IT is poetic justice that the day after the Supreme Court ruled “with finality” that Maria Lourdes Sereno was a fake chief justice and booted her out, the Ombudsman announced its decision to indict her patron and boss, former President Benigno Aquino 3rd, for his colossal fund scam, camouflaged as the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).
Without the DAP, Sereno wouldn’t have been a chief justice in a million years. Some P6.5 billion from the DAP was used to bribe Congress to remove then Chief Justice Renato Corona, to be replaced by Sereno.
Aquino’s DAP scheme was so illegally brazen and so huge in scale that only an Aquino, prodded by the schemer par excellence and brain trust, his budget secretary Florencio Abad, had the gall to pull it off. It was an unprecedented assault on our republican system, one pillar of which is he principle that Congress determines the use of taxpayers’ money rather than the President. Through the DAP, Aquino was in effect a dictator who used taxpayers’ money at his whim.
Aquino and Abad imperiously declared as “savings” funds of agencies the Congress had allocated to them, and put these all into a contrived DAP fund that was purportedly to be disbursed in order to stimulate the economy. The World Bank, however, belied that DAP stimulated the economy, pointing out that the DAP meant only “mere realignment of funds” and that the DAP amounts were “minuscule, at less than 0.01 percentage points, relative to the size of the economy.”
Much of the P72 billion in total DAP funds was disbursed – at Aquino’s total discretion – for such purposes as the P2 billion used to build infrastructure at his overbuilt home province of Tarlac and the P10 billion to bribe Muslim leaders to acquiesce to his Bangsamoro bill project.
Recipients of the DAP’s largesse were also for projects in the home provinces and agencies of Aquino’s main minions, among them Sen. Franklin Drilon, P100 million for “Relocation sites for informal settlers along Iloilo River and its tributaries;” Interior Secretary Mar Roxas, P4.5 billion in LGU support fund; and even peace negotiations adviser Teresita Deles, P1.8 billion for “peace activities.”
These DAP uses though served to hide its main intent, for which it was originally conceived: to remove Corona, not only because Aquino detested that he was appointed by Gloria Arroyo, but also because he wouldn’t acquiesce to his clan’s wish that the Supreme Court award it P10 billion in compensation for putting Hacienda Luisita under land reform.
Aquino’s pork-barrel funds were not enough for such an extraordinary assault on the Supreme Court, that he needed bigger money to undertake it.
The DAP provided the P6.5 billion to bribe – in the pork-barrel style of infrastructure funds directed by the lawmakers – first the House of Representatives, led by then Speaker Feliciano Belmonte and justice committee chairman Niel Tupas, Jr., to pass, hardly with debate, the impeachment complaint against Corona. And then it was used to bribe the Senate as the impeachment court to vote Corona guilty.
The Aquino-controlled media had shamelessly undertaken one of the biggest hatchet jobs in media history against a person of the highest integrity. The website Rappler – hurriedly set up in time for the persecution of Corona – and the Philippine Daily Inquirer bannered a claim that he cheated to get his Ph.D. from the UST (totally debunked). They alleged that he had 45 properties (he only had four). They even dragged his daughter into the mud, falsely alleging that she bought for her father a property in Los Angeles – although it turned out she was a physical therapist working 14-hour days to raise the down payment that got her the house at dirt cheap prices during the US real estate crisis.
While these media lies fooled the gullible portion of our middle class that Corona wasn’t fit to be Chief Justice, our more street-smart legislators of course needed more than propaganda for them to remove the Chief Justice. It was the P6.5 billion from the DAP that convinced them.
I have written 20 columns to expose one of Aquino’s biggest crimes that was the DAP, and even provided images there of secret government documents involving its use. Just to point out that there were others who exposed this crime, I’m reproducing here excerpts from a February 24, 2014 article in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, reported by Gil Cabacungan, an extraordinary one because of the paper’s unabashed bias for Aquino:
“The Aquino administration used P6.5 billion from the little-known Disbursement Acceleration Program before, during and after the impeachment trial of then Chief Justice Renato Corona to bend Congress to its will, two members of the House of Representatives told the Inquirer.
“The sources estimated that the House got as much as P5 billion in DAP funds, while the senators received the remaining P1.5 billion, as admitted by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) itself.
“The sources, who did not wish to be identified because of the confidential information involved, said the DBM released to the representatives at least P10 million each from the DAP, supposedly a novel scheme to stimulate the economy.
“The funds released to congressmen from the DAP, whose constitutionality has been questioned in the Supreme Court, were on top of the P70 million in annual allocations from the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), or pork barrel.
“The sources said that the House leadership and its impeachment team were rewarded between P25 million and P50 million in DAP funds after Corona was convicted in May 2012, or seven months after Budget Secretary Florencio Abad announced the P70.5-billion spending plan for the DAP, including a P6.5 billion augmentation for the PDAF.
“They said they were asked by the DBM to give their preferred LGUs and beneficiaries for their DAP allocations.
“Asked for comment, Speaker Feliciano Belmonte said: ‘I cannot remember the incident. Haven’t heard of DAP back then. We will check.’
“In a statement, Navotas Rep. Tobias Tiangco said: ‘Based on reports and by its own admission, the DBM used the DAP before, during and after the Corona impeachment trial between 2011 and 2012.’
“Tiangco said the DAP was ‘used as an excuse to cover the P50-million bribe to senators and P10 million given to congressmen for the conviction’ of Corona.”
(My series on the South China territorial dispute resume Monday.)