It’s really not surprising that senators heartily licked Budget Secretary Florencio Abad’s boots in last Friday’s hearing on the unconstitutional Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), of which the Liberal Party leader was architect and executor.
Three of those senators—sadly the three youngest males, but the most obsequious to Abad – most probably wouldn’t even be in that Senate hall if not for the DAP. And they know this. They’ve given life to that old Filipino quip for tainted politicians: “So young, so corrupt.”
At least P14 billion in taxpayers’ money hijacked by President Aquino and called DAP were used as his mammoth war chest in the 2013 elections, mainly to ensure the victory of his minions in the Senate and to capture key provincial and congressional posts.
I was told about this several months back by both my old friends at the Liberal Party, as well as by local politicians and ward leaders. They said that campaign funds from the Liberal Party had flooded their areas during the 2013 elections in a magnitude they had not experienced for a mid-term poll. When they read about the DAP, they were convinced the funds came from that source. But they had no documents to back up their suspicion.
Abad was probably emboldened to do this since he and Aquino control the country’s largest newspaper and television station. Or he thinks that Filipinos are too stupid, anyway, to evaluate data.
But the “Detailed List of DAP” projects his department released last Friday in their propaganda blitz to brow-beat the Supreme Court to reverse its ruling provides the clear smoking-gun documentation that a huge part of the DAP had become their war chest in the last elections.
My tally is that P14 billion from the DAP funds were used as part of their campaign funds, as these were spent mostly in the months leading to the May 13, 2013 elections. A detailed audit, though, for each of the DAP funds disbursed will lead to an even larger amount.
The funds from the DAP that were clearly used for the 2013 elections—in effect to buy votes —were in the following forms:
First was through money given to local political leaders in the guise of funds for their local governments’ “projects” or urgent needs of their constituents. In the DAP “detailed list,” these were in the items cloaked as “assistance to local government units.”
These amounted to over P3.3 billion released through 337 SAROs (or Special Allotment Release Orders) in 2013.
Apparently, Aquino’s campaign managers waited until the last minute to throw these funds, as well as an additional P11 billion for infrastructure projects described below, into the contest, as the bulk of the SAROs were released in early March 2013.
Early March 2013 was the time they would have the most accurate update on where they were weak so they could throw campaign money to, but still be outside the Revised Election Code’s 45-day ban before election day, March 13, on the bidding for public projects and the release of government funds.
Senate President Franklin Drilon’s home province of Iloilo was the biggest recipient of these “assistance to local government units” funds two months before the May 13 elections. It got a total of P66.2 million released through six SAROs dated March 14 up to March 22.
The next biggest recipients of these “assistance to local government units” money in the weeks before the May 13 elections were Cebu (P55.3 million); Northern Samar (P50 million); Batangas (P30 million) and Davao City (P20 million).
Abad, of course, wouldn’t forget his own home province, with 20 of Batanes barangays getting P100,000 each, for a total of P11.2 million. Not a bad loot at all for a province with about 5,000 voters.
The DAP list even showed allocations of as small as P97,000 to identified barangays, for example, 34 barangays in Masbate, 31 in Albay, and 91 in Naga.
Except for a few cases of “assistance to local government, the DBM list didn’t bother to describe even in a general sense what taxpayers’ money was funding.
A DBM staff, probably shocked at what she was compiling, managed to put as an entry for many of these allocations in the list the following telling note:
“The funds were released (in March 2013) to the LGU for implementation. We requested the LGU to submit a status report of the project’s implementation. As of this time (July 25, 2014), we have not received their report.
The scandal that is the DAP has reached the grass-roots level, with town mayors and barangay chairmen now worried about news trickling down to them that funds from that program were illegal and malversation cases would be filed against Abad and Aquino after the President steps down. The big fear now is that they might be required under pain of penalty to return those funds, or even be charged with technical malversation. There is a sense of betrayal even, with one town official saying: “We were not told that the P5 million came from an illegal source.”
Pre-election infra projects
The second means by which the DAP funds were used in the 2013 elections were through infrastructure projects, both big and small, that were not authorized in the General Appropriations Laws of 2012 and 2013.
These totaled P11 billion of funds released in the months to the May 13, 2013 elections.
The use of state-funded infrastructure projects has always been a means for a party in power to influence an election. The cementing of a major arterial road in a province, the construction of farm-to-market roads, or the building of a much-needed bridge in the months to election day sends a strong message to voters affected by these infrastructure projects that the incumbent government will take care of them, and therefore, has to be re-elected.
This certainly appears to be a motive for Aquino’s scandalous allocation of P2 billion in public works in his home-province of Tarlac. With his rift with the kingpin in the province, his uncle Jose Cojuangco, whose wife even ran as governor in the opposition camp, Aquino was afraid it would be a big embarrassment for him if his nephew running for Senate, Bam Aquino, lost there.
The talk among businessmen in Tarlac since last year has been how much private contractors there made out of that P2 billion surge in projects, and how much they could have given to the authority who directed that much fund into the province.
Despite all of Aquino’s claims of reforms, the age-old system of corruption in public works, especially in provincial settings, still remain: Biddings are rigged so that conniving contractors simply take turns who takes on this or that overpriced road work. Political incumbents get their kickbacks from the profits of these conniving contractors, which he could use to buy votes.
Without the DAP, or through the usual process that creates the budget laws each year, infrastructure projects are distributed throughout the country, and the result of horse-trading among members of Congress.
In the case of DAP, though, it has been solely Aquino who determined where and how P11 billion in infrastructure funds were directed in the months right before the May elections.
The DAP list indicates that they threw infra funds also into areas such as the Ilocos provinces and Pangasinan, known to be hostile to Aquino, in order to buy their support. While they were buying votes, these politicians were also making money for themselves: Do you think they are so clean that they will not accept a big fat suitcase (perhaps like the one Ruby Tuason used) from the contractors?
Abad has been repeating, following Hitler’s propaganda trick, the gargantuan lie that the DAP stimulated the economy, and was undertaken in good faith. Senators Aquino, Sonny Angara, and Antonio Trillanes in last Friday’s Senate hearing especially acted as a choir backing up Abad’s hymn to DAP.
The following two statements are not claims or theories. They are established facts:
• Through the DAP, Aquino raised P13 billion additional pork barrel funds given to congressmen and senators to take out Chief Justice Renato Corona; and
• Through the DAP, Aquino hijacked P14 billion he used to support the electoral bid of his minions in the Senate and Congress.
Third use of DAP pre-empted
If the DAP had not been unearthed —accidentally by Senator Jinggoy Estrada and by Abad himself in his clumsiness in trying to refute him —and if it had not been declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, there would have been a third and probably the most important use of the DAP, using the 2013 template:
To raise the biggest campaign war chest ever in our history under Aquino for the 2016 presidential elections, for his gang of four—with Roxas, Drilon and Abad—to continue their yellow rule.
And there was the gravy of course, as it was so easy for this gang to skim from the DAP funds since nobody really knew, until now and only partially, where the money went.