Nobody knew about the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) outside of Philippine President Benigno Simeon “BS” Aquino’s inner circle. Not even the members of Congress and the Senate knew the program existed until the President was forced to defend giving additional P50 million each to the Senators who convicted former Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona in 2012. So, the question remains: what the heck did the President and his men mean when they said disbursing “savings” through DAP “was done in good faith”?
DAP is more of the result of the President’s reactive style of management as opposed to the more efficient style of being more pro-active. In his recent speech defending the DAP, he claimed to have been “taken aback by certain information given” to him hours before he was scheduled to deliver his 2011 SONA — like the one about DepEd, “only managing to complete 18 out of the 8,000 school buildings that they had targeted to build.”
First of all, isn’t it strange that the President’s staff would only brief him about the country’s state of affairs hours before he delivered the state of the nation address? Second, why didn’t his staff know about the problems his department would face like “problems with land, assessment issues, as well as the complex processes in our bureaucracy in building the schools” beforehand? He should have been aware of it while he was drawing up the blueprints for his projects.
Could the rumor be true that BS Aquino hardly has cabinet meetings at all? If true, that could explain why he doesn’t get briefed in a timely manner about what is going on in his area of responsibility. The contents of his speech seem to indicate so. He admits to being “surprised” and being clueless about the issues his cabinet members have to face.
In his speech explaining the use of DAP, BS Aquino confirmed that he was aware that they were dipping into funds that were not allowed by the law:
The Cabinet agreed, regarding their respective funds: Use it or lose it. If you cannot use the funds allotted for this year, clearly, those are savings. We are given the chance to extend, at the soonest possible time, those benefits that have immediate impact on our Bosses. In this way, benefits that may have been delayed are replaced by other benefits. Let us also remember that the government is at a deficit: We have to borrow funds for our projects. If we allow funds to go unused, then we would be paying interest for nothing.
Clearly, the Chief Executive’s problem is not the Judiciary’s ruling against his use of “savings” or DAP. His problem is his lack of planning and foresight. Had he not cancelled the projects initiated by the previous administration, like the Php 1.9 billion in flood control projects, not only would the Filipinos — his “bosses” — have benefited from it by now, he would have been enjoying taking the credit for it as he always does. As someone wisely mentioned, “BS Aquino lacks vision. Had he not abrogated former President Gloria Arroyo’s projects in 2010, either they fail or succeed; he can blame GMA or credit-grab!”
Indeed, lack of planning, lack of foresight and lack of vision defines BS Aquino’s administration. This is the only reason why they had to use so-called “savings” and transfer it from one department to another. In other words, they were overcompensating for under-spending at the beginning of his term. They also tried to right a wrong with another wrong.
After his speech, some of BS Aquino’s most rabid supporters who do not even understand the law are now openly expressing their anger towards the members of the Supreme Court. This is a result of BS Aquino’s seeming threat to ask Congress to intervene in the escalating conflict between the Executive’s interpretation of the law and the Judiciary’s. In fact, some members of Congress have already mobilized initiatives to undermine the independence of the Supreme Court:
Iloilo Representative Niel Tupas Jr., a member of the administration Liberal Party, filed House Bill 4738 seeking to repeal Presidential Decree No. 1949, which created the JDF, which Malacanang’s allies have derided as the “judicial pork barrel.”Last week, Ilocos Norte Representative Rodolfo Farinas also filed House Bill 4690, seeking accountability in the use of the JDF.
Again, lack of foresight seems to be motivating these lawmakers. They don’t realize that if they cripple the Judiciary, it can affect the Filipino people. Justice delayed is justice denied. There’s already a backlog of cases waiting to be heard by the Supreme Court. The last thing the Justices need is to be distracted by petty politics. Besides, removing the Supreme Court’s pork will not affect the Supreme Court Justices as much as removing the elected officials’ pork. The Justices do not need to buy votes or spend on campaigns to retain their positions so the impact shouldn’t be as shattering.
BS Aquino and his supporters now use Book VI, Chapter 5, Section 39 of the 1987 Administrative Code of the Philippines in defending DAP. They insist it allows the President to use savings to cover deficit in any other item of the regular appropriations. But unfortunately for them, the Administrative Code was issued while former President and Presidential mother, the late Cory Aquino “still had legislative power before Congress became operative. It antedates the 1987 Constitution” as per Constitutional expert, Joaquin Bernas. Meaning, the Constitution overrules the Admin Code.
The excuse that the Executive had no choice but to use DAP for “urgent” projects doesn’t really make sense because according to some senators, the Office of the President asked them to name their pet projects for the extra 50 million pesos that will be given to them as “incentive” for convicting Corona. Since the project was yet to be named at the time, then it surely wasn’t classified as “urgent”. To use BS Aquino’s analogy, there was no use parking at the no-parking area when the reason is not considered an “emergency”.
It is becoming clear to a lot of people that BS Aquino did not really have a sustainable economic policy prior to and after winning the Presidency. He and his men just needed to boost the economic growth rate as an attempt to define his legacy during his term. Sadly, boosting the economy through government spending is not a very sound policy. It does not create industries that will result in jobs for the unemployed. It does not even promote innovation that can attract foreign investors who can then provide additional jobs.
I’m glad it’s not my job to defend DAP. It would be hard to prove government spending benefited the people when people want to see tangible proof that it was spent wisely. The economic growth rate wasn’t even inclusive and the credit rating upgrade doesn’t mean anything to the average Filipino. It would be hard to explain giving a big chunk of it to Senators who they knew were giving funds to bogus NGOs.