THE Palace released P78.38 billion from the Disbursement Acceleration Program over a period of three months that coincided with the impeachment of Chief Justice Renato Corona, with senators who sat as judges in his trial and lawmakers who acted as prosecutors getting huge sums for undisclosed projects, Navotas Rep. Toby Tiangco said Tuesday.
On the first day of the plenary debate on the P2.6 trillion national budget for 2015, Tiangco also questioned the quorum, after Budget Secretary Florencio Abad refused to submit to Congress a list containing the names of lawmakers who received a total of P10.08 billion from the DAP.
Sensing that the House could not muster the 148 members needed for a quorum, Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. prevailed upon Abad to release the document to prevent further delays.
There were fewer than 50 congressmen who were physically present at the session hall when Tiangco questioned the quorum at 2:45 p.m.
But Tiangco pressed Abad for an “unsanitized” list after he saw that the 138-page document showing projects granted to lawmakers were lacking in detail, and labeled simply as “various infrastructure and local projects (VILP).”
Based on the document, the lawmakers started receiving their DAP allocations without the corresponding details of where the money went two days before Corona was impeached by the House on Dec. 12, 2011, the same day that the Senate convened itself into an impeachment court.
Senator Pia Cayetano, who vehemently denied she had received DAP funds, started receiving her DAP-SAROs or special allotment release order on Dec. 9, 2011 or two days before Corona was impeached.
On that day alone, Pia Cayetano received 13 SAROs with corresponding amounts from a low of P1 million to a high of P10 million for a total of P33 million and some P10 million a month before the impeachment on Nov. 9 for a “solid waste management” project.
Most of the senator-judges also received their SAROs under VILP on Dec. 11, Dec. 13 and Dec. 22, 2011.
On Dec. 13, 2011 alone, Senator Antonio Trillanes received 36 SAROs from a low of P250,000 to a high of P7 million totaling P73.31 million.
Also on Dec. 13, 2011, Senator Aquilino Pimentel III received five SAROs totaling to P90 million, then Senate President and Presiding Senator-Judge Juan Ponce Enrile got five SAROs amounting to P35 million, Senator Serge Osmena III got five SAROs at P100 million and Senator Alan Peter Cayetano received three SAROs worth P44.5 million.
Alan Peter Cayetano also received a separate P5 million SARO for the Crime Laboratory of the Philippine National Police and another P5 million for financial assistance and scholarship, both on Dec. 9, 2011.
On Dec. 8, 2011, then lead prosecutor Iloilo Rep. Niel Tupas Jr. received a DAP SARO worth P15 million.
His fellow prosecutors and other impeachment complainants were given P10 million each.
On Dec. 21, 2011, then senator-judge turned Senate President Franklin Drilon received a single SARO at P10 million under VILP.
Belmonte received a single SARO on Dec. 22, 2011 amounting to P95.1 million.
Senator-judges Ferdinand Marcos Jr., Ramon Revilla Jr. and Jinggoy Estrada were listed to have been given P100 million each in VILP projects but the funds were reported to have been withdrawn by the Department of Budget and Management.
Tiangco also protested that some names of the senators and congressmen were omitted from the list, leaving some entries in blank.
At least seven entries under the VILP were unnamed and these were released on Dec. 13 and Dec. 22 in 2011.
The entries carried the SARO numbers but without the accompanying identities of the lawmaker-recipients with each SARO amounting to P22 million, P5 million, P4 million and P37 million, all released on Dec. 13, the day after the impeachment court was convened, and P3 million, P20 million and another P20 million on Dec. 22, 2011.
The blank entries totaled P112 million.
From Oct. 20, 2011 to Dec. 22, 2011, the release of funds for VILP under the Department of Public Works and Highways amounted to P1.16 billion. Some P2.68 billion was released for public-private partnership projects, and P6.5 billion was released for local government units support fund. VILP releases for lawmakers amounted to P2.75 billion.
Three years after the money had been disbursed, the output of most of these projects remains unknown because the recipients had failed to report back on whether or not the projects had been implemented.
The DBM included a note on every SARO entry that said: “The funds were released to the LGU for implementation. We requested the LGU to submit a status report of the project implementation. As of this time, we have not received their report.”
President Benigno Aquino III approved and released the DAP funds in six tranches.
In 2011, the President approved the DAP in two tranches – some P67.38 billion on Oct. 12 and P11 billion on Dec. 21.
There were three releases in 2012 – P21.21 billion on June 27, P2.73 billion on Sept. 5 and P33. 07 on Dec. 21.
There was only a single release of the DAP in 2013 amounting to P8.96 billion in June 14.
The six DAP fund releases amounted to P144.378 billion.
Tiangco was incensed that Abad’s cover letter tossed the responsibility for verifying the implementation of projects to Congress.
“Mr. Speaker, to the best that we could, we are providing you with information of projects endorsed by legislators funded under Over-all Savings released through the DAP. But it will be prudent, as we intend to release these information to the public, that your office validate these with the records of the committee of the appropriations and members of the House who are listed as endorsers of the projects,” Abad said in his cover letter to Belmonte dated Sept. 15.
“The DAP list raised more questions than answers. Where did the P10.08 billion go?” asked Tiangco, also United Nationalist Alliance secretary general, who prodded Abad last Aug. 6 to submit to Congress the list of lawmakers who benefited from the DAP.
“Abad showed up totally unprepared,” Tiangco said.
The interpellation started around 7:30 p.m. but Tiangco said he already noticed that something was not right with the documents provided by the DBM.
“It was supposed to be a copy of the DBM, but when I started the interpellation, the pages of my copy and their copy were shockingly not the same. And then I started questioning line by line the items, and saw that the names of the legislators were omitted in each item,” he added.
“I asked Secretary Abad for all the letter-requests of legislators, the status reports of the projects and all the necessary details wherein we can see the amount per legislator. A deficient and incomplete report is unacceptable in this day and age of computers,” he said.
“Where is the P10.08 billion DAP given to congressmen and senators? This report looks sanitized. Where is the list of names of the congressmen and senators?” Tiangco demanded.
Davao City Rep. Isidro Ungab, chairman of the House committee on appropriations, stood as sponsor for the general appropriations bill and answered questions raised by the congressmen on behalf of Abad.
Abad admitted in a statement released last year that congressmen and senators received funds from DAP amounting to P11 billion from October to December 2012.
The session was delayed anew after Abad refused to give out more details until Tiangco agreed to give him more time, despite his earlier assurances that he would submit the complete records before 8 p.m. Wednesday.
The marathon session was suspended past 10 p.m. on Monday with fewer than 20 congressmen physically present at the session hall. It resumed at 10 a.m. Tuesday.
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