PNoy keeps discretionary funds

By RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Oct. 31, 2013

MANILA – President Aquino is holding on to his lump sum discretionary funds despite the brewing controversy over the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) of lawmakers and the government’s own Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).

Malacañan said the President already mentioned previously that he needs those lump sums to effectively respond to contingencies.

This despite public calls for the itemization of those lump sums.

Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Secretary Herminio ‘Sonny’ Coloma said the President has explained several times that there are aspects of governance where the Chief Executive must be given discretionary funds especially during times of calamity.

He said discretionary funds address the difficulties in getting additional funding from Congress.

“Kasi po, batay po sa kanyang mahabang karanasan bilang isang mambabatas, hindi po ganoon kadali ‘yung pagkuha ng pondo. At kung nagkaroon po tayo ng kalamidad-at kung katulad ng naranasan natin sunud-sunod ang pagganap nito-tulad ‘nung armed conflict in Zamboanga, followed by earthquake in Bohol and Central Visayas, meron din po tayong pinagdaanan na malakas na bagyo, ‘yung ‘Santi’ sa Central Luzon affecting many provinces. Sa lahat po ng pagkakataong ito, kailangan po ng isang Chief Executive-at ang Pangulo po ay Chief Executive-ng sufficient leeway and discretion para po maging responsive ang ating gobyerno,” Coloma said.

“Kahit saan pong organisasyon, ito po ay kinikilalang management principle, ano-‘yun pong aspect of executive discretion.”

Prior to becoming President, Aquino was congressman for 6 years and senator for 3 years.

Coloma pointed out that those questioning the executive’s use of lump sums, particularly the involvement of lawmakers in the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) funded from realigned government savings, have yet to prove any misuse on the part of the President.

Critics have called the DAP another pork barrel fund because of its lump sum discretionary nature. Sen. Jinggoy Estrada said funds from the DAP were given to senators after the impeachment trial of former Chief Justice Renato Corona.

“Kapag po merong nagbabato ng batikos o akusasyon, sino po ba ang dapat na magbigay sustansya doon? ‘Yun po bang pinaparatangan o ‘yung nagpaparatang?”Coloma asked.

He reiterated that there is nothing wrong with the involvement of the legislators in the DAP since the role of lawmakers is to identify or nominate projects that could be placed under disbursement acceleration.

He said this is different from the PDAF wherein lawmakers are allocated the amount every year.

“Sila talaga ‘yung nagsasabi kung anong project at may specific involvement pa rin po sila doon sa follow through ‘nung mga projects na ‘yon,” he said.

Coloma took pains to point out the slight difference between the DAP and PDAF.

“Paano naging pareho kung hindi naman exactly the same ‘yung manner of implementation? O pero ‘yung sa PDAF ay hindi naman natapos lang doon sa projects, ano. May mga follow through administrative measures pa ‘yon. Sinabi na rin ng Pangulo sa nakaraan na wala namang monopoly ang executive branch sa pag-a-identify ng projects, ano. Dahil elected naman ang mga mambabatas na ito, meron din silang kaalaman doon sa mga grassroots level needs ng kanilang mga constituents.”

Coloma said that government will be cautious in DAP disbursements considering its legality is being assailed in petitions before the Supreme Court.

“Kung tungkol po sa 2013 budget ang ating pag-uusapan, syempre po isasaalang-alang din that there is a pending case in the Supreme Court regarding the constitutionality of DAP following the oral arguments on the constitutionality of PDAF. And it has been mentioned, I think, of Secretary (Florencio) Abad, who is in charge of disbursing these funds, that the administration will proceed with caution, taking into account the ongoing judicial processes.”

However, Coloma also said that the budget circulars being used by the government to realign government savings into the DAP still stand.

“Well, those circulars are existing and, in government, meron pong principle of presumption of regularity. Because even as some issues are being debated on or being adjudicated in the legal processes, ay marami pong sangkot na mga constituents, maraming sangkot na mga mamamayan, and hindi naman po pwedeng pigilin what can be carried on lawfully, ano. So meron naman pong judgment na ginagamit sa aspetong ‘yan. Tinitiyak lamang na sa lahat ng pagkakataon ay fully compliant po tayo sa ating mga batas.”

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