RULING Liberal Party stalwarts Senate President Franklin Drilon, Interior and Local Government Secretary Manuel Roxas II and their allies received the “presidential choice cuts” from the P35.5 billion channeled to legislators through the Disbursement Acceleration Program, opposition lawmakers said Monday.
As early as 2011, DAP funds doled out to Roxas amounted to P1.8 billion for LRT1 and LRT2 while Drilon got P450 million for his pet project Jalaur Dam in Iloilo, said House Deputy Minority
Leader and Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares and his fellow Bayan Muna Rep. Isagani Carlos Zarate.
LP chairman President Aquino himself granted P2 billion to his home province Tarlac out of the DAP funds, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan secretary general Renato Reyes said.
Abakada Rep. Jonathan dela Cruz, a member of the House independent minority bloc, said some P8.2 billion was released to Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao Governor Mujib Hataman, also an LP stalwart.
These disclosures came on eve of Supreme Court deliberations on DAP, parts of which it had already struck down as unconstitutional. The administration, however, has appealed the ruling.
In the House, the committee on justice prepares to vote on whether two impeachment complaints against President Aquino, based on the DAP ruling, are sufficient in substance.
“We want to remind the Supreme Court and House panel members that President Aquino and his lackeys must be held accountable for DAP,” said Reyes, whose Bayan was among the complainants in the impeach-ment proceedings against the President.
The panel, chaired by another LP party whip Iloilo Rep. Niel Tupas Jr., earlier found three impeachment complaints sufficient in form.
“The DAP was really used as a presidential pork barrel by doling out the first and choicest portions of the unconstitutional and illegal funds to close presidential allies like Drilon and Roxas,” Colmenares said.
“Among those projects that were first funded by DAP were the Jalaur Dam in Iloilo and the supposed LRT 1 and 2 rehabilitation, which ran counter to Budget Secretary Florencio Abad’s claim that DAP is used to fund fast-disbursing projects to spur economic growth because these projects are obviously are not,” Colmenares said.
“How can the Jalaur Dam pet project of Senator Drilon be fast disbursing when it would take years to complete?” Colmenares said.
The lawmakers also found the deal “anomalous and illegal.”
They said the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) also questioned the Jalaur Dam deal and pointed out the agreement between the Philippine government and Export-Import Bank of Korea, which would fi-nance the dam with counterpart funds in the Philippines, was signed only on Aug. 9, 2012.
However, the KMP said the Jalaur Dam project was not in the 2011 General Appropriations Act.
“How come that on Dec.21, 2011 or at least seven months before the loan signing, President Aquino already approved the release of P450 million in DAP funds for the dam? It makes a big difference when you are close to the Palace. Even if you don’t have a contract, the Palace will release funds for your project right away,” Colmenares said.
Zarate pointed to the LRT Lines 1 and 2 Rehabilitation Projects funded under the DAP under then Transportation and Communications Secretary Roxas.
“LRT Lines 1 and 2 Rehabilitation are the very first projects funded under this illegal program. It was allotted P1.8 billion in October 2011, and almost three years have passed already but the project is not yet com-plete,” Zarate said.
Only about 40 percent of the fund or P889 million has been disbursed, Zarate said.
“Clearly, Secretary Abad is lying before us on national television. This, despite it being not appropriated in the 2011 GAA and the LRT commuters still suffer the same fate every day when they ride the LRT,” Zarate said.
Zarate also chided Drilon for acting as if it was just fine for Abad to violate the law for saying that, “Even assuming that the Supreme Court says that that is not savings, what you only violated is the GAA and not the Constitution.”
“For a Senate President to act like that is unparliamentary. He should have at least chided the DBM for violating the GAA. It is as if the Senate President willingly acted in complicity with the DBM for violating the GAA,” Zarate said.
“It is no wonder that Senator Drilon was the one coaching Secretary Abad during the DAP Senate hearing and that President Aquino’s Cabinet secretaries were there to defend the DAP because many of them were the ones who got the funds,” Colmenares said.
Reyes said apart from President Aquino’s P2-billion road projects in Tarlac, some P17.3 billion in DAP funds also went to various local projects for legislators, mostly allies, and P6.5 billion DILG support for local government units.
“The One More Term for PNoy call intensified just when the DAP ruling came out and the impeachment complaints were filed. It was meant to divert the public’s attention away from DAP and the President’s im-peachable offenses. The issue remains Aquino’s abuse of power and corruption,” said Reyes, whose group used the illegal DAP as ground to impeach the President.
“These are the same issues that render any talk of a term extension ludicrous. The impeachment aims to bring out the issues related to DAP. Aquino must be required to answer the serious allegations leveled against him,” Reyes said.
As this developed, Dela Cruz castigated Commission on Audit chairman Grace Pulido-Tan for not conducting any probe on the DAP.
Pulido-Tan appeared before the House committee on appropriations last night and admitted there was no official probe being conducted on the DAP.
“Up to now, the COA has not conducted any probe on the DAP-funded projects. We demand that the audit be made and COA must provide Congress with the list of recipient-agencies and the projects supposed to have been funded by the DAP,” Dela Cruz said.
Lawmakers dared Aad to account fo the P1 billion in DAP funds allotted to Aquino allies, including Drilon.
At the same time, House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte, Jr. said it is incumbent upon beneficiaries of the DAP to explain how their allocations were spent.
Dela Cruz urged Drilon to come forward and explain reports accusing him of receiving P1 billion in DAP funding.
He also scored Abad for his continued failure to account for the DAP funds.
“Up to now, there has been no report from the DBM and the COA which are the agencies involved in the implementation... We should not let this pass as if nothing happened, we are talking of billions of pesos here, not peanuts,” Dela Cruz said.
Though he did not name Drilon, United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) Secretary General Toby Tiangco asked Abad to verify the information that one senator reportedly got over P1 billion from DAP.
Tiangco said he believes that LP lawmakers, including the senator, received bigger slices of the DAP pie than those from other political parties.
Zarate said reports that allies of the Aquino administration benefitted most from DAP was “all about pump-priming the porcine concerns of President Aquino’s partym ates and allies.”
He said Drilon should address the accusation, saying his failure would “explain his apparent lawyering for Secretary Abad during the Senate hearings.”
Quezon City Rep. Jorge Banal, on the other hand, appealed to the administration critics not to cast doubts or malice on the projects undertaken in Iloilo, or any other part of the country.
“These went through the proper accounting and auditing procedures. The DBM has been very transparent in providing funding details of all the projects implemented by the Aquino administration,” Banal said.
In the last budget briefing, Abad said it would take time to match letter requests from lawmakers for DAP funding with actual projects.
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