Press Release
October 1, 2013


Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago said that the scandalous DAP (Disbursement Acceleration Program) is illegal, because it was not contained in the 2011 or 2012 budgets; and because alleged savings were used to augment new budget items which was not previously authorized by Congress.

But Santiago also said that President Aquino should seize this rare opportunity to permanently fix the flawed budget system.

The senator said DAP violates the constitutional provision that: "No law shall be passed authorizing any transfer of appropriations; however, the President, . . . may, by law, be authorized to augment any item in the general appropriations law for their respective offices from savings in other items of their respective appropriations."

Santiago said that the Constitution allows fund transfers, only if there are savings, meaning that the project was completed, and yet the appropriation was not exhausted; but there are no savings if a project was merely deferred.

The senator said it appears that DAP funds were taken from alleged slow-moving projects. If so, no savings were generated, and therefore the DAP is illegal.

"The first issue is that the DAP was not taken from savings. The second issue is that the DAP was not used to augment items in the budget that were previously authorized by Congress. The alleged savings were used to augment new budget items not previously authorized by Congress," she said.

Santiago said that the budget department should have sought the approval of Congress, because under the Constitution it is Congress that exercises the power of the purse.

Santiago also said that in 2011, Pres. Aquino reacted to criticisms that his administration did not implement government programs fast enough. As a response, Pres. Aquino authorized the budget department to set aside P85.5 billion for the DAP, without getting prior congressional approval.

"The budget secretary released a list of the beneficiaries of the DAP. The variance of the beneficiaries - lumping together P10 billion to the National Housing Authority, with P50 million for every senator in 2012 - indicates that the DAP is nothing more or less than the huge pork barrel of the President, spent without the participation of the Congress," she said.

The senator said that she hopes that the COA, responding to her prior letter requesting a DAP audit, will answer the questions: How were the new budget items arrived at? Where did all these monies go? Which were the provinces, cities, and towns? Who were the service providers? Were they chosen thru competitive bidding? And who were the real beneficiaries?

Santiago said that to prevent the DAP from destroying the congressional power of the purse, Congress should pass a law patterned after the 1974 Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act of the United States.

"Under American law, if the President discovers an enacted appropriation which has not been spent, the President cannot just cancel the appropriation. The President must first ask Congress for a rescission, meaning a cancellation or cut-back of appropriated funds for a project no longer considered necessary. The President cannot act by himself alone. Such a law would restore the balance of power between the executive and legislative branches," she said.

Santiago said that it was Pres. Aquino himself who, as a senator filed Senate Bill No. 3121, the proposed Budget Control and Impoundment Act.

"Pres. Aquino's proposed impoundment law takes a fiscally responsible position. If he doesn't mind, I will simply refile it in the Senate, with an explanatory note that it was originally filed by Pres. Aquino," Santiago said.

Santiago said that the budget department is "chipping away at the legislative power of the purse by fiddling with the budget."

"The budget department website shows that it is running rings around the budget. In certain cases, it has initially released the allotment, meaning an authority to spend. Then, claiming that the department head was slow in using the funds, it "retrieved" the released funds. Then it disbursed the funds for budgetary items not expressly authorized by Congress. The process is not at all transparent," she said.

Santiago said that the budget department is basically realigning funds without public discussion in Congress.

"Congress has the power of continuing congressional oversight on the budget. In the Senate, we should demand more disaggregate reports from DBM, particularly on infrastructure and other capital outlays. The classification of public infrastructure should be broken up into the three categories of public infrastructure, other capital outlays, and military hardware, which has not even contributed to economic growth," she said.

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