MANILA (Mabuhay) – President Benigno Aquino III might have been vocal about the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) fund controversy, but his vice president isn’t.
On Monday, Vice President Jejomar Binay said he would rather not share his insights on the controversial discretionary fund because of eight pending petitions contesting it before the Supreme Court.
“Andito na sa Supreme Court eh. Tignan na lang natin … Masasabing abugado din ako. Isa ako sa naniniwala na sub judice na iyan. Hindi na dapat nagko-comment sa merits ng kaso,” he told reporters at the Supreme Court in Manila.
Binay was among those who attended the negcrological services for the late Chief Justice Andres Narvasa, the country’s 19th top judge who passed away Thursday last week.
But when pressed further to comment on the DAP issue, especially since other government officials like former Senator Joker Arroyo had been vocal about the issue anyway, Binay said: “Eh si Joker, 80 years old na… Makakawala na iyon sa mga contempt, contempt,” he said.
“Basta ako, sa aking palagay hindi dapat ako magbigay ng comment kasi nasa Supreme Court na iyan,” Binay said.
On Wednesday last week, President Aquino appeared in a television address to defend the DAP. He also criticized those who supposedly equate the DAP to the pork barrel scam to divert public attention away from the alleged anomaly.
“Baka po may nakakalimot sa atin: Pagnanakaw ang tunay na ugat ng isyung ito. Iyan po ang usapang pilit nilang tinatabunan, matapos mabisto ang kanilang kalokohan… Sa hinaba-haba ng mga kontra-paratang na ibinabato sa atin, ni minsan, hindi ko narinig ang katagang at statement na ‘Hindi ako nagnakaw’,” the President said in his televised address.
Take the bullet
Earlier, Arroyo was quoted as saying that President Aquino’s men don’t seem ready to take the bullets for him on the DAP issue, unlike his mother, the late President Corazon Aquino.
“Whenever President Cory was attacked by her detractors, her senior officers – Rene Saguisag, Jun Factoran, Teddy Boy Locsin and Dodo Sarmiento – all Harvard graduates and bar topnotchers, took the bullets for [her] and circled their wagons around her to protect her,” said Arroyo, who once served as Mrs. Aquino’s executive secretary.
There are currently eight SC petitions questioning the DAP, which became an issue after Senator Jinggoy Estrada bared that he and other senators who voted to convict former Chief Justice Renato Corona in May last year received P50 million each in additional funds months after the impeachment trial.
Budget Secretary Florencio Abad has admitted that the funds came from the DAP, but maintained these were not bribes or incentives for senators. He said the DAP fund, which is basically realigned savings, was released to address sluggish government spending in 2011.
A Department of Budget and Management (DBM) National Budget Circular No. 541 dated July 18, 2012 said due to the “under-spending of various agencies,” President Aquino ordered on June 27, 2012 “the withdrawal of all unobligated allotments of all agencies with low level of obligations as of June 30, 2012 both for continuing and current allotment.”
The “withdrawn funds” were deemed as savings by Aquino and Abad and realigned to “augment existing programs and projects of other agencies” and “fund priority programs and projects not considered in the 2012 budget but expected to be started or implemented within the current year.”
But the petitioners said the funds could not be artificially deemed as “savings” as defined by the DBM and the General Appropriations Act of 2012 since there could be not savings in the middle of a fiscal year, especially if the projects or programs for which these funds were allocated by law, have not been completed, discontinued or abandoned.
They said the resolution of the issue whether Circular 541 or the DAP violates the Constitution, the Executive Order 292 or the Administrative Code and the appropriations law is not political as it no longer pertains to the wisdom or discretionary act of a public official.
They said the funds accumulated through the DAP are part of the presidential pork barrel, where only the sitting president, or in this case, Aquino, can determine where the funds will go. They said this could be used for patronage politics. (MNS)