Santiago: Why was DAP kept secret?

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Friday, February 21, 2014

SENATOR Miriam Defensor-Santiago, one of the three senator-judges who voted to acquit ousted Chief Justice Renato Corona, questioned why the controversial Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) was kept secret during the impeachment trial.

"I was completely clueless about the DAP while we were struggling with the legal technicalities during the impeachment trial. We didn't know that some of us have received money or about to receive money, or were receiving it during those proceedings. The mere fact that there was no notice or information already raises a very red flag against the DAP. Why was it kept so secret?" Santiago said.

The senator made the reaction following a newspaper report that four senators received a total of P370 million in DAP funds during the impeachment trial of Corona. They were Senators Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr., Jinggoy Estrada, Ramon "Bong" Revilla Jr., and Vicente "Tito" Sotto III.

"Why couldn't they tell me, for example, or other senators also in the same situation? Why was the information withheld?" Santiago added.

Secretary Florencio "Butch" Abad Jr. had explained that the DAP was designed by the Department of Budget and Management to "ramp up spending and help accelerate economic expansion."

DAP funds however have been touted as bribes or rewards to senator-judges who voted for Corona's conviction. It was Estrada who disclosed in a privilege speech that several senators were given at least P50 million in discretionary funds on top of their Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) allocation.

Marcos called the reports linking him to the DAP funds as "rehashed."

"I did not receive any DAP fund. And if it was indeed a bribe to secure the conviction of Corona, it was illogical for me to be rewarded with the DAP funds because I voted to acquit him," the senator said.

Most of the senators received their DAP releases for several projects from October to December 2012, months after Corona was convicted for betrayal of public trust and culpable violation of the Constitution by the Senate.

Santiago said the DAP can only be considered as bribes if the amount of money was enough to change the decision of the senator-judge.

"Certain senators like me had no inkling that this was taking place. Now, they are arguing whether it was given before, during or after the impeachment. That is not the test for whether there has been bribery. The test for bribery is this: whether the amount given—whether before, during or after that time—whether that amount was sufficient for that person to change his mind. That is the test for bribery," she explained.

"We are all required, sitting as trial judges, to keep an open mind, and keep the cold neutrality of an impartial judge. But if that amount is sufficient to remove that cold impartiality, then it is a bribe," the senator added.

The Supreme Court has yet to rule on petitions questioning the legality of the DAP. (Sunnex)

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