Coa must now do a real audit
I APPLAUD President Duterte’s recent tirade against his predecessor Benigno S. Aquino 3rd and the latter’s budget secretary, Florencio Abad, over their Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), which was really an unprecedented, mammoth hijacking of government funds.
One of my biggest frustrations as a journalist, when I realized how puny the role of the press really is in this oligarch-ruled country, was during the previous administration when I wrote more than a dozen columns on the DAP, based not on opinion or haka-haka but on documents. Yet the Aquino government in its arrogance never commented or attempted to debunk a single one of my allegations.
• How DAP was thinly, stupidly disguised as an economic-stimulus program. Quite amazingly, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales swallowed this five-year-old lie in her recent decision acquitting Aquino of complicity over such hijacking of government funds. As the World Bank’s July 2012 update explained it, DAP was useless to the economy as it was a “mere realignment of funds”; and, while a huge loot for the Aquino camp’s purse, it was “minuscule (at less than 0.01 percentage points) relative to the size of the economy”.
• How it threw the Constitution into the dustbin, since it is Congress that has the power of the purse;
• How it was used to bribe senators to take out Chief Justice Renato Corona, which was a never-before-attempted attack on the judiciary; and
• How this huge fund very likely ended up in the pockets of the Aquino’s Yellow Cult, his inner core of officials, Congress members, and even local government officials.
It is understandable why Aquino could get away with such a crime when he was in power. The Senate was a recipient of the funds, so why would they investigate it. Our people had been brainwashed that the Yellow Cult would save the country, and of course the oligarchs had pending applications to build lucrative infrastructure projects, and supported Aquino.
Duterte slammed the media for not reporting on the DAP issue, scolding them: “Kayong mga media ngayon, ba’t gobyerno ko lang? Ba’t di nyo kalkalin si Abad? Anong nagawa ni Abad?” he said.
Why? Because media, except for a handful of articles (as headlined in the image accompanying this column), had been Aquino’s cheering squad in his decapitation of the Supreme Court, which was possible only because of the bribes from the DAP. How could they have done investigative journalism on the DAP when they were part of Aquino’s lynch mob against Corona?
Remember that screaming false, front-paged article claiming that Corona even got the University of Santo Tomas to give him a Ph. D. without his working for it reported by the PCIJ and the Philippine Daily Inquirer, intended to paint him as so thoroughly dishonest, which was the opening shot in his Senate trial? That was such a low point in Philippine journalism.
If the Mamasapano SAF 44 massacre was the Aquino regime’s bloodiest crime, the DAP was its most lucrative one, and justice must be served on both of these, so we can strengthen our institutions, an imperative for our nation’s growth.
The DAP was such a huge crime. Yet in the view of Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales there was really no perpetrator, and in her decision asked Abad to only pay a fine of about P120,000, or his basic salary for three months?
Morales herself in her decision said Abad was guilty of the “usurpation of legislative powers”. You usurp the powers of the second branch of government and you’re just asked to pay a fine? No wonder our republic’s institutions are in such a mess.
I hope that the post-Aquino Commission on Audit would have the integrity to investigate the simple question: Where did the DAP money go?
The following is an example of the many columns I wrote on the DAP issue (published July 9, 2012):
Through the secretive and utterly irregular nature of the 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 Aquino 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 of the taxpayers’ money they have spent? The discrepancies and inconsistencies in the government data are so glaring that you would think this. 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 on 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 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 to P21 billion? These discrepancies alone are reason enough to fire Abad, being the brains and creator of the DAP.
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 Malacanang’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.
DAP funds unreported
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 department’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 a 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 the 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?