created in October 12, 2011 in order to finance the so-called Disbursement Acceleration Program. The P5 billion used for the post-trial “second tranche” of the bribe money for Congress to take out Chief Justice Renato Corona came from this fund.

Out of this, P1 billion or P50 million was released to each of the 20 senators who voted to convict Corona, for projects they would direct the use of.  Another P4 billion was disbursed to congressmen, at P15 million each, for having filed the impeachment case against Corona.

The disclosure is ironically the consequence of Budget Secretary Florencio Abad’s bungling attempt to deny the allegations of Senator Jinggoy Estrada, that President Aquino bought off the senators to convict Chief Justice Corona using the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or the pork-barrel money. This is not true, Abad claimed. It was from the DAP Fund.

The Fund is huge, at P72-billion disbursed in the last months of 2011 and in 2012.  It is controlled by Aquino alone, unauthorized by Congress. It was in effect Aquino’s personal pork barrel fund, in the sense that he could direct its use as he wished.

There has been no Commission on Audit examination of the DAP Fund, and what is publicly known of its disbursements comes from very rare reports of government agencies using it.

What makes it suspect is that such disbursements as the P2 billion in 2012 were made for areas in the Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao, all practically no-man’s lands, where auditors refuse to go to.  Another P1 billion was disbursed to Tesda, whose head Joel Villanueva Aquino had been grooming, although unsuccessfully, to be a senatorial candidate in 2013.

That it could be directed to any agency or local government the President wanted is evidenced by the fact that P1 billion was given to the Department of the Interior and Local Government, which however didn’t use as it couldn’t come up with the necessary projects.

The DAP Fund was amassed from government savings in 2011. Sadly, that money could have been used as bonuses and additional compensation for the country’s underpaid 1.4 million civil servants, including 600,000 public school teachers and 200,000 military men.

Our republican system of government is purportedly designed with checks and balances.  Congress is supposed to diligently ensure that taxpayers’ money is used well through its power of approving every peso and centavo of the expenditures of government through the annual Appropriations Act. The Executive branch purportedly merely implements Congress’ priorities.

The system is even flexible enough that Congress for instance allows unaudited, confidential intelligence funds, which amounts to over P1 billion, under the President annually.   Even the PDAF had to be approved by Congress.

So how did Aquino set up his P72 billion fund that wasn’t authorized by Congress, which only he could direct the use of?

It could be a horrific story.  Consider the facts.

Having survived the Global Financial Crisis of 2009—which still resulted in a a feeble 1 percent GDP growth in 2009—the Philippine economy was on a roll, and in 2010, it posted a stellar 7.6 percent GDP growth.

However, despite the universal optimism over a new administration, the country’s GDP growth slowed down to 3.7 percent in 2011.  Why?

By all accounts, even by the official propaganda line, the slowdown was due to the government’s deliberate under-spending. The excuse Aquino and his officials gave was that major infrastructure projects had been put on hold for review, to make sure that that they didn’t contain anomalous, graft-ridden contracts.

I myself had thought that Aquino’s economic advisers weren’t that stupid so as to put the brakes on government expenditures and slow-down the economy. But they did for most of 2011.

But Aquino suddenly inexplicably set up on October 12, 2011 the so-called Disbursement Acceleration Program, which was supposed “to step up spending before the year end.” Strangely though, the launching of the DAP was low-key, and references to it have been very rare. I couldn’t find any executive order or Budget department memorandum or circular authorizing it and providing guidelines for its use.

Was there anything significant happening around October?

Yes. By September, Aquino’s camp had firmed up its plans to take out Corona, and its experience in the case of Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez made it clear that huge funds would be needed to bribe Congress for the project.

The PDAF for 2012 wasn’t enough, as it was already there, authorized by Congress, and its members—except for a few— would get their funds whether there was a Corona  impeachment or not. Only the timing of its release—just before the House of Representatives’ approval of the impeachment trial and the Senate vote—could be used as a bribery mechanism.

But the lawmakers would want more. This more would come from the DAP Fund.
Funds for the DAP came from the savings of the entire government bureaucracy, the result of Aquino’s deliberate policy of under-spending.

A government unit cannot keep the funds it fails to use in a particular year, since all of its expenditures are authorized by the Budget law for that year, and therefore it cannot use funds for any other purpose. Such savings are remitted back to the Treasury.

