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P8 billion to P21 billion DAP funds missing

With the secretive and utterly irregular nature of the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), billions of pesos have escaped government accounting, raising the distinct possibility that they were stolen in a scheme similar to Janet Napoles’ pork barrel scam.

Only President Benigno Aquino 3rd and Budget Secretary Florencio Abad know where the money went since only the two decided, at their whim, where to allocate the funds from the DAP. Not even Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa was consulted on this scheme, recently slammed as unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.

Was Abad, as chief of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), so sloppy that he didn’t know how to count how much they had spent of the taxpayers’ money? The discrepancies and inconsistencies in the government data are so glaring that you would think that. But there is still the possibility that Aquino and Abad diverted the money for their nefarious purposes.

Perhaps this was in Mr. Aquino’s mind when he said, quite defensively, in his prime-time television speech devoted entirely to defending DAP in October 30, 2013: “I am not a thief.”

Consider these discrepancies in the official reports from Abad on how much of the DAP funds were released:

• According to the document “Frequently Asked Questions about the Disbursement Acceleration Program” posted on the websites of the DBM and the Official Gazette (www.gov.ph), DAP funds released from 2011 to 2013 totaled P157.4 billion.

• According to “Evidence Packet No. 1,” which the DBM through the Solicitor General submitted to the Supreme Court during its hearings on the case, the DAP funds released totaled P149.2 billion (cited in page 2 of Senior Justice Antonio Carpio’s concurring opinion).

• According to Abad’s memorandum to the President dated December 28, 2013 that recommended the termination of the scheme, DAP funds released in the same period amounted to P144.3 billion.

• And finally, according to the DBM’s press statement issued last week (July 4), the DAP amounted to only P136.8 billion.

Did you notice how the funds kept getting smaller? But these aren’t just minor discrepancies due to some clerical error. The last three amounts mean P8 billion to P21 billion less than the amount in the first report.

What happened to the money? Who pocketed this missing P8 billion to P21 billion? These discrepancies alone are reason enough to fire Abad, being the brains and creator of the DAP.

For having blatantly lied on so many aspects of the DAP, it wouldn’t be below Abad’s principles to have been so busy the past few days shredding documents that could reveal the very anomalous disbursements from the DAP.

Is that the real reason why he’s been invisible the past days, and why he told a reporter that he’s just been “swamped with work”?

In countries that really follow the rule of law, a team of law enforcers would have already descended on Abad’s offices to seal every single file and computer so that evidence would be preserved.

I’ll bet that in some future Sandiganbayan hearings, Aquino and Abad’s lawyers would demand that his original memoranda to the President be presented to the court—with the Malacañang Records’ Office reporting back that it could not locate such documents.

Two of Abad’s memos to the President in fact were even sent to him through the president’s “Private Office”—as the “receipt” stamps on these show—and not to the Office of the President, obviously to bypass Ochoa. Documents sent to the “Private Office” since these are precisely considered “Private” are not recorded in Malacañang’s Records Office.

Already there have been denials of receiving DAP funds as claimed by government. Senator Joker Arroyo, known for his probity and one of the few who didn’t accept pork barrel money, strongly denied that his office received P47 million in DAP funds. But the Aquino government claimed that the good senator received DAP money.

Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council president Manuel Sanchez similarly denied that his agency, chaired by Vice President Jejomar Binay, received P2.2 billion in DAP funds, as Abad’s records claimed.

Several of the DAP funds supposedly released also were not reported in the recipient agencies’ annual audits by the Commission on Audit.

Some P6.5 billion of DAP funds were purportedly released to the Department of Interior and Local Governments (DILG) in 2011 and 2012. However, there is no report of such huge infusion of funds in the COA’s annual audits of the DILG.

The only reference to the DAP was in its 2012 audit which noted that out of the P1 billion funding for the DILG’s so-called Performance Challenge Fund (extra funds given to local governments), some P253 million were supposedly from “DBM’s Disbursement Allocation Fund.”

Some P1.8 billion of DAP funds were, according to Abad, released to the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) for its funding of rebel group’s “livelihood projects”.

There is no record of such receipt of funds from the DAP in the COA’s audit reports of the OPAPP for 2011 and 2012. A huge amount of DAP money released to a government office, but no COA recognition or audit?

Some P8.6 billion of DAP funds were released to the Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) for the so-called “Transition Investment Support Plan.” Aquino even boasted about this funding in a public event in Cotabato CIty, and ARMM governor Mujiv Hataman was reported—even photographed —distributing P10 million checks from the DAP to local officials in the region in January 2013. (See my column July 1, 2014, “Aquino used P9B of DAP funds for his Nobel Prize fantasy”).

“This year (2013), the government has committed P8.59 billion for the Transition Investment Support Plan on top of the P12.93 billion already allocated through our budget,” Aquino was quoted in several newspapers at that time.

But the COA’s audit of the ARMM for 2011 to 2013 doesn’t have any reference to this money, and the regional government’s cash inflow do not reflect any increase in its funds from the national government.

Nearly P9 billion in taxpayers’ money, and not audited by the COA? Was the DAP intended to fall between the cracks in the government’s accounting system?

It would certainly be criminal negligence on the part of COA chair Gracia Pulido-Tan if she doesn’t order immediately a special audit of DAP funds. She should even send a team now to the DBM to secure all relevant documents.

Or is she waiting for Abad to shred his files?

COA has already finished its annual audit of government entities for 2011 and 2012 , when the P157 billion DAP funds were purportedly released.

That COA did not see such an anomalous source of funds and their equally anomalous use gives rise to suspicions that the COA chair is complicit in the cover-up for the DAP.