The acronyms may change, but the principles remain the same: Executives execute, and legislators legislate. Senators who were allegedly “rewarded” by President Benigno Simeon “BS” Aquino III were supposedly given additional “appropriations” on top of their pork barrel allocations through a Malacañang appropriations mechanism called the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP). Why did legislators need to be on top of how all that money was spent if their job is to legislate and not to execute?
Senator Miriam Santiago points out that the DAP, to be legal, should be composed of “consolidated savings from the unused appropriations of agencies”. If this is true, this means that Malacañang has to prove that the DAP appropriations in 2012 were funded by underspending. But according to Santiago, “they appear to be taken from alleged slow-moving government projects that did not generate savings.” In short, the DAP given out in 2012 may have involved money illegally yanked out from on-going projects that may have been tracking within budget.
She said the Constitution only allows fund transfers if there are savings from completed government projects and not those merely deferred.
“The first issue is that the DAP was not taken from savings. The second issue is that the DAP was not used to augment items in the budget that were previously authorized by Congress. The alleged savings were used to augment new budget items not previously authorized by Congress,” Santiago said in a statement Tuesday.
Santiago said the budget department should have sought the approval of Congress, which exercises the power of the purse under the Constitution.
If all of Santiago’s assertions are valid, then it will run counter to claims made by Malacañang through deputy spokesperson Abigail Valte that all things related to the DAP — including its allocation to the pet projects of the who’s-who of legislators involved in the 2012 impeachment trial of former Chief Justice Renato Corona — are “legal”.
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Whatever the case, whatever its legality or illegality, or the way it was handed out to politicians is rationalised by one legislator or another (most of whom are trained rationalisers who are adept at bending logic and law to suit their agendas) the DAP should not have been allocated to legislators because it is not their job to decide how public funds are spent nor manage the funding of projects. As former Senator Ping Lacson (who claims to have never partaken of pork) pointed out…
Lacson said he considered the funds from the Disbursement Allocation Program (DAP) as regular pork because it was taken from the budget and was on top of the P200-million annual allocation for senators.
“It’s just the nomenclature. From CIA (Congressional Initiative Allocation) to the CDF (Countrywide Development Fund) and which has metamorphosed into PDAF (Priority Development Assistance Fund). Whatever name you call it, that is still pork,” Lacson said.
You wonder then. For a transaction that requires so many hoops to jump through, so much administrative control to navigate, and so much suspicion coming from scrutinising groups to assuage, it is unlikely that Malacañang, with all its channels for properly and legally appropriating and spending public funds would go to the trouble of coming up with quaint acronyms like the CIA, the CDF, and, more recently, the PDAF, and the DAP to describe the nature of funding for “projects” that it has within its own executive power to oversee directly — unless it has something it considers more pressing to fund than these noble “infrastructure projects”.
What could be this matter so pressing that Malacañang and its beneficiaries in Congress would exhibit such amazing administrative and fiscal creativity in coming up with eloquent justifications in the appropriation of discretionary funds with such impeccably eyebrow-raising timing so that, in the recent words of a popular columnist, these public funds are put “beyond the pale of close scrutiny”?
For that matter, what’s up with the term to begin with?
Disbursement Acceleration Program.
Seems like these pressing matters are of such urgency that the coughing up of the millions needs to be accelerated pronto. The outrage is so bad, indeed, that even staunch Aquino apologist and Inquirer columnist Conrado de Quiros was moved to write…
But those senators also knew that in trials like those, as shown by the Erap impeachment, it wasn’t just the tried that was on trial, it was the triers too. It wasn’t just Corona who was on trial, the senators were too. With the people sitting as judges, and with elections the following year to make their judgment known.
What could have been is speculative, what has been is not. And what has been is that government gave P50 million additional PDAF to those who voted against Corona. Call it incentive, call it reward, call it bribe: A rose by any other name will smell just as sweet.
“Additional PDAF” by any other name will smell just as bad.
The truth is out there somewhere.
benign0 is the Webmaster of GetRealPhilippines.com.