Government agencies therefore normally try to use such savings for some kind of compensation for its staff, in kind, so as to skirt government regulations. This is in the form of Christmas goodies, especially rice, or “team building” seminars that are actually junkets in resorts. The President could also invoke his powers to provide Civil Service employees a bonus at the end of the year.

However, before the agencies could even plan to use whatever savings they had in 2011, Aquino corralled their unused budget into his DAP Fund in October 2011.
In recent media interviews, Abad claimed that the basis for the DAP Fund, which Aquino has absolute control of, is the authorization given the President by law to “realign funds”.

That seems illogical, as this would make Congress useless, since one of its biggest functions is to direct the use of government funds through the Budget law it enacts each year.  Imagine if Congress allocates P10 billion for roads, and the President realigns it to build an unneeded airport.

But Aquino and Abad apparently found what they thought was some legal—but debatable —loophole that allowed them to realign savings of the bureaucracy to fund the DAP, the use of which would be totally upon the President’s discretion, as it turns out, even for bribes to Congress.

One obvious legal question though. How could Aquino put purported savings into a fund for the DAP in October, when the year in that month wasn’t over yet, and therefore the government agencies still had time to spend their authorized budgets for the year?

What Aquino and Abad did appears to be a case of malversation of funds, grounds for impeachment of the President. But that would be like charging the Ampatuans of
Maguindanao for unauthorized use of a backhoe to bury their 58 victims.

Because of Aquino’s under-spending in 2011, which generated for him the P72 billion trove, the economy grew only 3.7 percent.  It could have instead expanded double, by 7.1 percent, the average of 7.6 percent in 2009 and 6.8 percent in 2012.  That is a difference of 3.4 percentage points and economists have estimated that each 1 percent in GDP growth means 500,000 Filipinos crawling out of poverty.

Did Aquino’s under-spending in 2011 that gave him P72 billion to spend as he wished keep 1.7 million Filipinos in poverty?

tiglao.manilatimes@gmail.com
www.rigobertotiglao.com and www.trigger.ph

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20 Comments

  1. 10-B kay napoles. 72-B kay PNoy. ano ba naman toh mas grabe ka pa pala PNoy dapat din sayo makulong

  2. we need another people power aimed at replacing all politicians and abolishing pork barrels. DAP, etc. and prosecute and jail these idiots and teach everybody a lesson. Lastly, every Filipino common tao should also reform himself by not giving bribes from the lowest to the highest crook and report any of these. and for goverrment workers, is not to accept bribe and report it to authorities whoever is bribing them and be arrested. too much of peoples monies have been stolen already for 2 decades. are we these stupid to let this pass by?

  3. ‘after reading all the comments it cought my attenti0n what ted was said on radi0 program but nobody comments about it..about the ‘failure of zamboanga attack’ how pitty are we,, everytime there is case of corruption in our country, Mindanao peace in order bec0mes danger it is sad to think about the wasted life of the innocent people who died in the battle, while the leaders is the mastermind of the war…it is sad to think MNLF paid just to have ri0ts in the city of zamboanga..how much have they paided 5 thsnd? 10 thsnd? And how much does politician g0t? BILLI0NS. while sitting pretty at home, eating well and sleep deep,,tsk tsk my tears are out..who can hear the scream of the poor that is starving and crying for they d0n’t have any more h0me for shelter… i just realized h0w much does the Philippines had credit in World Bank, if just those DAF or savings in every quarter year has paid for our credit maybe 10 or 15 years fr0m n0w we could have paid the world bank and there will be no poverty existed in our c0untry… Poor Pilipinos…

  4. If the lawmakers were ‘bribed’, as alleged, in the conviction and removal of the head of another branch of the government, how do we expect the same lawmakers to do the “check and balance” of allocations and expenses of the President? After all, the same lawmakers may be able to benefit from these ‘unaccounted’ for monies, especially if the President wants something from them. I seems that all of these apparent loopholes is being taken advantage of and it is part of a grand scheme of fooling the citizen which has been going on too long. I hope the people will not lose hope, the last thing they can ever have.

    .

  5. Romeo M. Menorca on

    Allow me please to digress a little bit on this topic/issue – but i will make a comment just the same – and somehow please note how it connects to the issue and all other burning issues in this country today:

    In most organizations problems of all sorts do crop up when the top man is either – (1) NOT a BORN LEADER and therefore does not posesss leadership skills and so-called “charisma” (2) DOES NOT have any experience in managing and therefore a poor and lousy manager (3) HIS INCOMPETENCE is covered up by being arrogant – more particularly in defending his lousy decisions or ideas. It is unfair to call such organization a “student council” because student councils are run by smart students. The organization as incompetent as described earlier should be dissolved – its leader or leaders should be asked (or forced) to RESIGN asap.

