Sometime about this month four years ago, President Rodrigo Duterte said in an address that he will expose those who unfairly benefited from his predecessor, former President Benigno Aquino III’s use of public funds from the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) that the Supreme Court ruled as unconstitutional.
“Did you know that Aquino and (former Budget Secretary Florencio) Abad kept on using DAP even after the Supreme Court said that it is unconstitutional as if it was nobody’s business?” he added.
He also revealed that one of his top critics, opposition attack dog Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, gained from the DAP.
“I’m telling you, I will release proof about DAP funds and that Trillanes received chunks from it,” Mr. Duterte pointed out.
Former Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales filed a complaint of usurpation of legislative powers against Aquino and Abad.
However, only Abad was indicted for the violation of Article 239 — or Usurpation of Legislative Powers — of the Revised Penal Code over the implementation of the controversial DAP where P72 billion of public funding was involved despite the fact that Aquino’s signature served as its imprimatur.
Eventually, Abad was slapped with a light simple misconduct in the implementation of the DAP which has a penalty of suspension. Since Abad is no longer in public service, the penalty was converted to a fine equivalent to three months of his former salary.
The DAP thus is now among the biggest source of injustice as a result of excesses of the previous dispensation, particularly since it was employed to oust the late former Chief Justice Renato Corona who had a fixed term, since Aquino wanted an ally to head the judiciary.
The P5 billion used for the post-trial “second tranche” of the “incentive” for Congress to remove Corona came from the slush fund.
Out of this, P1 billion or P50 million was released to each of the 20 senators who voted to convict Corona. Another P4 billion was disbursed to congressmen, at P15 million each, for having filed the impeachment case against Corona.
Abad’s bungling attempt to deny the allegations of former Senator Jinggoy Estrada over the incentive to convict Corona, which Estrada identified then as coming from the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), or the pork barrel, resulted to the DBM chief of Aquino to claim it came from the DAP fund.
The fund was huge, at P72 billion disbursed in the last months of 2011 and in 2012. It was controlled by Aquino alone, unauthorized by Congress. It was in effect Aquino’s personal pork barrel fund, in the sense that he could direct its use as he wished as there was no Commission on Audit examination.
In the Senate, three senators were denied the fund: Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Miriam Defensor-Santiago and Joker Arroyo, for voting against Corona’s conviction, which made clear the intention of the Palace allocation.
Abad had indicated that the release of the funds to the senator judges was meant to boost stimulus spending.
Retired Commission on Audit senior auditor Art Besana said of the DAP money released, Trillanes received P245 million DAP money in three tranches.
According to Estrada, all senators, except Arroyo, Marcos and Santiago, received P50 million each to convict Corona.
On the days that the impeachment trial was held, DAP money was distributed as follows:
Pia Cayetano, P33 million on 9 December 2011; Trillanes, P73 million on 13 December 2011; Nene Pimentel, P90 million on 13 December 2011; Serge Osmeña, P100 million on 13 December 2011; and Alan Peter Cayetano, P44 million on the same day.
Two weeks before Corona was impeached, P819 million in DAP money was released by the DBM on 23 November 2011 to bribe congressmen, many of them eventually became prosecutors: Joseph Emilio Abaya, P408 million, and Sonny Belmonte, P263 million.
Eighty-two congressmen were compensated to the tune of P10 million each, most of them were Aquino’s Liberal Party colleagues and friends from the Nacionalista Party.
As if the more than P6.5 billion released for CJ Corona’s trial and conviction were not enough, Abad released in June 2012 a P1.07 billion bonus to 19 senators to celebrate Corona’s ouster through additional lump sum DAP funds.
These were released in several installments from October to December 2012, with the allocation for each senator ranging from a low of P30 million to a high of P100 million, according to Besana. Certain House legislators got an additional P15 million each.
Instead of spending billions of pesos of public money for an infrastructure that will benefit all, the DAP distributed unspecified projects that are the usual sources of kickbacks.