Senate urged to invite past Budget chiefs in DAP probe

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Friday, July 25, 2014


SENATOR Nancy Binay said Friday the finance committee under the chairmanship of Senator Francis Escudero must invite previous administration budget secretaries in order to clear the air on the controversial Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).

In an interview, Binay said former budget secretaries like now Representative Rolando Andaya and Benjamin Diokno can be invited to shed light on the issue of DAP in response to the claims made by Budget Secretary Florencio Butch Abad when the latter said that DAP has been a long time practice by past administrations.

Andaya was the budget chief during President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo while Diokno was the budget secretary during the time of former President Joseph Ejercito Estrada.

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"I think we really need to hear from them about the savings. We cannot just take his word as if it's the truth. We have to hear the other side and that is possible if these people will be invited to shed light on the issue. Malay ba natin kung totoo nga ang mga sinasabi ni Sec. Abad," Binay said.

At the same time, Binay raised the issue on the Commission on Audit (COA) who also received savings from DAP amounting to P150 million from the Executive.

The Commission on Elections (Comelec), which also received DAP by as much as P4.1 billion, was highlighted during the hearing on DAP called by the Senate committee on finance.

Of the said savings pooled by the Department of Budget and Management since 2011, a total of P237 billion, P167 billion was identified as "DAP funds" while P144.3 billion was the actual amount released since 2011.

The bulk of the "savings" came from unused allocation for personnel services or the Miscellaneous Benefits Personnel Fund (MPBF), the item also used as funding source for job vacancies or "unfilled positions" of concerned government agencies.

"In 2010 we did not implement the DAP. There was no DAP yet. The bulk of the savings came about in 2011. For example, the unreleased personnel services in 2010 was about P36.3billion; 2011 P35.97 billion; 2012, it reached P42.4 billion and 2013 P31.2 billion," Abad, answering queries coming from Binay.

Abad said he is ready to identify point-by-point all the DAP projects, which he also clarified is now posted in the DBM website and open for those who are interested to know and scrutinize were the funds has been channeled.

During the hearing, Binay reminded Abad about the provision clearly stated in the Constitution about cross-border allocations.

"So you allowed cross-border allocations because COA said it could not touch its savings since these will be used for their office, so you had to give COA additional funds. But isn’t there a provision in the Constitution that constitutional offices have fiscal autonomy? What it looks like is that COA still owes the Palace a debt of gratitude since the COA had additional funds," Binay told Abad.

The Budget chief then explained that the COA notified the department that they will be using their savings in financing the rehabilitation or renovation of their various provincial satellite offices.

Aside from the COA, the neophyte lawmaker also pointed out the provision of funds to the Comelec to finance the acquisition of precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines for the 2013 elections.

Abad, in his opening speech, emphasized that in some instances, cross-border transfer of funds were necessary due to some pressing concerns or urgent public good as in the case in 2012 when the Supreme Court, in a ruling, mandated the Comelec to purchase, instead of leasing the PCOS machines needed for the 2013 elections.

That is the instance where the three branches (of government) are independent, and does not mean they should always be divided, said Abad.

"There are three equal bodies (executive, legislative, judiciary) but we are under one government and one country," Abad said as he further explained that if the past elections did not push through, "Who will the people blame? They will not blame Congress nor the Judiciary but the Executive."

The poll body initially requested P5 billion but the Executive agreed to augment their needs in the amount of P4.1 billion, Abad said. (Camille P. Balagtas/Sunnex)

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