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Budget Sec. Abad: No regrets in implementing DAP

(Updated 12:12 p.m.) Budget Secretary Florencio "Butch" Abad on Tuesday stressed that he does not regret realigning government savings to fund some projects under the controversial Disbursement Acceleration Program.
"Certainly not. How can you regret it without raising taxes, except sin tax? Without borrowing more? We have managed to increase unprecedently our investment in basic education, health, infrastructure, housing, you name it," Abad said in an interview on ANC.
He also noted that the "economy has grown; NEDA (National Economic and Development Authority) and PSA (Philippine Statistics Authority) said all poverty reduction programs are beginning to take effect. This is a good program and SC conceded it is, even our detractors said it is a good program so why stop a good program?"

Last week, Abad offered to resign from the Aquino administration over the controversy triggered by the DAP. 

President Benigno Aquino III, however, rejected Abad's resignation, saying that to accept the offer would mean also admitting the notion that the administration's Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) was a mistake.

"I have to do this for my own self-respect, for my own sense of decency being the chief implementor of the budget, of DAP. I have to take full responsibility [for] this," he said in the television interview. 

"This is not the first time I offered to resign as a Cabinet secretary. I sought the understanding and apology from the President and [from my] colleagues [in the] Cabinet for the stress and inconvenience that has been brought upon not just in the DBM but in the other agencies implementing DAP," he added. 

On July 1, the SC announced that it found certain acts under the government's DAP as unconstitutional. These include the declaration of unobligated and unprogrammed funds as savings, the transfer of savings from one government branch to another, and the funding of projects not stated in the national budget. 
Malacañang has repeatedly said that the DAP was undertaken in good faith to boost the country's economic performance. 

Respect for the high court
Abad explained that the Executive branch opted to file a motion for reconsideration on the DAP ruling because they have respect for the high court.
"That’s why we have this process of filing a motion for reconsideration because we recognize at the end of the day that the SC is supreme in so far as interpreting our laws," the budget chief said.
"We respect the separation of [powers]. We respect that they are .... co-equal. We recognize that at the end of the day, they make the final judgement," he added.
Abad said the Supreme Court did not entirely strike down DAP but only certain provisions that were deemed unconstitutional. 
"The implications, consequences [of the Supreme Court decision] are very serious. As the public officer, principally tasked by the Constitution to faithfully execute the law… we should be given right to explain. I think we have the right to be given due process," he noted. 

Oceans apart
In the same interview, Abad stressed that the controversies hounding the DAP and PDAF (Priority Development Assistance Fund) should not be compared.
"DAP and PDAF are oceans apart," he said, quipping: "Magkatunog lang kasi."
He explained that in PDAF, "certain politicians are scheming with certain private individuals to principally steal money from public coffers."

On the other hand, the DAP was a program that augmented public spending using government "savings," he said.
Prior to the DAP ruling, the Supreme Court had declared the entire PDAF mechanism as unconstitutional.
Thinking outside the box
Abad further explained that DAP was the government's strategy for using the budget within the year, since some agencies are expecting to post savings.
"The bigger problem is if you delay the implementation of services, you delay the delivery of public goods. What President Aquino wants is, we want to deliver the services as early as possible," he pointed out.
"You need to be thinking outside the box. That’s what we did. We implemented the law not for our benefit but to make sure to implement projects," he said. 
Abad said the DAP was vital in the country's economic performance, as the Philippines' gross domestic product spiked after DAP's implementation.
"The economic growth then was 3.6 percent GDP but after we did that, GDP went up 6 percent by 2013 and 7.2 percent on 2014," he said. 
In terminating DAP last year, Abad reiterated that the discretional fund had "served its purpose."  
DAP during Arroyo's presidency
Last year, DAP was put into the spotlight after Senator Jinggoy Estrada revealed that senators who voted to impeach Chief Justice Renato Corona in May 2012 were provided with additional budget at their disposal ranging from P50 million to P100 million. 
Subsequently, the budget chief explained that the additional funds provided to the senators were under DAP.
Abad explained that in the past, every administration had its own version of DAP. 
He noted that in the previous administration, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo classified the discretionary fund as overall savings.

Much earlier, the administrations of President Ramos and President Estrada called it reserved control account or RCA. — Amanda Fernandez/RSJ/YA, GMA News