Senator confirms off-budget fund releases
SENATE President Franklin Drilon on Sunday confirmed the existence of an off-budget Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) fund that critics described as presidential pork barrel distributed to senators in 2012 shortly after they convicted impeached Chief Justice Renato Corona, and in early 2013, with each receiving P50 million to P100 million.
Mounting clamor. Members of different riders’ clubs gave a thumbs down as they gathered in front of the People Power Monument along Edsa to join the call for the abolition of pork barrel appropriations on Sunday. Manny Palmero
In an interview with radio dzBB, Drilon admitted having received P100 million in DAP allocations.
A check with the General Appropriations Act showed the DAP, just like President Benigno Aquino III’s discretionary funds, did not pass congressional scrutiny.
These funds, including the President’s Social Fund, the Malampaya Fund, and the Special Purpose Fund, were released at the sole discretion of the President.
Drilon said the extra allocation was not meant to bribe senators or to grant them incentives for convicting Corona, even though the three senators who voted to acquit the chief justice were not given any DAP funds between August and October 2012.
Earlier, Senator Panfilo Lacson said Drilon, who was then finance committee chairman, had offered him P50 million in DAP funds, which he turned down.
Of the 23 senators, Senators Joker Arroyo, Miriam Defensor Santiago and Ferdinand Marcos Jr. did not receive the “private and confidential letter” from Drilon, informing the senators that they could already submit proposals for their infrastructure projects under the DAP.
Abad said the Senate had requested the DAP funds in view of the administration’s tightened regulations on fund releases.
Abad said the DAP releases following Corona’s conviction were not the first issued by the Aquino administration, saying similar releases were made in 2011 to ramp up government spending, which had slowed because of a crackdown of fund leaks.
Abad said in 2012, most releases were made from October to December, based entirely on letters of request submitted by the senators.
In October 2012, the senators who were allocated P50 million each were Antonio Trillanes, Manuel Villar, Ramon Revilla Jr., Loren Legarda, Lito Lapid, Jinggoy Estrada, Alan Peter Cayetano and Edgardo Angara.
Also in October 2012, funds were released to Senators Teofisto Guingona III (P35 million), Francis Pangilinan (P30 million), Ralph Recto (P23 million), Aquilino Pimentel III (P25.5 million), and Vicente Sotto III (P11 million).
They received additional allocations to complete the P50-million allocation, with Recto receiving P27 million in December 2012; Pimentel P5 million in November and P15 million in December; Sotto, P39 million in November; Guingona, P9 million in December.
Senator Sergio Osmena III received P50 million in December.
The biggest allocations were received by then Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, who got P92 million in December 2012 and current Senate President Drilon, P100 million, also in December 2012.
Abad said there were two earlier releases made in late August of that same year to Senators Gregorio Honasan, P50 million; and Francis Escudero, P99 million.
No releases were made in 2012 to Senators Lacson, Arroyo, Pia Cayetano, Marcos and Santiago, Abad said.
In 2013, however, Abad said releases were made for funding requests from the office of Senators Arroyo (February 2013, P47 million) and Pia Cayetano (January 2013, P50 million).
The 24th senator then, Benigno S. Aquino III, was already President, Abad said.
Abad explained that projects such as relocation and road rehabilitation were some of the priorities of the DAP projects.
Drilon said DAP came about after the country’s economists criticized the government for underspending that made the gross domestic product decline by 3.6 percent as against the target of 6.0 to 7.0 percent.
“That’s why the DAP was used to correct this underspending,” Drilon said.
He added that the funds came from savings.
For example, he said, there was retirement fund for those who would have retired under the Miscellaneous Personnel Benefit Fund but did not retire so the unused funds automatically became savings that could be realigned.
Under the unprogrammed funds for 2012, these were sourced from the dividends of the state corporations, he said.
“It would have been a waste just to leave these in the bank,” Drilon said.
Drilon said he used his DAP funds to fund the construction of roads and convention centers in Iloilo, where he comes from, because the province wanted to host the ministerial APEC Summit in 2015.
“This is what we must not forget: was this used properly or pocketed?” he said. “The funds did not go directly to me but to DPWH which implemented the projects in Iloilo.”
Drilon also said the private and confidential memo merely informed senators that the funds were available and that they could submit their proposals.
“My memo simply said please submit projects worth P50 million. There’s nothing wrong with that. Whether the memo was confidential or not, what is important is how the money was used. If the request letter were not approved, then nothing would come of it,” he said.
Drilon also said there was no ceiling on how much the senators could get.
Abad said in 2011, DAP also supported projects like the relocation of families living along dangerous zones (P10 billion) under the National Housing Authority, equity infusion under the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (P10 billion), landowners’ compensation under the Department of Agrarian Reform (P5.4 billion), ARMM comprehensive peace and development program (P8.6 billion), and the augmentation of the internal revenue allotments of local government units (P6.5 billion).
In 2012, Abad said DAP also funded crucial projects like tourism road construction under the departments of Tourism and Public Works (P5 billion), the national government’s share for the Government Service Insurance System-Department of Education premium payments for teachers (P4 billion), Department of Agrarian Reform-Department of Public Works and Highways Tulay ng Pangulo (P1.8 billion), Department of Health-DPWH rehabilitation of regional health units (P1.96 billion), DepEd’s public-private partnership for school infrastructure (P4 billion), and a capital infusion for the central bank (P20 billion).
Abad said to suggest that these funds were used as “bribes is inaccurate at best and irresponsible at worst.” – With Macon Ramos-Araneta