Cayetano: DAP an honest mistake

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Tuesday, July 8, 2014

(UPDATED) SENATOR Alan Peter Cayetano on Tuesday came to the defense of Malacanang amid the recent decision of the Supreme Court declaring specific acts under the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) unconstitutional.

“Malacanang lost in the sense that mali na na-augment nang walang item sa budget, mali na i-consider ito na savings na hindi pa nagagastos... But it shows that democracy is alive, it shows checks and balances, it shows the respect of the President sa Supreme Court, kaya dapat sundin natin ang desisyon ng Supreme Court,” the senator said as he welcomed the SC's decision on DAP.

"Although Malacanang lost the battle, I think they have won the war," he added.

The President Benigno Aquino III and Budget Secretary Florencio Abad have earlier defended the controversial initiative, saying it was necessary to fast-track growth in the economy.

But this was criticized by SC justices who pointed out that the cross-border transfer of funds from one government branch to another was not allowed in the Constitution.

Following the SC decision, several groups have expressed their dismay over the President and the budget chief for implementing the stimulus fund.

Some advocates also called for Abad's resignation and for Aquino's impeachment.

For her part, former national treasurer Leonor Briones said the public should pressure the Commission on Audit (COA) to do its job in light of the court ruling.

Several groups have called on COA to conduct a special audit DAP to know if the fund was spent wisely.

Briones said COA's independence may be questioned because the agency also benefited from the stimulus program but the public administration professor maintained it is the public's role, through the help of media, to remind the state auditors to perform their duty.

The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), meanwhile, is probing media reports that alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Napoles received P475 million in DAP funds through her fake non-government organizations (NGOs).

Cayetano believed that instead of considering the decision as a defeat by the current administration, people should look at it as one of Aquino's great achievements insofar as the justice system in the country is concerned.

"The decision shows that the justice system works… Noong panahon ng Arroyo administration, either hindi yan i-take up o patay-malisya lang," he said.

Reacting to calls for an impeachment trial against the President, the Senate leader said Aquino cannot be held culpable for merely adopting what the previous administrations did, adding that the money which was allotted to fund several projects were spent in good faith and were not stolen.

"The DAP was an honest mistake on the part of Malacanang because they adopted what the previous administrations did. Some constitutional bodies and other departments also did the same thing," he added.

Senator Francis Escudero agreed with Cayetano, saying DAP has long been a practice that was being implemented by all previous presidents.

"All previous presidents were using this practice, and you have to remember ha, this is not a law if at all that's being used as basis," he said.

Escudero said the origins of DAP did not start from the Aquino administration but it was practiced in the past without an exact name or definition.

He said DAP had been practice even during the time of President Ferdinand Marcos and of former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

Escudero said it was only Abad who came out with a name, DAP, but the same system has long been implemented by previous chief executives using presidential decree and administrative code, which he said explained why Congress is not aware of what it is exactly.

He said the Supreme Court cited four types of DAP that has been clearly pronounced as illegal and unconstitutional.

"Una yung na-withdraw nang wala namang certification kung ito ay unnecessary, irrelevant o sobra. Pangalawa, yung unprogrammed fund na pinagkunan. Yung pangatlo yung cross border na pagpopondo at yung pang-apat, yung pagpondo ng walang item," he said.

On the issue of the legislator's use of the DAP funds, Escudero said that the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) has to detail the origins of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) released to legislators -- as lawmakers are unaware of where the funds came from whether from the regular PDAF or DAP.

Escudero added that legislators cannot be pinned down on the issue.

"So kung may item hindi naman cross border, hindi naman na-withdraw at hindi galing sa unprogrammed fund, that is valid. Ang problema ang nakakaalam lang ng lahat ng yan ay DBM," the senator said.

Escudero also welcomed any investigation on how DAP has been used after it has distributed among legislators. He said that as long as there is proof of valid projects and programs, those legislators who were able to receive DAP cannot be held liable.

Lawyer Oliver Lozano and former Technical Education and Skills Development Authority director general Augusto Syjuco lodged impeachment complaints against Aquino after the SC decision on DAP.

Both Syjuco and Lozano accused the chief executive of bribery, betrayal of public trust and culpable violation of the Constitution in connection with the ouster of former Chief Justice Renato Corona.

