Time to put DAP to rest?-A A +A
Monday, October 7, 2013
IT’S not correct to lump the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) of the Pnoy Administration under the same category as the misused and abused “pork barrel,” the now-controversial Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF). Not only a shadow but incontrovertible proof of corruption blankets the PDAF these days while so far only the legality of the DAP is being questioned.
The controversy involving Janet Lim Napoles and her PDAF-feeding NGOs has provided face to what was then the commonly-accepted but never-proven notion that politicians and people inside Government have been using the PDAF to milk billions of pesos of public funds for personal purposes. The PDAF did not make the Filipino poor richer. It only made them more dependent on their political leaders, which was perfectly convenient for the latter’s purposes.
The history behind the DAP, on the other hand, is publicly known. A year after President Noynoy Aquino assumed office, his Administration was criticized for not spending enough public money to pump-prime the moribund national economy. Experts were one in advising the President to increase public works spending in order to speed up the circulation of money so that more of it can pass through the hands of more people more times, increasing their buying capacity and strengthening the economy in the process.
And so was born the DAP. From the admitted accounts coming from Malacanang, what it then did was look around for projects that were not moving or abandoned, and all other programs (like the Malampaya Fund) with budgets that were merely being deposited in banks. The Department of Budget and Management transferred these funds into the DAP, then turned them over to agencies like the DPWH, the DOH, the DSWD which were ordered to spend them where needed and as fast as needed.
Did the pump-priming effort work? Apparently, it did. In less than two years, the Philippine Economy did pick up. Investments shot up dramatically and the country is currently experiencing a building boom it has not seen in decades. International investments ratings analysts like Standard and Poors, Moody’s and Fitch’s have upgraded the ratings of the Philippines, describing it as the brightest spot in the currently weakening Asia-Pacific Region.
There has been a dramatic rise of the middle class in the country although, on the weaker side, the bridge between the very poor and the very rich has also widened considerably. The truth is, unlike the PDAF, the DAP’s program of increased spending has generally been good for the economy.
Its success notwithstanding, the DAP does suffer from a controversial legal question. Is the program in accordance with law? Is it constitutional? I have my own personal doubts.
Under our system of government, Congress holds the public funds but cannot spend them. It is the President who is tasked to spend it through his line agencies, but only according to the instructions of Congress under the General Appropriations Act (GAA) and through special laws. That is how our separation of powers principle works.
The flaw in the PDAF is that our senators and congressmen do not only hold public funds, the President allowed them to spend the funds by giving them the authority to implement the projects, breaking the basic separation of powers. The flaw of the DAP, on the other hand, is that by unilaterally realigning funds allocated by Congress on certain programs into other programs, the President has in turn arrogated upon himself the legislative “power of the purse”, an act apparently just as flawed as the abused PDAF.
If the DAP has so far been good for the Economy, it is simply because it is being put to good use. But what if another Janet Napoles should come around someday, waiving another temptingly-red NGO apple? Maybe it’s time to put the DAP to rest, too.
Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on October 07, 2013.