SENATORS and congressmen received some 857 of the 1,016 SAROs or special allotment release orders for P150.6 billion in pork barrel projects funded under the Disbursement Acceleration Program, Palace documents show.
“Eight in 10 SAROs were pork for lawmakers,” said Bagong Alyansang Makabayan secretary general Renato Reyes Jr.
“Having that many SAROs proves beyond any doubt that DAP is pork. It is presidential pork used to undermine the separation of powers of the legislative and executive and the system of checks and balances in our Constitution,” said Reyes, whose group is expected to file an impeachment complaint against President Benigno Aquino III Monday.
“If 80 percent of the DAP funds went to pork barrel, then it was not really meant to pump prime the economy but to buy the loyalty of the lawmakers,” said Navotas Rep. Toby Tiangco, United Nationalist Alliance secretary general.
Reyes said if the DAP funds were used to stimulate the economy as Malacañang consistently claimed, “then it had served another purpose – it stimulated and whetted the lawmakers’ appetite for more pork and corruption to do Malacanang’s bidding.”
Senator Francis Escudero, chairman of the Senate committee on finance that deliberates on the national budget, said Budget Secretary Florencio Abad submitted to his panel the DAP documents but that these were incomplete.
Escudero said the panel, through a letter, had asked Abad to produce the SAROs funded by DAP but that Abad failed to comply with the request.
“If Secretary Abad would not bring the DAP-funded SAROs during the hearing, the panel has no choice but to subpoena these documents,” Escudero told the Manila Standard.
In seven memorandums for the President, Abad sought the “omnibus authority” to pool savings covering three fiscal years to bankroll projects under DAP funds that would be sourced from sequestered projects deemed by Abad as “slow-moving.”
The President approved the impoundment of funds.
The amount of the SAROs ranged from P50,000 (scholarship fund in one school) to P490 million, which was the amount in one SARO released to the Department of Public Works and Highways.
One of the SARO documents show a P230 million budget released to the National Dairy Administration in 2011 and P300 million for the National Electrification Administration, which were reported as part of the House’s impeachment initiatives.
Each of the 188 congressmen who signed the impeachment complaint against then Chief Justice Renato Corona received P5 million to P10 million in DAP funds for the dairy feeding program.
Each senator who voted to convict Corona was given some P50 million to P100 million with then finance committee chairman and now Senate President Franklin Drilon getting the biggest at P100 million before, during and after the impeachment trial.
For the past three years, including last year when President Aquino announced on national television that he had the lawmakers’ pork barrel funds or lump sum Priority Development Assistance Fund abolished, most of the SAROs of congressmen were earmarked for hospitals, colleges, and Department of Social Welfare and Development facilities for the poor.
There were SAROs released under “Various Infrastructure Including Local Roads” containing large amounts that were issued to DPWH. The “various” were not itemized in the Palace list or on the DBM website.
There was SARO E-11-02262 for P1.050 billion allocated for farm-to-market road projects whose construction was transferred by the Department of Agriculture to DPWH.
The releases covered three fiscal years – 2011, 2012, 2013.
This was reflected in SARO numbering. A SARO’s number contains the letters from A to F, representing the DBM bureau which released it, followed by the year released- 11, 12, 13--and then the five-digit SARO number.
For example, the P1.819 billion released for Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process in 2011 bore SARO number C-11-01476.
A SARO is defined as a specific authority issued to identified agencies to incur obligations not exceeding a given amount during a specified period for the purpose indicated.
SAROs from DAP included those issued to National Livelihood Development Corp. upon the behest of senators.
These SAROs eventually ended up in the non-government organizations owned and run by pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles, who along with three opposition senators, is facing plunder and graft charges before the Sandiganbayan.
There was one SARO for P100 million released to Technology and Livelihood Resource Center.
Big-ticket releases made pursuant to the Abad-Aquino exchange of memoranda were in the SARO list. These include P30 billion in Bangko Sentral capital infusion that was released in three SAROs.
A single SARO was released for P10.95 billion for the relocation of squatters in Metro Manila, the P3.46 billion for settlement of GSIS premium arrears and the P1.26 billion for three NIA irrigation projects.
Reyes and the private think-tank Ibon Foundation, said at least P17.3 billion in DAP funds was given a PDAF-type funding to bankroll “priority local projects nationwide requested by legislators, local government officials and national agencies.”
Reyes said there were three allotment releases for these in the amounts of P6.5 billion (approved by the Office of the President on Oct. 12, 2011), P8.1 billion (June 27, 2012) and P2.8 billion (Dec. 21, 2012).
Ibon also alleged that at least P30.7 billion worth of large lump-sum items were also approved, including P10.1 billion for ambiguously titled “various infrastructure projects”, “various local projects” and “various priority projects” or simply “various” especially by the DPWH; P7.8 billion to local government units for “LGU support fund”, “performance challenge fund”, and “development assistance” to Quezon province; and P10.9 billion for supposedly peace and development-related projects.
“These funds need to be itemized on a per SARO basis,” Reyes said.