LAWMAKERS on Sunday tagged Senate President Franklin Drilon as having cornered some P1 billion from the Disbursement Acceleration Program for pet projects in his home province.
Drilon’s P1 billion was the biggest allocation out of the total P10.08 billion in DAP funds that went to lawmakers, mostly to President Benigno Aquino III’s party mates in the ruling Liberal Party, said Reps. Jonathan dela Cruz of Abakada and Toby Tiangco of Navotas.
Tiangco declined to identify the senator who received the P1 billion allocation but De la Cruz had no such qualms.
“It’s Drilon. Who else?” he said, then gave a breakdown of the P1 billion.
Drilon’s chief of staff, Reynaldo Bantug, shrugged off Tiangco and De la Cruz’s revelation, saying there was “nothing to react to.”
He earlier said that except for Senator Panfilo Lacson, all senators availed of the DAP funds, which he said was separate from their Priority Development Assistance Fund of pork barrel.
But Tiangco said Budget Secretary Florencio Abad was having a hard time releasing the list of lawmakers who received DAP funding because the list would show that one senator, Liberal party members and allies received the biggest allocations.
“Secretary Abad finds it difficult to make public the list because of this huge amount released to this senator, who is a very close Palace ally,” Tiangco said.
Of the P1 billion DAP, Dela Cruz said Drilon got P450 million allocation for Jalaur Dam project, P150 million for the Iloilo River Development Program and P100 million for Iloilo Convention Center, all located in Drilon’s home province of Iloilo.
The rest of the funds went to “other infrastructure or various projects,” Dela Cruz said.
“We wanted to verify the information we received that one senator reportedly got over P1 billion from DAP. That’s why it is important that the list Secretary Abad will be presenting anytime this month before the finance committee should reflect every peso requested by lawmakers,” Tiangco said.
Dela Cruz demanded that the authors of the DAP explain why the DAP funds were coursed through lawmakers when the supposed objective of the DAP was as an “economic stimulus package.”
“Why were these Jalaur Dam, convention center and development projects in Iloilo not subjected to close scrutiny of Congress? Why did the DBM release P1 billion to Drilon in a post-enacted budget?” Dela Cruz told the Manila Standard.
“During the hearing in the House, Abad admitted that some P10.08 billion of the P143-billion in DAP funds went to lawmakers. This P10.08 billion was bigger than the P10-billion pork barrel scandal involving (Janet Lim) Napoles. The P143 billion is way, way bigger than the pork barrel scam and the DAP authors get away with the crime? The Palace better explain and unmask the masterminds behind the DAP scandal,” Dela Cruz said.
Dela Cruz said he believes the DAP funds were not only used for political patronage but to make other quasi-judicial body such as the Commission on Elections and Commission on Audit beholden to the Palace.
“Up to now, the Palace could not explain why COA was given P143 million in DAP funds for its equipment and cars of its officials. How would those service cars accelerate the economy?” Dela Cruz said.
“Why did the government shell out P2 billion to the Philippine Deposit Insurance Corp. to pay the SGS? Why did the government grant Home Guaranty Corp. some P1.2 billion for the payment of air rights of the Philippine National Railways? All using funds that did not pass congressional scrutiny,” said Dela Cruz, a member of the House independent minority bloc.
Tiangco said he believes that LP lawmakers received bigger slices of the DAP compared to their counterparts in other political parties.
Tiangco added that Abad himself had admitted that senators were given from P50 million to P100 million and congressmen received funding of between P5 million and p10 million.
Drilon admitted having received the highest allocation among the senators at P100 million.
“The DAP funds were released to lawmakers before, during and after the impeachment trial of then Chief Justice Renato Corona and those who got them were those who signed the impeachment complaint and those who voted to convict Corona,” Tiangco told the Manila Standard.
There were 188 congressmen who signed the impeachment complaint while 20 senators voted to convict.
The three senators – Joker Arroyo, Ferdinand Marcos and Miriam Defensor Santiago – who voted to acquit, said they did not receive the DAP funds.
Dela Cruz and Tiangco again pressed Abad to produce the list of lawmakers who received funds from the DAP, parts of which were declared by the Supreme Court as unconstitutional.
In a letter to Abad, Tiangco demanded that the DBM submit to Congress copies of all letters the agency received in relation to the P10.08 billion DAP funds released to legislators.
“It is important that Secretary Abad release the original or true copy of the letter-request so that we can all see, and it should not be a sanitized list,” Tiangco said.
During the August 6 budget briefing in Congress, Abad promised to “go back to the letters sent by legislators to determine the particular projects nominated by each legislator.”
Tiangco said “since the letters are the basis for determining the nature and amounts of the projects that went to each legislator, Abad should include all of the letter requests sent by each legislator.
Tiangco also requested Abad to submit an itemized list of the releases of funds under the DAP that were coursed through senators and congressmen, the number and date of the Special Allotment Release Order (SARO), and the amount per legislator and implementing agencies.
Based on the transcript of the budget briefing, he said, Abad promised to do so and promised to make the submission before the start of the budget deliberations in the plenary.
In his Aug. 26 letter to Abad, Tiangco requested a more detailed report on the DAP funds that benefited projects of select members of Congress.
“Secretary Abad should be able to submit all the letter-requests of legislators with all the necessary details,” he said.
In the last budget briefing, Abad said “it would take time to match” the letter recommendations of lawmakers, and said it was possible that not all the requests were accommodated.
“Abad should already come clean and produce the DAP list involving lawmakers,” Dela Cruz demanded.
Also on Sunday, former senator Joker Arroyo told radio dzBB that President Benigno Aquino III should expel all those who were responsible for the DAP.
“That would be a good legacy,” said Arroyo who noted that up to now, nobody had been punished for the DAP, parts of which were declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.
“He tolerated it. That’s the worse that can be said—he tolerated it. And until now, he has not punished anyone,” Arroyo said. – With Macon Ramos-Araneta
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