MANILA — “It has been a year now and we haven’t forgotten. The Aquino administration has neither apologized nor shown remorse for the unconstitutional DAP.” This is why the group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan-Metro Manila trooped to the office of Budget Secretary Florencio Abad on Oct. 7.
With an effigy of a full trash can where smiling pictures of Abad and Pres. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III were on top of the garbage heap, the group proceeded to Mendiola Bridge (now Chino Roces) for a short program. After that, they burned the Aquino-Abad effigy.
Bayan Metro Manila said they are marking the approaching first year anniversary of the bombshell that exposed DAP (Disbursement Acceleration Program) to the nation. They recalled how nearly a year ago, the existence of DAP and the questionable way the funds under it were spent was revealed by Senator Jinggoy Estrada in a privilege speech. Estrada said Aquino used DAP funds to bribe senators during the impeachment of former Chief Justice Renato Corona. Later reports showed that indeed, some senators who led in impeaching the former Chief Justice received millions of funds from DAP.
At the time, a daily serving of news about the luxurious lifestyles and likely cohorts of pork barrel launderer, or the so-called pork barrel scam queen Janet Lim-Napoles, were igniting public fury.
About a year ago, too, Budget Sec. Abad defended the DAP in a statement released to the media. Months later, the Supreme Court struck down as unconstitutional the salient points of DAP. But President Aquino questioned the high court’s ruling, filed a motion for reconsideration, directed Congress to revise the definition of “savings” to make the DAP-style budget impoundment legal, and in a move seen by critics as “bullying” of the judiciary, he repeatedly questioned the SC ruling on DAP and threatened to restrict the court’s budget and access to its funds.
“It is indeed such a huge insult to all anti pork Filipinos to know that the unconstitutional DAP is still in use, like the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), for political patronage,” said Raymond Palatino, Bayan Metro Manila chairman and former Kabataan Partylist Representative.
Palatino said the unconstitutional DAP and PDAF still remains in the proposed 2015 national budget by Pres. Aquino, and political patronage continues as can be seen in the ongoing budgeting process.
Aquino’s proposed redefinition of savings, seen as suiting his DAP method of transferring Congress-approved budget to other projects at any time of the year through executive discretion, was approved by the House of Representatives last Sept 26, before the House went on a recess.
DAP accounting, accountability not yet happening
“Nearly a year after the furor over DAP, no one has been made to account for it, no case has been filed against those involved and against its architect,” said Palatino in Filipino. His group urged for a congressional probe instead of institutionalization of DAP. The probe, Palatino said, would determine not just the mechanism used by the government to distribute DAP funds but also validate claims that the funds were spent efficiently, rationally and judiciously.
“Accounting DAP should also serve as a guide to check if there are DAP-like items and resurrected programs in the proposed 2015 national budget,” Palatino said.
In a statement distributed to the media, Bayan Metro Manila said DAP has tainted Aquino’s pledge to clean the government and it sets a worrisome precedent that undermined separation of powers, rule of law, and the country’s struggle against any form of authoritarianism. The group told Pres. Aquino that he cannot claim to fight corruption and bad governance if he is the first to violate the country’s fundamental law.
Aquino campaigned on calls for good governance and fighting corruption, and promises his administration will be the opposite of the former Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo administration, which was marked by scams and corruption scandals.
Bayan Metro Manila said their Oct 7 picket in front of the Department of Budget Management and at Mendiola, near Malacañang, was just the start in a series of protests this October, leading to a bigger rally by Oct 30, the first year after Aquino’s prime time TV speech defending DAP.
The group demanded the resignation of Budget Sec. Abad, in preparation for the probe into the unconstitutional DAP. Bayan’s planned protest actions include one set on Oct 8 (marking the 11th month since supertyphoon Yolanda hit the country), and another on Oct 17, when the group will lead a forum on DAP.