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Money flowed at Corona trial

Joker says P500m in pork last year, P1b more from DAP Contrary to the Palace claims, money flowed at the height of the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona last year, former senator Joker Arroyo said Tuesday. “You can imagine the kind of money that the Department of Budget and Management just tossed around,” said Arroyo, who told a press conference he knew of at least two cash releases before and after the Senate voted to convict Corona, whom President Benigno Aquino III had vowed to remove from office. In April 2012, more than P500 million in Presidential Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or pork barrel was distributed to 11 senators, whom Arroyo did not identify. After the conviction, another P1 billion from the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) was distributed to senators who voted to convict Corona, he said. Senator J.V. Ejercito, who was a congressman last year, admitted that pork barrel was used to win support for Corona’s impeachment. Before the impeachment complaint was circulated for signatures, an emissary from the Palace warned him that his pork barrel would not be released if he did not support the bid to remove the chief justice, Ejercito said. On Monday, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad admitted that millions were disbursed from the DAP to senators and congressmen after the Corona trial, but denied that these were rewards for the magistrate’s ouster. But Arroyo described the DAP as “criminal, illegal and unconstitutional,” noting that even the senators who appropriate the money didn’t know about it. The Budget Department has no business issuing funds from the DAP because it cannot do so without a supporting law, Arroyo said. “DAP involves money so to disburse that, they must have the authority. Nowhere in any of our laws or the General Appropriations Act would it appear that DAP was created at all with the sanction and support of Congress,” he added. He added that nobody knew about the DAP until last week’s revelation that each senator who voted to convict Corona received P50 million in extra funding. “The PDAF has been there for a long time. Whether it’s good or not, whether it’s legal or not, it has been accepted over time... But we have never heard about DAP.” Arroyo raised a howl of protest after Abad said he was among the 20 senators who received pork barrel funds from DAP after Corona’s conviction. Referring apparently to some senators who said they could not remember the disbursements, Arroyo said: “We cannot just forget them. We can’t say there’s nothing.” In a privilege speech last week before Congress adjourned, Senator Jinggoy Estrada, who has been accused of plunder over the alleged misuse of pork barrel, disclosed that each senator who voted to convict Corona received P50 million in extra disbursements. He said the notice for the extra funds came in a “private and confidential letter’ from then Senate finance committee chairman and now Senate President Franklin Drilon. Estrada later admitted to accepting his P50 million allocation. “This has opened a can of worms,” Arroyo said, noting that he was leading “a tranquil life” after serving as senator for 12 years until his name was dragged into the pork barrel mess. Asked about the assertions of presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda that there was enough legal basis for the administration to distribute the savings from various agencies, Arroyo turned acerbic. “I don’t want to entertain anything from him... mahina e (he’s slow). My golly, he is... I thought that he would be educated as time goes by, but no, he’s not progressing!” Dismissing Lacierda’s explanations, Arroyo said DAP should be stopped and those liable for its creation should be charged. “It is a crime releasing money without any legal support,” he said. Arroyo said he didn’t know if the President was involved in the creation of the DAP, but said Abad was his alter ego. “I can’t read the mind of the President. I would be happy if he is not involved,” said Arroyo, who said Mr. Aquino already had his hands full with the territorial dispute with China, the pork barrel scandal, and the fighting in Mindanao. “These are issues that cannot be solved overnight. That is why the idea is to help,” Arroyo said. But he said the people around the President – whom he referred to as “the student council in Malacanang – were not helping Mr. Aquino by perpetuating a system that promotes quarreling and conflict. “Anyone who disagrees with the government is tagged as non-conformist and therefore an enemy of the administration, which is not correct. I think that we should wake up,” he said. Arroyo said he was dragged into the DAP mess because of the P47 million that he requested last year, during the 2013 budget hearings. At the time, he said, he introduced an amendment for seven hospitals and three schools. But he learned later that the amendment, which went through Drilon, was never carried. Drilon on Tuesday said “there was nothing wrong, illegal, or immoral” with his receiving P100 million worth of funding for infrastructure projects under the DAP. He issued the statement in response to a social media post from actor Robin Padilla calling on Drilon to resign. “I think Padilla got it all wrong,” Drilon said. “It’s not like I pocketed P100 million in kickbacks. The DAP allocation is not cold cash and but was merely a list of infrastructure projects recommended by legislators and local government officials to be implemented by the Department of Public Works and Highways.” “We were only asked to list down a number of projects which were immediately implementable at that time in order to accelerate government spending and boost the economy,” Drilon said. “That I admitted receiving P100 million in DAP funds was not like I admitted committing a crime. On the contrary, I was only doing my role in helping prime the economy that was needed at that time.” “The public indignation that we are experiencing now is because of allegations that certain lawmakers pocketed these funds instead of utilizing them for public projects,” Drilon said, adding that his P100 million funding went to the construction of the Iloilo Convention Center. With Joyce Pangco Panares
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