PRESIDENT Benigno Aquino III approved the pooling of P150.6 billion in “savings” from the national budget to the Disbursement Acceleration Program to augment his own discretionary funds, Palace documents signed by the President and submitted to the Supreme Court show.
The documents showed that in 2011 alone, the President impounded P72.11 billion from the General Appropriations Act and diverted these amounts to fund various pork barrel projects of President Aquino, congressmen, senators and local officials.
The Palace also renamed what Commission on Audit chairman Grace Pulido-Tan described as the “kahindik-hindik” VILP or “various infrastructure local projects” to “various other local projects” or VOLP in documents submitted to the Supreme Court as well as its sanitized list of 116 DAP projects.
In the previous administration, the VILP was used for purely hard projects such as infrastructure.
Under Aquino administration’s VOLP, the infrastructure projects such as farm-to-market roads, irrigation and bridges were lumped with mangrove reforestation, mangrove farming, multi-species hatchery and aqua-silviculture among others, which the petitioners against the DAP claimed could not be easily accounted for unless subjected to a strict audit.
Since the DAP was approved by the President merely five months into his term on Nov. 25, 2010, not one of the P150.6-billion worth of DAP projects had been accounted for and subjected to an audit by COA.
In a memorandum to the President, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, in seeking the President’s approval, said the Department of Budget and Management found savings from the completed or discontinued projects that may be pooled “to provide for new activities which have not been anticipated during the preparation of the budget, to augment additional requirements of ongoing priority projects.”
“[The pooled savings were] to provide for deficiencies under the Special Purpose Funds, e.g., PDAF, Calamity Fund, Contingency Fund,” the DBM memo approved and signed by the President on Oct. 12, 2011.
Based on the documents obtained by the Manila Standard, the single biggest beneficiary of the DAP was the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao, headed by Gov. Mujib Hataman, a member of the ruling Liberal Party, with a P8.592 billion in allocation.
The former rebels belonging to the Cordillera People’s Liberation Army, Moro National Liberation Front and Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army were also granted P1.819 billion under the Office of the Presidential Adviser for Peace Process, purportedly for livelihood projects of the rebel-stronghold communities.
President Aquino also appropriated P2 billion for his home province Tarlac, the biggest DAP allocation for any province.
President Aquino also bypassed Vice President Jejomar Binay and granted P11.05 billion to National Housing Authority, whose general manager was appointed by him and reports directly to him.
While Binay sits as NHA chairman, the NHA general manager portfolio was placed under the Office of the President.
Most projects under the description VOLP were undertaken by the President’s party mates and trusted lieutenants Interior and Local Governments Secretary Manuel Roxas II, Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala, both members of the LP, and Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman and Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson.
Alcala’s department as granted P1.629 billion for irrigation, farm-to-market roads, and integrated community-based multi-species hatchery and acqusilviculture farming.
Instead of letting Binay handle he resettlement and housing projects for some 30,000 squatters, the President assigned the task—and the budget—to Roxas, Singson and Soliman.
Singson’s DPWH was granted P5.5 billion in VILP for quick-disbursing priority projects such as roads, bridges, and flood control projects which were supposed to be implemented by the district offices nationwide.
Some P6.5 billion was released for “PDAF augmentation” under VOLP as requested by congressmen, senators and local executives.
Another P6.5 billion was released under LGU Support Fund to buffer the P13.6 billion cut in the local government units’ share in their Internal Revenue Allotment to allow them to implement their projects.
The President assigned Roxas and Abad to jointly issue the guidelines and prescribed the menu for projects worth P6.5 billion for LGUs.
The petitioner against the DAP, including former national treasurer and Social Watch Philippines convener Leonor Magtolis Briones, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, led by its secretary general Renato Reyes Jr. and the Philippine Constitution Association headed by Leyte Rep. Ferdinand
Martin Romualdez–-demanded that the DAP-funded projects be subjected to an audit, the details of which must be made public.
“We demand that the details of the DAP-funded projects be made public because these were released by President Aquino without having undergone congressional and subsequently public scrutiny,” Briones told the Manila Standard.
“We want the President to account for these funds which he released under his discretionary powers without the approval of Congress that the Supreme Court found unconstitutional,” she said.
“The President insists that the funds went to the poor. What is his proof when not one project had been subjected to audit? The list released by the Palace was pure generalization. It did not have any details as to who and how much received the funds and where these funds went. What made him say the projects were graft-free?” Briones said.
“If indeed the DAP went to good use, what’s stopping the President from making public the details of these multi-billion-peso projects,” Briones said.
Reyes said as early as Feb. 17 this year, COA’s Tan had rejected their request to have the DAP projects audited, and told Bayan simply to wait for the COA’s regular audit.