Abad tells SC: DAP wasn't used to oust Corona

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Tuesday, January 28, 2014

BUDGET Secretary Florencio Abad maintained on Tuesday that government money, through the controversial Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), was not spent to persuade senators to oust former Chief Justice Renato Corona in May 2012.

Responding to a query by Associate Justice Lucas Bersamin, Abad said at the oral argument that no money changed hands because senators were only asked to recommend projects to be funded by the DAP.

"Sometimes, your honor, we are not correctly quoted in the reports. Those releases were not given to the senators. What happened there was that the senators made recommendations to the President to augment certain items that are deficient in the budgets of certain appropriations for certain projects,” he said.

The DAP has come under fire after Senator Jinggoy Estrada revealed in a privilege speech last September that some members of the Senate and the House of Representatives received millions of pesos from the DAP as incentives for voting in favor of Corona’s impeachment for not fully disclosing his cash assets.

Created by the Aquino administration in 2011, the DAP is aimed to pump prime the economy saddled by state underspending.

Abad told the Court that increased spending contributed "significantly" to the growth of the gross domestic product (GDP), which averaged 7.4 percent in the first three quarters of 2013.

Having achieved its purpose, Abad and Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza said the administration's economic managers have already recommended the DAP's termination to President Benigno Aquino III.

He also told Associate Justice Marvic Leonen that the proposed termination was not influenced by the pending issue on DAP's constitutionality.

"DAP as a program no longer exists, thereby mooting these present cases that challenge its constitutionality. Any constitutional challenge should no longer be at the level of the program, which is now extinct, but at the level of its prior applications or the specific disbursements under this now defunct policy," said Jardeleza.

Petitioners claimed that DAP is unconstitutional since no law was passed by Congress that sanctions its appropriation and disbursement, the so-called "savings" were allegedly taken from slow-moving projects which were not yet completed or performed and it was and is being used to augment new budget allocations not approved by the legislature.

But Jardeleza said there were actual savings which Aquino authorized to augment existing items in the national budget. The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) submitted to the SC a list of 116 DAP-identified and approved projects.

These include Doppler radars in weather forecasting, 3D maps in flood forecasting, payment of GSIS benefits for 93,500 public school teachers, electrification of 2,245 sitios and construction of nearly 40,000 classrooms.

DAP disbursements from October 12, 2011 to September 26, 2013 amounted to P149.25 billion, according to the DBM.

Jardeleza agreed with Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio that the President can only augment existing items in the national budget.

He also clarified that the President does not wield the power of the purse, which belongs to Congress, for re-aligning savings even during the middle of the year.

"We submit that it is not only on the 10th or 11th month that there can be abandonment of a project (as basis for incurring savings)," the Solicitor General said.

Congress will explain its position in the next hearing on February 18. (Virgil Lopez/Sunnex)

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