THE Aquino administration is in a quandary.
Shortly after putting senators Bong Revilla Jr. and Jinggoy Estrada behind bars for their alleged involvement in the PhP10-billion pork barrel scam and issuing a warrant against former Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, government is now beset with a problem bigger than pilferage of the PDAF—that of the issue of the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) being declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.
Designed as a stimulus package to fast-track public spending and economic and push economic growth—which was supposedly being hampered by a prevailing under-spending in government disbursements—President Aquino approved the DAP in October 2011 upon the recommendation of the Development Budget Coordination Committee and the Cabinet Clusters.
From its approval and throughout 2012-2013 government spent a total PhP142.23 billion in realigned savings from different government agencies on a total 116 DAP-funded budgets. And in declaring the practice to be in violation of the Constitution, the High Tribunal cites the culpability of the proponents and implementers of the illegal government program.
The chief architect of this budget impounding system is Budget Secretary Florencio “Butch” Abad, the same person whom some quarters have accused of orchestrating and providing tutelage to the players and con artists of the PDAF scam.
If the PDAF scam lists senators and congressmen as possible conspirators, the DAP tags the Office of the President—President PNoy—for approving a program that is against the fundamental laws of the land.
In defense, Malacanang said it “acted in good faith” when it spent hundreds of billions in public funds circumventing the provisions of the Constitution via the DAP. Also, being unconstitutional—in the words of Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda—should not be equated to criminality. Acting in good faith could be taken as the government’s admission of incompetence or an ignorance of the law, with both providing no excuse for the commission of an illegal act.
Because the DAP is very similar to the PDAF in many respects including the funding of projects identified by lawmakers, it is not easy to accept that the line that DAP was money well spent and the thievery was limited to the PDAF.
The PDAF involved an amount less than one percent of the total national budget and the DAP spending is ten times that of the money that Janet Lim Napoles and her co-accused were able to stick their fingers into.
If PDAF is just “pocket change”—Napoles and company are just petty thieves. An audit of the DAP and national budget could lead us to the big-time crooks and the smooth criminals in government.