BARELY five months into his term in 2010, President Benigno Aquino III was already impounding P72 billion from projects approved by his predecessor and declaring them as savings, laying the basis for his illegal Disbursement Acceleration Program, leftist critics said Sunday.
The rescinding of these contracts and the discontinuance of “slow-moving” projects resulted in underspending, but the Aquino administration waited two years to realign the funds outside the national budget to justify the creation of the DAP, the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan said Sunday.
“It was the Aquino government that created the conditions of underspending as early as 2010 by not releasing appropriations, letting the problem persist till 2011, so they will have a reason for introducing a stimulus program called DAP. It would address the underspending they themselves created. By this time, huge funds would already be centralized under the President. If such were the case, that would be bad faith,” said Bayan Secretary General Renato Reyes.
“By October 2011, Aquino had wide discretion over P72.1 billion in DAP funds which he could appropriate for projects not found in the national budget and for augmentation of the special purpose funds like PDAF or the Priority Development Assistance Fund,” he said.
He said the administration’s use of the P12.336 billion unprogrammed funds from 2010 would be a violation of the law based on the Supreme Court ruling.
“The same goes for the so-called P21.544 billion savings from 2010,” Reyes said.
Another P12.336 billion from the 2010 unprogrammed funds would be added to what would become the DAP of October 2011, he said.
The President also added P30 billion in unreleased personal services appropriations for 2011, and P482 million in unreleased appropriations for “slow-moving” and discontinued projects to the DAP.
Another P7.7 billion for realignment within agencies was included in the funds under the control of the President, said Reyes, whose group successfully petitioned the Supreme Court o declare DAP unconstitutional.
“The Supreme Court said that obligated funds for slow moving projects, and projects not up for final discontinuance cannot be declared as savings,” Reyes said.
“Savings can only be generated if the projects have been completed or if the projects are finally discontinued or abandoned,” Reyes added, citing the Supreme Court ruling.
The Court also said unprogrammed funds cannot be used in the absence of certification by the national treasurer that the revenue collections for the period exceeded the “total of the revenue targets,” Reyes said.
Two memos – dated Oct. 12, 2011 and Dec. 12, 2011—showed that the President and Budget Secretary Florencio Abad set out to violate the Constitution through their declaration of savings and realignment of funds not found in the General Appropriations Act.
One memo states that the “savings” were intended to “provide for new activities which have not been anticipated during the preparation of the budget” and to “provide for deficiencies under the Special Purpose Funds, e.g. PDAF, Calamity Fund and Contingent Fund.”
Projects approved for this period include the controversial PDAF augmentation for various local projects amounting to P6.5 billion as well as the P6.5 billion local government unit support fund, Reyes said.
He said P1.88 billion in DAP funds disbursed to the 188 lawmakers who signed the impeachment complaint against then Chief Justice Renato Corona and the P1.1 billion given to 20 senators who voted to convict him were part of the P6.5 billion augmentation for PDAF or pork barrel.
Reyes said Bayan believed that the documents submitted by the Budget Department to the Supreme Court will be important pieces of evidence in the impeachment complaint that the group, along with the Kabataan party-list group and others in the leftwing bloc of the House hope to file before July 28, when the President delivers his 5th State-of-the-Nation Address.
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