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Aquino dares critics to file impeachment raps against him


(Updated 3:30 p.m.) - President Benigno Aquino on Wednesday dared critics to impeach him over the controversial Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) fund, saying he believes he made the right decision in re-aligning the money to spur economic development.

"Isulong nila kung palagay nila tama sila, pero kakabasa ko lang sa Constitution, merong authority sa savings to put to other uses basta nandun sa ating budget. Nakatoka naman 'yun supposed to be for projects that are already authorized by Congress," Aquino told reporters after attending the Brotherhood of Christian Business and Professionals’ Grand Breakfast in Pasay City.

Aquino was reacting to comments made by former senator Joker Arroyo and Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago that the DAP releases are illegal and unconstitutional, and could be used as grounds for impeachment.

The issue emerged after Sen. Jinggoy Estrada claimed in his privilege speech last week that the Aquino administration gave some lawmakers P50 million each in additional funds, following their vote to convict former Chief Justice Renato Corona for betrayal of public trust and culpable violation of the Philippine Constitution.

Estrada is one of the lawmakers and government officials facing plunder charges at the Ombudsman for allegedly getting kickbacks from their Priority Development Assistance Fund allocation, that went to bogus NGOs operated by trader Janet Lim-Napoles in a multi-billion pork barrel scam.

Budget Sec. Florencio "Butch" Abad later explained that the funds mentioned by Estrada came from the DAP and were released in October. He said the funds had nothing to do with the conviction of Corona in May.

Since the DAP was launched in 2011, Abad said only nine per cent of the money went to projects identified by the legislators, and that none of the funds were channeled through their offices.



'Bribe after the fact?'

On Wednesday, Aquino appeared irritated with questions on whether the DAP was used as a bribe for senators to vote for the impeachment of Corona.

“Bakit hindi mo tingnan kung kailan na-release? Mayo na-impeach si Ginoong Corona. 'Yung releases, kung tama ang tanda ko, October. So, meron bang bribe after the fact?” Aquino said.

The president defended the DAP, saying the government needed the money to maintain the country's economic growth.

“Ang reklamo ng business community, ng economic sector, ng ilang mga kritiko natin, ang kupad daw naming gumastos nitong budget, at nawawala ‘yung pump-priming effects. So, ‘yung Disbursement Acceleration Program was meant, ano, ‘yung departamento na efficient na idinivide mo into several years ‘yung gagawain, puwede namang magawa in a shorter period of time kung may funding support, ay hinanapan natin ng funds,” Aquino said.

The President issued the challenge to his critics on the same day the militant group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas filed a plunder complaint before the Office of the Ombudsman against him and several other government officials in connection with the pork barrel scam.

'Illegal'

In an interview with Jessica Soho on GMA News' State of the Nation program on Wednesday, former Senator Arroyo maintained that DAP was "illegal" because the DBM needs approval from Congress to disburse government funds through an approved budget.

"Walang enabling law," Arroyo said. "Anong authority for DBM to disburse that kind of money?"

Meanwhile, Abad said in a separate interview with Soho that DAP is not a new program, and had been mentioned in press releases even before the Corona impeachment trial.

He also pointed out that most of the money was disbursed in 2011 for vital infrastructure and livelihood projects, allowing the Philippines to register record economic growth last year that has buoyed investor confidence in the country. — With infographic by Analyn Perez/LBG/KG/YA, GMA News
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