By Jelly F. Musico
MANILA, July 24 (PNA) – Senator Sergio Osmena III said the show of force of the Aquino Cabinet members in the Senate inquiry on the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) on Thursday proved they wanted to be very transparent and accountable.
”They are all supporting each other. And I’m glad to see that they’re very transparent,” Osmena said after the almost seven-hour public hearing on the controversial DAP.
Department of Budget and Management (DBM) Secretary Florencio ‘Butch’ Abad led at least 19 Cabinet members who trooped to the Senate to explain the DAP which the Supreme Court declared certain acts as unconstitutional.
Aside from Abad, other Cabinet secretaries present were National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Director General Arsenio Balisacan; Secretaries Cesar Purisima of the Department of Finance (DOF); Manuel A. Roxas of Interior and Local Government; Enrique Ona of Health; Rosalinda Baldoz of Labor and Employment; Voltaire Gazmin of Defense; Rogelio Singson of Public Works and Highways; Corazon J. Soliman of Social Welfare and Development; Ramon Jimenez of Tourism; Joseph Emilio Abaya of Transportation and Communications; Proceso Alcala of Agriculture; Armin Luistro of Education; Virgilio delos Reyes of Agrarian Reform;, and Cabinet Secretary Rene Almendras.
Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) Francis Tolentino as well as Governance Commission for GOCCs (GCG) Secretary Cesar Villanueva, Climate Change Commission Secretary Lucille Sering, President Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. and Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda also attended the Senate probe.
Abad answered most of the questions from the 13 senators throughout the nearly seven hours grilling of the trusted secretaries of President Aquino.
The DBM chief revealed to the Senate finance committee that a total of P237.508 billion savings have been allotted for different projects under the DAP although only P144.3 billion has been released to various recipients, including 19 senators who got a total of P1.1 billion.
Abad explained to the committee that the use and generation of savings, of which DAP is an example, is not new.
Abad said that during the administrations of former Presidents Corazon C. Aquino, Fidel V. Ramos and Joseph Ejercito Estrada, the mechanism for the use of savings for economy-boosting projects was called Reserve Control Account while under Arroyo administration the practice was dubbed the use of overall savings.
”The practice of generating and using savings bore different names because each administration faces its own unique set of economic and fiscal challenges,” Abad explained.
Senate committee on finance chairman Sen. Francis Escudero said the Senate might call another hearing to clarify some issues, specifically on the list of DAP-identified projects submitted to the committee by Abad.
Osmena, however, said the Cabinet secretaries can explain other DAP information during the Senate hearings for the proposed 2015 national budget which Malacanang is expected to submit next month.
Escudero said he is contented with Abad’s explanation although the DBM chief is in the mode of waiting for the result of the motion for reconsideration they filed before the Supreme Court.
”I think, the SC will unlikely reverse its decision. So the Cabinet members should prepare already on what to do after the final court verdict. The court decision is the court decision that should be followed,” Escudero said.
Abad expressed fears that the SC ruling might affect the government’s effort to sustain the impressive economic growth under the Aquino administration.
Abad said DAP was created in 2011 to spur economic activities after the economy skidded to alarming 3.1 percent.
The move, he said, has resulted to economic gains of 6.3 percent in 2012 and 7.3 percent in 2013.
Meanwhile, Sen. Juan Edgardo ‘Sonny’ Angara stressed the need to make the budgetary process more transparent and accessible to the public.
Angara said there are “enormous lump sums which is public money that the public is unaware of how they were used.”
Angara said they are willing to work with the Executive department to introduce these reforms.
The lawmaker also said it is high time to reexamine Presidential Decree 1177, signed by President Ferdinand Marcos, and Executive Order 292, signed by President Cory Aquino, in light of recent developments.
“These laws were not subject to a democratic discussion, so to speak. I think it is about time that we look at how we spend and budget the people’s money. I think we can do a better job especially now in the age of crowd-sourcing, in the age of Internet,” Angara said.
Abad said the list of DAP-identified projects and other related documents will be available at the DBM websites and official gazette of Malacanang. (PNA)