Reality check: The DAP Express

Pork redux? Districts of LP solons, allies get biggest slabs

Last of Two Parts

THERE ARE clear winners, as there are clear losers, in terms of provinces and congressional districts and project types, in the distribution of over P11 billion in tax money under the controversy-ridden Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).

Interestingly, the winners that received enormously bigger DAP shares are mostly the bailiwicks or hometowns of legislators and local officials who belong to President Benigno S. Aquino III’s Liberal Party (LP) and political parties allied with the LP-led ruling coalition.

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In particular, the leaders and members of the House of Representatives who had served as prosecutors and spokespersons of the prosecution panel during the impeachment of former Supreme Court chief justice Renato C. Corona from December 2011 to May 2012 were among the most DAP-blessed lawmakers.

Indeed, while all their congressional districts and provinces of origin are classified mostly as first-class to second-class localities, they received multiple times more DAP monies than areas — including some classified income-wise as third-class or fourth-class — without an LP or ruling coalition member as their representative.

These are among the findings from PCIJ’s review of DAP documents provided by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) in response to PCIJ’s queries and which now appear as well on the DBM website.

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Two weeks ago, DBM also disclosed a list of projects covered by over 3,400 fund releases during DAP’s nearly 30-month run. (Begun in 2011, DAP screeched to a stop on July 1, 2014 when the Supreme Court ruled that certain actions that the Executive had taken under DAP were unconstitutional.)

In total, DAP’s lump-sum releases that went to “various local infrastructure projects requested by legislators, local officials, and national government agencies” reached more than P30 billion. But because available data from DBM do not provide specifics for all the projects covered by this amount, PCIJ managed to sort and analyze only up to a third or P11.34 billion worth of DAP lump-sum projects by location and project type.

DAP winners all

Of the P11.34 billion with itemized project data, the congressional districts that received DAP windfall amounts of over P60 million each (funds for projects in the district and consolidated amounts for projects in areas covered by the district) included the

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  • Lone District of Mandaluyong, represented by House Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II, P203.5 million;
  • First district of Cavite represented by Joseph Emilio Abaya (who was Chairperson of the House Committee on Appropriations in the 15th Congress until he became Secretary of Transportation and Communication on Oct. 12, 2012), P186.2 million;
  • Lone district of Batanes represented by Henedina Abad, chairperson of the House Committee on Energy, Deputy Speaker in the 15th and 16th Congress, and wife of Budget Secretary Florencio ‘Butch’ Abad, P133 million;
  • First district of Albay, represented by Edcel C. Lagman, Minority Floor Leader in the 15th Congress until January 2012, P95.5 million;
  • Fourth district of Isabela represented by Giorgidi Aggabao, P88.7 million;
  • Sixth district of Pangasinan represented by Marylyn Primicias-Agabas, P72.5 million; and
  • Fourth district of Cavite represented by Elpidio Barzaga Jr., P60.5 million.

Similarly big amounts of DAP monies — from P10 million to P47.5 million — went to other congressional districts, including those represented by Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr., and Representatives Rodolfo Fariñas, Ben Evardone, Lorenzo Tañada III, Romero “Miro” Quimbo, Danilo E. Suarez, Neri Colmenares, Arnulfo P. Fuentebella, Juan Edgardo ‘Sonny’ Angara, Raul Daza, and Reynaldo V. Umali.

Leaders & prosecutors

Aggabao, Primicias-Agabas, Barzaga, Farinas, Colmenares, Daza, and Umali were all members of the House prosecution panel during the impeachment trial in the Senate of former Chief Justice Renato C. Corona. Evardone, Tanada, and Angara all served as spokespersons for the panel.

Belmonte, Gonzalez, Lagman, Suarez, Fuentebella, and Abad are House leaders. Abad is also the wife of Budget Secretary Florencio ‘Butch’ Abad.

In lieu of Lagman, Suarez was Minority Floor Leader from January 2012 to June 2013.

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The fourth district of Iloilo represented by Niel Tupas Jr., prosecution panel head, received P12.5 million in DAP funds.

Except for Colmenares (Bayan Muna) and Lagman (Independent), most of these lawmakers are either LP members or its allied National Unity Party (NUP) and sections of other political parties that make up the LP-led ruling coalition in the House. However, Lagman’s son and namesake, Edcel B. Lagman, was elected congressman in his father’s district as an LP candidate in the 2013 polls.

Unfortunately, though, of the P11 billion allotted for local projects or those “requested by lawmakers, local officials, and other national agencies,” a huge chunk amounting to P8.86 billion was not specified or itemized by DBM. Another P864 million was simply listed as “share from LGSF (Local Government Support Fund).” The two figures add up to P9,709,066,961 of DAP funds that remain sub rosa, or not specified or itemized by the Budget Department.

The balance of P1.64 billion, however, apparently went to specific projects that, by volume of the amounts provided under DAP, included road work, medical assistance, “various projects,” farm-to-market road works, buildings/structures, public market, livelihood programs, “various infrastructure projects,” creek/dike/seawall, “various purchases,” beautification programs, “financial assistance for various reasons,” multi-purpose buildings, drainage/canal, health center, water supply/irrigation system, school buildings/structures and programs, alternative learning system, flood control system, day care center, social services, and housing projects.

Political largesse?

A great majority of these projects received only P250,000 to P500,000 in DAP funds. They appeared to be scattered, small, and thus effete efforts at distributing token gifts to as many communities as possible. Moreover, they seem to be replicas or reincarnations of those on the pork-barrel projects menu specified by Malacañang.

