Aquino’s lies on DAP clearer by the day

On October 30 last year, President Aquino hijacked all TV and radio stations for his first and only primetime televised address to the nation, in which he intended to explain his Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).

A few weeks before, Senator Jinggoy Estrada exposed the existence of Aquino’s secret DAP and that the senators were bribed P50 million each, sourced from this fund to convict Chief Justice Renato Corona. Estrada in effect is the whistleblower for the DAP scam, since, like Benhur Luy in the case of the pork-barrel scam, he admitted he also received his part of the loot.

The next day, I wrote the following article, and Malacañang has never refuted any of my points, either through its spokesperson or lawyers in the Supreme Court, which will soon hand down a decision on the DAP’s constitutionality.

As a good summary of what DAP is, I am excerpting key points from that column, which appeared November 2, 2013 in this newspaper. With the pork barrel scam hogging the headlines, Filipinos need to be aware that the DAP issue is even bigger, in the amount of pesos involved and in how it trampled our Constitution:

Start of excerpts

Mr. Aquino has become desperate that the Supreme Court will be ruling his DAP as patently unconstitutional. Even his two appointees, Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno and former UP law school dean Mario Victor Leonen, our sources claim, are now thinking of their post-Aquino reputations, and have given up trying to convince other justices to [favor] to their benefactors’ indefensible side.

Lie 1: “The DAP is legal according to the Constitution and other laws.”

False. Only Aquino, spokesperson Edwin Lacierda, and, of course, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, who concocted the scheme, believe so. There is a remarkable consensus among constitutional experts, including the very much respected Father Joaquin Bernas and the Philippine Constitutional Association, that the DAP very clearly violates the Constitution, as it disregards the authority of Congress to determine how government money is spent.

Contrary to Aquino’s pig-headed reasoning, the President can only realign funds, and only funds out of savings, and only within a department. ‘Savings’ are defined as what’s left over after a project is undertaken, and not when it is cancelled arbitrarily by the budget secretary.

Aquino didn’t realign funds—he patently corralled government funds allotted for departments and projects specified by the budget law, and ordered it used according to his whim. These funds which in effect were his own pork-barrel kitty totaled P142 billion from 2011 to 2013, nearly three times the P55 billion official pork-barrel for Congress for the same period.

Funds impounded

Lie 2: “Funds used for the DAP came from savings generated from stopping graft in government contracts, from better budget spending, and from more efficient management of government corporations, ” Aquino said.

False. Funds allocated by Congress’ General Appropriations Laws from 2011 to 2013 to departments and programs were arbitrarily impounded, and spent for purposes Aquino and his cronies in government preferred.

The most shameful use of the DAP was to bribe senators, as Estrada and defense lawyer Jose Roy III have revealed, in order to impeach Chief Justice Corona.

Data from the budget department incontrovertibly show that P1.1 billion in pork barrel funds were given to 16 senators, the minimum number needed to convict Corona, during the trial from January to May 29 or the day of the Senate vote.

(See further details in my column, “DBM data confirms P100M ‘bribe’ to 16 senators each”, October 5, 2013.) Another P4 billion was disbursed to congressmen in 2012, at P15 million each, for having filed the impeachment case against Corona.

To create artificial savings, Budget Secretary Abad in late May 2012 issued a circular that all unused budgets by June that year would be impounded to fund the DAP.

How could budget allocations programmed to be used for the second half of the year, and therefore unused at June be declared as savings?

On the other hand, the savings the public works and highways department has been claiming have been mostly the result of downsizing or suspending road and bridge contracts.

Profits of government corporations are not for the President to use as he wishes. These are by law remitted to the Treasury to form part of the government’s General Fund, the use of which is determined by Congress through its annual appropriations laws.

Lie 3: “The DAP helped in stimulating the economy. According to the World Bank, the DAP contributed 1.3 percent to the GDP during the last quarter of 2011.”

False. How could it when the DAP was set up only October 22, 2011, and most of funds hijacked through it were released only in 2012 and 2013?

