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Abad keeps DAP project list secret

Cites SC order to break vow of full disclosure
THE Palace on Sunday refused to release a list of projects funded by its Disbursement Acceleration Program after vowing transparency in the way it used the P137.3 billion it had realigned from various government agencies.

In an interview on Sunday, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad said because of the pending case questioning the legality of the DAP before the Supreme Court, the Palace can no longer keep its promise to make a full disclosure of DAP-funded projects.

Upon advise of our lawyers, we will not release any documents until after the oral arguments on Dec. 10 and the Supreme Court proceedings on DAP,” Abad said.

Abad said the decision to withhold information on the funding mechanism—of which nine percent or about P12.357 billion was released to projects identified by legislators—was reached “in deference to the Supreme Court.”

The budget chief, however, could not give a categorical answer if a full disclosure can be expected once the Supreme Court rules on the legality of the DAP.

“I will have to defer to our lawyers on that,” Abad said.

The leftist Bagong Alyansang Makabayan immediately attacked the Palace for its “height of hypocrisy” in hiding behind the Supreme Court.

“It’s hypocritical. The President can cite projects funded by DAP in his primetime speech when he wants to defend DAP but now the government won’t release data on DAP?” Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes said.

“Abad’s argument would be ridiculous since the President spoke about DAP on primetime even if there was a pending Supreme Court case. So they cannot invoke sub judice,” Reyes added.

The controversial funding mechanism once again made headlines last week after Senator Jinggoy Estrada questioned the DAP-funded purchase of new vehicles for the Commission on Audit.

Estrada said the purchase of service vehicles was not aligned with the intention of the government to use DAP to pump prime the economy.

In an interview in Bali, Indonesia in October, the President admitted that some of DAP funds released to projects identified by senators and congressmen might have been misused.

Presidential Communications Development Secretary Ramon Carandang said this prompted the Palace to suspended the DAP releases to lawmakers sometime before July, coinciding with the suspension of the release of the second semester pork barrel.

“I think it’s very clear that there is a problem. The Commission on Audit is looking into it,” Carandang said at the time.

“In the light of these reports that are coming out, the responsible thing to do is to suspend that portion of program, which has been seen to have had some questionable benefits. That’s the prudent thing to do,” Carandang added.

Carandang also promised that heads of implementing agencies would come out with a list of the projects funded by DAP to prove the positive outcome of the mechanism.

Around the same time Carandang made the announcement in Bali, presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda in Manila also assured the public that the government would identify which supposedly fast-disbursing projects did not push through, such as the acquisition of new coaches for the Metro Rail Transit-3 costing P4.5 billion.

Other big ticket items that were covered by DAP funds include P1.68 billion for the rehabilitation of LRT-1 and LRT-2; P10 billion to relocate and resettle communities in identified danger areas that have

been repeatedly affected by a string of typhoons and other disasters; P1 billion for housing projects for Bureau of Fire Protection and Bureau of Jail Management and Penology personnel; P2.28 billion for incentives of personnel of the Department of Public Works and Highways affected by the rationalization program; and P4.28 billion in additional funding for state colleges and universities.

A Court insider earlier said the Supreme Court justices who voted unanimously to bar legislative pork barrel remained divided over the legality of the DAP.

But because most justices agreed that the Priority Development Assistance Fund or pork barrel constituted lump sum funds, there is a strong possibility that they will strike down the DAP as well, the source said.

The Palace, however, said President Benigno Aquino III is prepared to face any impeachment case that may be filed by lawmakers if the Supreme Court rules that the DAP is illegal and unconstitutional.

“If lawmakers plan to do that (file an impeachment case), that is within their right to do so. The government will just face squarely whatever our lawmakers plan to do...The President is prepared to face it (impeachment case) if it comes to that,” Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma said.

But Coloma maintained that the actions Aquino took in implementing the DAP were both legally and constitutionally correct.

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