  6. i just would like to quote a very interesting commentary of mr ted failon on his radio program this morning – dzmm…”nasaan sila noong makailang beses planong i-impeach si gloria arroyo na noo’y pangulo natin (pandaraya sa eleksyon, corruption, at iba pa)…hindi ba’t pork barrel din ang ginamit sa mga kongresista at senador upang di umusad ang impeachment complaint…bakit ngayon ay iba na ang kanilang tono?” kung may katotohanan ang DAP fund ginamit na di umano’y panuhol sa mga mambabatas o taktika lamang ng ilang mga nasasangkot sa pork barrel scam upang ma-divert ang issue dahil di nagtagumpay ang zamboanga attack…

    siyanga po pala…bakit wala po kayong komento sa pagsasangkot kay sen. enrile sa pagpopondo sa mnlf?

    tiyak ang mas maraming di pumapanig sa kasalukuyang administrasyon dahil TALTONG MALALAKING kampo (eestrada-enrile, arroyo at marcos) kasama na ang ilang mga kaalayado ang sasagupain ng gobyerno…

  7. Penoy used the govt.fund to bribe the Senators and Congressmen to get back at Corona for SC decision to distribute the Hacienda Luisita to its benificiaries? That’s a very expensive indeavor at tax payers expense to satisfy the ego of the president and his vindictive attitude.Now the Karma starts,and after his tenure,he may end up also in jail just what she did to PGMA.

  8. where do all these billions of pesos come from. The philippines doesnt make that much money in taxes does it. Its like from the president down they feel the need to hide the ammounts of money politicians have access to. Im sure nonoy said he wants a transparent government, well it isnt very transparent is it. Why cant the philippines look how the western governments allocate their tax money & who controls it & how its accountable. Its like they see what responsible governments do & say we will do it differently & better. Yes but better for who, certainly not better for the people of this country, its only better for the corrupt politician & official so he can steal bigger & bigger amounts. I just dont know where you can begin to sort this horrible corrupt mess out as i dont think there is one half decent un corrupt politician in this country.

    • that is why thieves/kutong are getting bolder, sa-sabihin nila, kami barya barya lang kayo milyon-milyon pag nag ko-komisyon….

    • As an Australian visiting my wife’s family here, and taking an interest in your politics, I think you have misplaced your trust in western governments. We have a very low opinion of politicians in Australia, they rank around the same as used car salesmen. All are corrupt and we have a saying ‘ How do you know when a politician is lying?’ answer ‘ When their lips are moving’

  9. Rodolfo L. Gorospe on

    Any unused or excess fund should be reverted back to the General Fund. Congress can then appropriate said money. In my opinion, the President has no authority to use the excess fund of any department without the consent of Congress.

  10. ano itong 60-40 na offer ng presidential management staff pms sa municipality ng Talaingod, San Isidro, Asuncion ng davao del norte. 60% lang ang mapupunta sa project yung 40% mapupunta sa pms

  11. Curious Reader on

    Just wondering – I have not read any of your article that is not commenting negatively on the present administration. Am sure there should be credits were credit is due for some of the good governance the present administration has done for the country.

  12. ROGELIO A. SESE on

    One obvious legal question though. How could Aquino put purported savings into a fund for the DAP in October, when the year in that month wasn’t over yet, and therefore the government agencies still had time to spend their authorized budgets for the year?

    Must be the savings from the previous year…

    • Any unused funds or in this case savings should be reverted back to Treasury (especially if it was from previous year.

  13. Why not give the 72Billion to the Poor instead? Politician are already Rich, please give opportunity to the rest.

  14. What a shame this administration they got their own dose, without a lawful basis no funds should be disbursed these are not Presidential fund or Social funds but are savings. If these are savings then it should be added to Deparment concern to be used for next year project or given as incentives to those Agency which are performing well. But it’s look like bribery to push Corona out in order that nobody will check Malacanang movement in term of Allocations or disbursement. Shame Butch Abad, Shame PNOY you are not like your father who is pro poor, and your mother. Think first before disbursing of any Savings.

  15. There must be a unified and concerted movement from the people to stop paying taxes for example the withholding tax (which is automatically deducted by employers.)

    How do we accomplish this? Any suggestion? Any other civil disobedience action we can do to help paralyze and hasten the demise of this student council?