Budget chief admits releasing huge fund to senators last year-A A +A
Saturday, September 28, 2013
BUDGET Secretary Florencio Abad admitted Saturday that huge fund releases were made to senators in latter part of last year.
But the Budget chief explained that those releases were part of spending acceleration program of the government.
"In the interest of transparency, we want to set the record straight on releases made to support projects that were proposed by senators on top of their regular PDAF (priority development assistance program) allocation toward the end of 2012," he said.
"These fund releases have recently been touted as 'bribes,' 'rewards,' or 'incentives.' They were not," he stressed.
Abad explained that the releases, which were mostly for infrastructure projects, were part of what is called the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) designed by his office to ramp up spending and help accelerate economic expansion.
"To suggest that these funds were used as 'bribes' is inaccurate at best and irresponsible at worst," he said.
Senator Jinggoy Estrada in a privilege speech this week disclosed that the senators, including him, received P50 million each after the impeachment of Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona in May last year.
But Abad said that in 2012, most releases were made during the period October-December, based entirely on letters of request submitted to by the senators.
Those who received releases during that period and their corresponding amounts were: Senators Antonio Trillanes IV (October 2012–P50 million), Manuel Villar (October 2012–P50 million), Ramon Revilla (October 2012–P50 million), Francis Pangilinan (October 2012–P30 million), Loren Legarda (October 2012–P50 million), Lito Lapid (October 2012–P50 million), Jinggoy Estrada (October 2012–P50 million); Alan Cayetano (October 2012–P50 million), Edgardo Angara (October 2012–P50 million), Ralph Recto (October 2012–P23 million; December 2012–P27 million), Koko Pimentel (October 2012–P25.5 million; November 2012–P5 million; December 2012–P15 million), Tito Sotto (October 2012–P11 million; November 2012–P39 million), Teofisto Guingona (October 2012–P35 million; December 2012–P9 million), Serge Osmena (December 2012–P50 million), then-Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile(December 2012–P92 million) and current Senate President Frank Drilon (December 2012–P100 million).
"There were two earlier releases made in late August of that same year: (Gregorio) Greg Honasan (P50 million) and Francis Escudero (P99 million). No releases were made in 2012 to Senators (Panfilo) Ping Lacson, Joker Arroyo, Pia Cayetano, Bongbong Marcos and Miriam Defensor-Santiago," Abad said.
In 2013, however, releases were made for funding requests from the office of Senator Arroyo (February 2013–P47 million) and Senator Pia Cayetano (January 2013–P50 million), he said. The 24th senator then, Benigno Aquino III, was already President.
"This was not the first time that releases from DAP were made to fund project requests from legislators. In 2011, the DAP was instituted to ramp up spending after sluggish disbursements—resulting from the government's preliminary efforts to plug fund leakages and seal policy loopholes within key implementing agencies—caused the country's GDP growth to slow down to just 3.6 percent," the Budget chief said.
During this period, the government also accommodated requests for project funding from legislators and local governments, government-owned and controlled corporations, and national government agencies to help ease the country's expenditure performance forward, he said.
For example, he said that in 2011, DAP also supported projects like the relocation of families living along dangerous zones (P10 billion) under the National Housing Authority, equity infusion under the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (P10 billion), landowners’ compensation under the Department of Agrarian Reform (P5.4 billion), Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao comprehensive peace and development program (P8.6 billion), and the augmentation of local government unit Internal Revenue Allotments (P6.5 billion).
In 2012, DAP also funded crucial projects like tourism road construction under the departments of Tourism and Public Works (P5 billion), the National Goverment's share for the Government Service Insurance System-Department of Education (GSIS-DepEd) premium payments for teachers (P4 billion), Department of Agrarian Reform-Department of Public Works and Highways (DAR-DPWH) Tulay ng Pangulo (P1.8 billion), Department of Health (DOH)-DPWH rehabilitation of regional health units (P1.96 billion), DepEd's public-private partnership for school infrastructure (P4.0 billion), and BSP's capital infusion (P20 billion).
"For 2013, releases from DAP for legislators were suspended by President Aquino in the aftermath of the COA (Commission on Audit) special audit report," Abad said.
To this day, no subsequent DAP releases have since been made to support lawmaker-endorsed projects, in much the same way as we suspended PDAF releases, he added.
DAP releases are usually funded from unreleased appropriations under Personnel Services, as is the case when positions are either not filled up or filled up late.
The releases may also be funded from the Unprogrammed Fund—due to revenues generated beyond the target, such as GOCC dividends—carry-over appropriations unreleased from the previous year, as well as budgets for slow-moving items or projects that have been realigned to support faster-disbursing projects.
In the particular case of infrastructure projects, Abad said the DAP has played a central role in boosting government spending and, ultimately, in expanding the economy.
"DAP's efficiency in moving public funds toward high-impact projects has in fact been expressed in our remarkable GDP growth, all while we endeavor to bring rapid, sustainable, and inclusive development to the country," he said.
"While it is unfortunate that DAP releases are now being maligned to serve some very questionable political interests, we hope that these fund releases are seen exactly for what they are: as a valuable fiscal tool for accelerating government spending and the delivery of public goods and services to the people, not as an instrument for political coercion," Abad added. (SDR/Sunnex)