During last week’s SC oral arguments, the Solicitor General said that the Disbursement Acceleration Program no longer exists thus making the petitions before the court moot. The line was new insofar as we’ve never heard this from the President, during his televised defense of DAP or during media interviews. Of course it is a bit of a stretch to argue that the petitions should be thrown out because the DAP has been terminated as early as mid-2013. Constitutional issues remain.
More importantly, accountability issues remain. Look at how DAP was probably used in 2012 based on a memorandum from the Department of Budget and Management.
In a memorandum to the President dated June 25, 2012, DBM secretary Butch Abad sought authority to utilize government savings (DAP) for “big ticket projects” such as the “National Road Projects” in the President’s home province of Tarlac amounting to P2 billion. No other lucky province received such allotment for that year based on the memo. The project had prior approval by the President.
DBMs Abad also recommended the use of DAP to fund the fraud-tainted Tulay ng Pangulo para sa Kaunlaran project which began under the Arroyo administration. Around P1.8 billion was recommended for this, where P500 million will be sourced from DAR. The project had prior approval by the President.
Abad sought authority to use pooled government savings to fund “urgent” and “critical” projects such as a P5 billion Tourism Road Infrastructure Project, along with “priority local projects” nationwide amounting to an additional P8.295 billion. We suspect that these “priority local projects”, often considered priorities upon the recommendation of politicians, could be where the pork for lawmakers goes. At the time of the memo, the projects have not yet been approved by the President.
Some P1.6 billion meanwhile was supposed to be allotted for the “Capability Requirements for the Operations of the Philippine Coast Guard in the West Philippine Sea”. Another P1 billion was allotted as a credit facility exclusively for agrarian reform beneficiaries, through the Land Bank in coordination with the Department of Agriculture. Both projects had prior approval of the President at the time the memo was submitted.
From the above, DAP has all the markings of presidential pork. It is a mechanism used to pool so-called “savings” then utilize these for “priority local projects” that are often upon the recommendation of the local and national politicians. Abad said that some 116 projects were funded through the DAP. All of these projects had presidential approval, he said.
One justice had asked Abad if the allegations of bribery during the Corona impeachment were true. Abad said there was no bribery and that the DAP funds did not go directly to the lawmakers.
Maybe. But isn’t that what the PDAF was all about? Those accused of corruption in the PDAF always say that they never touched the money; that they simply recommended projects and that implementation was done by government agencies. Yet everyone knows that in the course of implementation, the money does always end up with the politician. DAP is no different, especially when the budget secretary says politicians merely “recommend”.
DAP the stimulus mechanism may be “dead” according to the DBM, but the presidential authority used to pool “savings”, and utilize these for items not included in the General Appropriations Act, that’s a different matter altogether. The authority to utilize “savings” for the pet projects of politicians remains. That authority, if we are to believe the Solicitor General, is a valid exercise of presidential prerogative.
DAP’s not dead. And so is the corruption that comes with this serving of presidential pork.