Our GDP in 2011 was in fact a disappointing 3.9 percent, due to the Aquino government’s bungling when it suspended infrastructure contracts approved in the previous administration, alleging (but not proving) corruption.

Economic growth in the past three years was due – not to the DAP – but the multiplier effects of increasing overseas workers’ remittances, to a healthy macroeconomic base created by former President Arroyo’s reforms, and to the global business community’s confidence over the economy when it weathered the global financial crisis of 2008 to 2009.

Examples of DAP projects

As examples, how could anybody claim that the following projects funded through the DAP stimulated the economy?

• P8.6 billion to the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, known to be a sinkhole of corruption. Aquino himself complained in June 2012, that the DAP projects in the region were moving so slowly, or had not even started yet;

• P1.8 billion to the Cordillera People’s Liberation Army and the Moro National Liberation Front ostensibly for the training in livelihood projects of their surrendering guerillas (a stimulus program in the hinterlands?); and,

• P2 billion for the Department of Social Welfare and Development for such projects as daycare centers and its endless “supplementary feeding projects.”

Aquino claimed he is succeeding in his campaign against corruption, through the unearthing of the pork barrel scam and prosecuting the criminals involved.

He boasted: “Wasn’t it the leadership I appointed at the Commission on Audit who went through the documents with a fine tooth-comb that unearthed the abuses over PDAF?” This is one of the Aquino administration’s biggest lies.

The COA special audit of the Priority Development Assistance Funds (PDAF) was ordered under COA Office Order No. 2010-309 dated May 13, 2010. The agency at that time was headed by Reynaldo Villar, whom past president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo appointed, but whom Aquino kicked out and even accused of involvement in the plunder case involving PCSO funds.

The audit was undertaken by a team headed by a career official Susan P. Garcia under the COA’s Special Audits Office, who signed and submitted the report to the budget secretary. The COA chairman appointed by Aquino, Grace Pulido-Tan or even his favorite commissioner Heidi Mendoza, had nothing to do with the report.

Tan didn’t even sign her approval of the report. It was only after the Philippine Daily Inquirer ran a series of exposes on the pork-barrel scam that Tan publicly released the COA’s report, and even provided the theatrics for it, as in her “kahindik-hindik” remark on the scam.

If Aquino’s administration had any role in the audit, it was to impede it, with the report complaining: “The DBM (Department of Budget and Management) could not provide the Team, despite repeated requests, with the complete schedule of releases per legislator from PDAF for soft projects and VILP for hard projects.”

The DBM submitted documents involving only senators who were not in Aquino’s camp, mainly Enrile, Estrada, Revilla, and Ferdinand Marcos, Jr., the last three of whom were not coincidentally tipped to run for vice-president or even president in 2016. (End of excerpts.)

Update

That Aquino was indeed lying was confirmed yesterday (June 23) when his spokesman Lacierda in his briefing acknowledged, for the first time, that it was COA chair Villar of the GMA administration who had ordered the pork-barrel audit, and the constitutionally independent auditing body simply implemented that directive.

What he didn’t touch on at all, though, was the refusal of Aquino’s DBM to provide COA with documents on all other legislators’ use of their pork barrel.

Why the turnaround in acknowledging the fact that the pork-barrel probe was started before Aquino’s watch?

Because, the Palace may have realized may lost popular support, since the masses have resented the arrest of Ramon Revilla and Estrada, interpreting it as an assault on their “representatives” – as had happened in the EDSA Tres revolt right after the April 2001 arrest of President Joseph Estrada. As has been its habit, Malacañang is in effect passing the ‘blame’ to Arroyo.

The DAP is so patently unconstitutional and a crime – malversation of public funds – that I can’t see how the pro-Aquino justices can stretch logic and any interpretation of the Constitution can argue otherwise.

The Aquino-appointed justices – Chief Justice Lourdes Sereno, Bienvenido Reyes, Estela Perlas Bernabe, and Marivic Leonen – must realize that their votes, to paraphrase Marcus Aurelius, will echo through eternity.