Sep 28, 2013

List of 20 senators who got additional pork barrel

MANILA, Philippines – Twenty senators received a total of P1.107 billion in additional pork barrel funds a few months after they convicted then Chief Justice Renato Corona of betrayal of public trust and culpable violation of the Constitution and removed him from office last year.

Budget Secretary Florencio Abad on Saturday confirmed the release of the funds but quickly pointed out that the money had come from the so-called Disbursement Acceleration Program that was introduced in 2011 to “ramp up spending and help accelerate economic expansion.”

Of the 20 senators who voted to convict Corona, only then Senator Panfilo Lacson did not avail himself of the additional development fund from the Executive.

But then Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, Sen. Franklin Drilon, erstwhile chair of the Senate finance committee, and Sen. Francis Escudero received a double portion of the additional pork barrel, while two of the three senators who voted to acquit Corona did not receive any: Senators Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos and Miriam Defensor-Santiago.

Senator Joker Arroyo, who also voted to exculpate Corona, was allotted P47 million, which was released in February 2013.

Arroyo, who retired last June, had not availed of his Priority Development Assistance Fund allocation for most of his stay tenure, which began in 2001.

Those who received releases during that period and their corresponding amounts were:
  • Antonio Trillanes (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)
  • Vicente Sotto III (October 2012–P11 million; November 2012–P39 million)
  • Teofisto Guingona (October 2012–P35 million; December 2012–P9 million)
  • Serge Osmena (December 2012–P50 million)
Enrile (December 2012–P92 million) and Drilon (December 2012–P100 million)

In previous interviews, Drilon admitted being allotted only P50 million.

Senators Gregorio Honasan and Escudero got their share way ahead of their peers.

“There were two earlier releases made in late August of that same year (2012): Greg Honasan (P50 million) and Francis Escudero (P99 million),” abad said, adding:

“No releases were made in 2012 to Senators Ping Lacson, Joker Arroyo, Pia Cayetano, Bongbong Marcos and Miriam Defensor-Santiago. In 2013, however, releases were made for funding requests from the office of Sen. Arroyo (February 2013–P47 million) and Sen. Pia Cayetano (January 2013–P50 million). The 24th senator then, Benigno S. Aquino III, was already President (at the time).”

The Disbursement Acceleration Program is a relatively new—and little known—lump sum budgetary item introduced by the Aquino administration in 2011 ostensibly to spur growth.

But since 2012, it has been tapped to serve as funding source for senators’ additional development funds or pork barrel.

The budget chief said he was making public the list of senators who were granted additional funds “in the interest of transparency.”

“To suggest that these funds were used as ‘bribes’ (in the impeachment trial) is inaccurate at best and irresponsible at worst,” said Abad in a statement issued by the Department of Budget and Management.

Contacted by phone, Abad confirmed that the additional releases from Disbursement Acceleration Program were on top of the P200-million PDAF allocation of every senator.

These were funds for “additional projects, mostly infra (infrastructure), to ramp up infra spending. Why JPE (Enrile’s initials) and Drilon got higher allocation? They were SP (Senate president) and chair of the finance committee, respectively. Many more (people) go to them for help,” said Abad.

Abad also defended the decision to give Escudero a higher allocation.

He said the senator “made a special appeal to the President, which was granted. He was zero or got little during GMA (then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo) times.”

Escudero, a personal friend of the President, was the minority leader in the House of Representatives when Arroyo faced repeated impeachment attempts over alleged rigging of the 2004 presidential election.

Then House members Escudero, Alan Peter Cayetano and Mr. Aquino were on the same side during those tumultuous times.

They were eventually elected to the Senate in 2007, with Mr. Aquino successfully running for President in 2010.

The senators themselves apparently sought the additional funds.

Most releases from Disbursement Acceleration Program were made during the period October-December 2012, “based entirely on letters of request submitted to us by the senators,” said Abad, apparently confirming, as the senators had earlier admitted, that the scheme to grant additional pork barrel to senators was hatched during a caucus of senators.

The caucus is off-limits to senators’ staff and the media.

Abad also responded to insinuations by Senator Estrada, in a privilege speech last Wednesday, that the additional releases –although not bribes – were “incentives” to the senator-judges.

“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 allocation toward the end of 2012,” said Abad.

“These fund releases have recently been touted as ‘bribes,’ ‘rewards,’ or ‘incentives.’ They were not. The releases, which were mostly for infrastructure projects, were part of what is called the Disbursement Acceleration Program designed by the Department of Budget and Management to ramp up spending and help accelerate economic expansion.”

Abad denied that program was created to curry the favor of senators, or maintain the allegiance of senators friendly to the Malacañang occupant.

“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 (gross domestic product) growth to slow down to just 3.6 percent,” he said.

During this period, he said, 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.”

In 2011, he said, the Disbursement Acceleration Program supported projects like the relocation of families living in 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 Units’ Internal Revenue Allotments (P6.5 billion).

In 2012, the Disbursement Acceleration Program also funded these crucial projects: 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 (DepEd) premium payments for teachers (P4.0 billion), Department of Agrarian Reform-Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) “Tulay ng Pangulo” (P1.8 billion), Department of Health-DPWH rehabilitation of regional health units (P1.96 billion), DepEd’s public-private partnership for school infrastructure (P4.0 billion), and Bangko Sentral’s capital infusion (P20 billion).

“For 2013, releases from DAP for legislators were suspended by President Aquino in the aftermath of the Commission on Audit special audit report (of PDAF releases). 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,” said Abad.

He said DAP releases were usually funded from unreleased appropriations under Personnel Services, as is the case when positions are either not filled up or filled up late, he said.

“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,” said Abad.

“In the particular case of infrastructure projects, 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.

He, in effect, belied insinuations that these additional releases were a form of post-impeachment payoff.

“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,” said the budget chief. - source


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