PCIJ’s review of DAP documents from DBM also showed that at least 93 combined provinces and cities directly received funds from the lump-sum funds that DBM released in five tranches across the brief 30-month life of DAP.

Interestingly, five cities in Metro Manila got zero funds from the lump-sums DAP “provided for projects requested by legislators and local government units.”

Of the five, three have LP members as their mayors: Navotas, Muntinlupa, and Parañaque. The remaining two have opposition mayors: for Makati, a member of the United Nationalist Alliance (and son of Vice President Jejomar Binay), and Pasig, a member of the Nacionalista Party.

Still and all, most indications are that DAP served as an additional source of largesse for congressional districts and local government units, according to the patterns of the distribution of pork-barrel funds.

Aside from DAP’s lump-sum funds for various local projects, the senators each had P200-million in pork-barrel monies, and House members, P70 million each, until the program was scuttled and declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in November 2013.

Additionally, all local government units receive Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) subsidies from the national government every year. Under the Local Government Code of 1991, at least 20 percent of IRA must be used as “local development fund” for priority local infrastructure and other projects.

Cut and restored

For sure, Malacañang’s decision to give more money to legislators and local officials was out of sync with its own decision in 2011 to slash to a pittance the proposed budget for “Financial Subsidy to Local Government Units” or FSLGU.

The Budget Department under Aquino’s predecessor Gloria Macapagal Arroyo had prepared the 2011 budget proposal with a proposed P5.67-billion allotment for FSLGU.

After Aquino came to power on June 30, 2010, DBM under Abad rushed to revise Arroyo’s proposed 2011 budget, slashed the FSLGU figure to P200 million, and directed the release of funds to adhere to menu selections of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or pork-barrel funds.

Aquino eventually placed the FSLGU under “conditional implementation,” saying the releases must be guided by rules to be set by implementing agencies.

But come October 2011 when DAP was born, Aquino reversed himself; he restored and even approved a bigger amount of P7 billion in DAP monies as supplemental financial subsidy to LGUs.

The provision for this subsidy is officially reflected at only P200 million in the General Appropriations Act for 2012 and 2013. Huge amounts from DAP continued to pour in, however, as off-GAA projects and funds for LGUs from October 2011 to July 2014.

In 2012, DBM released an additional P2.6 billion, and in 2013, an additional P1.7 billion, in financial subsidy to LGUs.

In total, under Aquino, P11.34 billion in DAP funds were released directly to LGUs from 2011 to 2013, even as the GAA for the same years enrolled pithy amounts for financial subsidy to LGUs.

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DBM’s “detailed” list of DAP-funded projects show that the P11.34 billion actually corresponded to over a third or 37 percent of the P30 billion that went to “various local and infrastructure projects” that had been “requested by legislators, local government officials, and national agencies.”

The other P18.81 billion, meanwhile, was coursed through different national agencies, state universities and colleges (SUCs), government-owned and-controlled corporations (GOCCs), and government hospitals.

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Six tranches in all

There were six big fund releases for local projects from 2011 to 2013, which were listed as Items No. 40, 41, 53, 73, 100, and 133, in the DBM’s initial list of “116 DAP-funded projects.”

Two tranches of P6.49 billion each were released on Oct. 12, 2011. The next tranche amounted to P1.88 billion and released on Dec. 21, 2011.

In 2012, P8.06 billion was released on Jun. 27 and P2.76 billion on Dec. 21.

The last tranche, P4.45 billion, was made on June 14, 2013.

The national government subsidy to LGUs came in two forms: one released directly to them and the other, coursed through agencies, GOCCs, SUCs, and government hospitals.

Because infrastructure projects topped the local wish list, the Department of Public Works and Highways implemented a third or P9.3 billion worth of DAP-funded local projects. Meantime, one in five projects was implemented by government hospitals and GOCCs that got a total of P6 billion in DAP funds.

The Department of Agriculture implemented P1.6 billion worth of projects, and the Department of Social Work and Development, P548 million. The different state universities and colleges in the country, for their part, bestowed P321 million worth of scholarship.

How provinces rank

Among the provinces, Leyte received the highest amounts of DAP funds, raking in a total of P496 million. Four-fifths of the total amount, or P413 million, had been released as financial subsidy to the province of Leyte and its select municipalities between August and November 2012.

Surprisingly, Leyte received only P13.4 million in subsidy last year, when the province was greatly devastated by Typhoon Yolanda. But then, over P3 billion in DAP funds were released to GOCCs and agencies for calamity assistance in 2013.

The second highest recipient of DAP was Cavite at P492.8 million. DAP funds flowed generously into the province between 2011 and 2013, although the amounts would decline a little each year. In 2011, Cavite received P157.4 million. Its DAP increased by roughly P43 million the next year. By 2013, its DAP infusion was down to P135 million.

Other top recipients were Batangas (P394.7 million), Nueva Ecija (P364.4 million), Davao del Sur (P358 million), Albay (P357.8 million), and Pangasinan (P307.8 million). Much like in Cavite, each of these provinces received their biggest chunk of DAP funds in 2011, with the allocations progressively shrinking in 2012 and 2013.

Then again, some provinces received much less. Among those which got P10 million or less in DAP funds were Dinagat Island (P6.5 million), Aklan (P5.5 million), and Siquijor (P5 million). — With additional research by Fernando Cabigao Jr., PCIJ, August 2014