Senators challenge critics to review use of legislators’ DAP fund

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Thursday, July 3, 2014

SENATORS defended the political attack against the controversial Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) after the Supreme Court declared some of its provisions as unconstitutional.

Senate President Franklin Drilon challenged those questioning DAP funds distributed among senators to check where the legislators have allocated the funds.

"They can check the allocation of these funds. Hindi po ito cash amount na ipinagkaloob ng ating Pangulo kundi alokasyon sa mga gagamitin na proyekto ng sinuman sa amin at ito po ay may kaakibat na paliwanag." Drilon clarified.

"There is no fund misuse in DAP," the Senate Chief assured.

Senator Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III said returning DAP is impossible since it has already been allocated to programs and projects.

"The Commission on Audit can check where it went. Legislators can explain where it has been distributed," Pimentel said.

Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, for his part, said it is in good faith that President Benigno Aquino III gave DAP to each of them.

Trillanes also denied that it was a bribe.

"If it was a bribe how come it was given six months after. Sana kung totoong bribe 'yan, bago pa lamang magdesisyon ang mga senador para masigurong may influence sila dahil natanggap na agad so we can say na may control ang Malakanyang. But there is no such thing," Trillanes said.

Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto said although it is right that government must abide by the decision of the Supreme Court, one cannot actually say that "it was a stolen money."

"To the credit of this administration, it is no longer doing any and all acts the Supreme Court has struck down as unconstitutional. These practices have long been abandoned. These violations are not in progress but have long been unilaterally terminated by the government," he said.

"There could have been an oversight in the way the funds were released but I am sure that by and large they were properly spent. Remember that there is no allegation that they were stolen. The debate was on the process followed. The discussion centered on the means rather than the end," Recto said.

Recto also said that the Aquino administration has already terminated DAP even before the Supreme Court declared it unconstitutional.

Senator Sergio Osmena III said he did not spend a single centavo of his P200 million Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) in 2013 so there is no way he will spend even the extra PDAF or DAP.

Senator Francis Escudero who admitted receiving one of the biggest DAP funds said the books are open to the public and his DAP can be scrutinized by those who are questioning his integrity.

Escudero who chairs the Senate committee on finance said the decision of the Supreme Court will definitely affect the government budgeting in the future.

For his part, detained Senator Jose "Jinggoy" Ejercito Estrada reiterated his earlier pronouncement that the Commission on Audit (COA) may not be the best body to look into the DAP releases.

Estrada, whose privilege speech put the DAP in the spotlight, brought up the option of an independent body composed of esteemed personalities from the academe, mass media, retired justices, private auditors, among others to probe and audit the releases made under the DAP.

Estrada said although the COA is constitutionally mandated to examine and settle all accounts of the government, its findings will be suspect and will be regarded with partiality as the commission is also a recipient of DAP funds.

Estrada recalled that during his interrogation of the 2014 budget for the COA, chairman Grace Pulido-Tan admitted that they requested and received funds from the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to finance the modernization program of the commission.

Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago said the Department of Budget and Management encroached on Congress' budget powers through the DAP.

Santiago said this is the right time for Congress to consider passing her Senate Bill 404 or the Budget Impounding Control Bill, which seeks to require the President to ask for Congress' approval before impounding government funds.

It was reported that no less than Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales also disclosed her intention to start a probe on the DAP funds releases.

Morales disclosed that she will create a panel of field investigators to look into the DAP transactions to see if any crime or offense has been committed by involved public officials.

"In light of the Supreme Court's Decision on the DAP case, we are initiating an investigation into the matter," Morales said.

Under Republic Act (RA) 6770 (Ombudsman Act of 1989), the Ombudsman may, motu proprio (on its own) or even without a lodged complaint, initiate an investigation "any act or omission of any public officer or employee, office or agency, when such act or omission appears to be illegal, unjust, improper or inefficient."

The law also grants the Ombudsman the power to investigate any serious misconduct in office allegedly committed by impeachable officers, but only for the purpose of filing a verified complaint for impeachment, if warranted.

At least 20 senators have received the said DAP released by Malacañang during the height of the impeachment of former Chief Justice Renato Corona. (Camille P. Balagtas/Sunnex)

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