Syjuco claimed that Aquino violated the law and his own oath of office when he authorized the massive transfer of funds from various government agencies to other agencies and branches of government without the authority from Congress.

But Escudero said the High Court did not say that President Aquino committed a grave mistake as he explained that there was no mention of any criminal, civil or administrative liability by both the chief executive or the author of the DAP.

"Walang sinabing liability ang Korte Suprema kaugnay sa sinumang involved dito dahil wala naman yon sa papel at jurisdiction nila, ang pinaka-sinabi nila good faith daw ay hindi available sa ilang opisyal at desisyon ng mga korte ang pagdetermine ng criminal, civil o administrative liability ng sinumang nag-implement, ng nag-author, o ng may nag-akda ng DAP." he said.

Escudero was reportedly one of the senators who received a bigger portion of DAP, which he said is not a cash amount but was given through allocations of projects.

The senator said the distribution of his DAP projects and programs are open to the public as he expressed his readiness to be scrutinized.

He challenged those who are condemning them to review where this DAP allocations went and how it has been implemented, saying he can account for every single centavo of his DAP.

Escudero said Congress will start the necessary investigation in order to know the exact amount of DAP and where it went to including the beneficiaries who received it, now that the Supreme Court has already made a strong pronouncement and interpretation.

Meanwhile, Escudero denied that DAP has been used to bribe senators and members of the House of Representatives to ensure that Corona will be ousted from his post.

Escudero said that no less than Senator Jose Jinggoy Estrada himself clarified that he did not accept DAP to oust Corona but voted to impeach then Chief Justice because of evidence and the dictate of his conscience.

Escudero also lambasted former Senator Joker Arroyo for allegedly suggesting that President Aquino should report to the people through his State of the Nation Address the real score about DAP.

"Hindi para sa sinumang dating senador na diktahan ang Pangulo kung ano ang kanyang sasabihin o hindi niya sasabihin sa SONA," he said.

"Desisyon ng Pangulo yan, pero alam naman ng Pangulo, anuman ang sabihin o hindi nya sabihin sa kanyang talumpati, kailangan niyang paliwanag at papanagutan sa sambayanan. Hintayin na lamang natin kung ano ang masasama sa kanyang talumpati, imbes na diktahan natin siya bago nya gawin yon," he added.

For his part, Senate President Franklin Drilon, heeding calls for transparency and accountability, released Tuesday documents pertaining to the P100 million he availed of under the DAP.

"It is important for the public to be aware of how every centavo of the DAP funds was spent, and to where it all went. Let our people see everything, and judge," said Drilon.

"I have been an advocate of a transparent government. I believe that all projects, which involve public funds should be disclosed to the public, and open to scrutiny anytime," he said.

The Palace on Monday called on lawmakers to disclose how they spent the allocation they received under the DAP.

Drilon said he already released to the public and media where the P100 million DAP funds he availed of had gone to as early as October of last year.

Drilon reiterated that the P100 million under the DAP went to the construction of the Iloilo Convention Center, which President Aquino inspected last June 27.

He said the construction of the Iloilo Convention Center was in line with the objective of the DAP "to boost growth" as the project will create more job opportunities, generate economic activities, promote tourism in the country, and pump-prime the economy.

The Senate leader said that the project was funded upon his request to the DBM on November 14, 2012.

The Senate leader said that a Special Allotment Release Order (SARO) A-12-01294 was issued on December 12, 2012 to the Department of Public Works and Highways central office as the implementing agency to fund the construction of Iloilo Convention Center in Iloilo Business Park, Barangay Airport, Mandurriao, Iloilo City.

A SARO is a document that authorizes the agency to enter into an obligation or commitment, noted Drilon.

The Senate chief underscored that official records clearly show that every peso in DAP funds went to a worthwhile project, which will expand tourism industry in the Western Visayas.

"Clearly, the record shows that the DAP funds I availed of went to a project that will benefit our people. The funds I availed of were not misused, nor were they channeled to a bogus non-government organization," said Drilon.

"The construction of Iloilo Convention Center is a dream of the Ilonggos and we are very thankful that the Aquino administration has made it a reality," he concluded. (Camille P. Balagtas/Virgil Lopez/Sunnex)

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