Criticisms of the Disbursement Acceleration Program

Criticisms of the Disbursement Acceleration Program

The Disbursement Acceleration Program or DAP was a special budget allocation mechanism introduced by then President Benigno Aquino III in October 2011 to expedite public spending and thus, the initiation and completion of government projects.

However, DAP was controversial simply because it involved the president using public funds based solely on his own discretion without the needed approval from the Congress.

It is also worth mentioning that it replaced the Priority Development Assistance Fund or PDAF after the Pork Barrel Scam of 2013. However, critics argued that DAP was somewhat similar to the traditional pork barrel given to lawmakers.

The program essentially became one of the major controversies under the administration of President Aquino.

Arguments for the Disbursement Acceleration Program: Why Did President Aquino Introduce DAP? What Are It Legal Bases for DAP?

For starters, the Disbursement Acceleration Program was not a fund but a mechanism for supporting public spending on high-impact and high-priority government programs and projects using savings and unprogrammed funds.

Note that the Aquino administration instituted budget reforms that included reserve allocations for emergencies such as disasters, as well as for foreign debts and deficits. However, this resulted in a significant accumulation of unspent funds, slower fund release, and underspending.

Unspent funds went to the National Treasury. To use these funds for productive purposes, President Aquino and his budget secretary Florencio Abad developed DAP to accelerate public spending in government agencies and offices that badly needed funding.

In addition, the program would promote the specific economic stimulus program of the Aquino administration. Expediting the release and utilization of public funds would promote economic growth based on accelerate government spending.

The Aquino administration argued that the Disbursement Acceleration Program had constitutional and legal bases. Take note of the following:

• The 1987 Constitution: Section 25(5), Article VI of the 1987 Constitution noted that the President, as well as the Senate President, House Speaker, and Chief Justice, may be authorized by law to “augment any item in the general appropriations law for their respective offices from savings in other items of their respective appropriations.”

• The Administrative Code: Executive Order 292, Series of 1987 or the 1987 Administrative Code authorized the Budget Secretary to use savings incurred during a current or previous fiscal year for certain purposes and in appropriations to cover deficits, as well as to suspend expenditures of appropriations, and review budgetary programs.

• General Appropriations Act: Under this law, the President, as well as the Senate President, House Speaker, Chief Justice, and Heads of Constitutional Commissions enjoy fiscal autonomy as far as the appropriation of savings is concerned.

Arguments Against DAP: What Was Wrong With DAP? What Was the Ruling of the Supreme Court?

Some critics claimed that Aquino used DAP to exert his political influence over other government officials, especially members of the House of Representatives and the Senate, similar to how other presidents allocated PDAF to lawmakers.

Because the Aquino administration abolished PDAF, it was rumored that the former president used funds from DAP to bribe house representatives and senators to impeach and oust former Chief Justice Renato Corona.

Then Senator Jinggoy Estrada revealed in a privilege speech on 25 September 2013 that he and other senators received PhP 50 million as an incentive for voting for the expulsion of Corona. Budget Secretary Abad confirmed that they released PhP 1.107 billion to 20 senators from DAP but stressed that was done in good faith.

Other critics have argued that the intended purposes of the program were either unsatisfied or unrealistic. Some noted that the supposed projects funded through DAP were not visible to the public. In addition, there were those who claimed that using DAP to stimulate the economy would be unsustainable.

Petitioners subsequently filed a complaint before the Supreme Court to challenge the constitutional of the Disbursement Acceleration Program.

Nevertheless, on 1 July 2014, the Supreme Court ruled that DAP was unconstitutional. Specifically, voting 13-0-1, the high court asserted that three schemes under the program violated the 1987 Constitution.

The court ruled the following as unconstitutional: (1) the creation of savings prior to the end of the fiscal year and the withdrawal of these funds for implementing agencies; (2) the cross-border transfers of the savings from one branch of government to another; and (3) the allotment of funds for projects, activities, and programs not outlined in the General Appropriations Act.

On 3 February 2015, the Supreme Court voted again 13-0, upholding its original ruling that DAP was unconstitutional. Note that the high court revised only one part of its ruling: the augmentation of funds for specific projects may be allowed as long as they have appropriation cover under the General Appropriations Act.

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