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Is Malacañang covering its tracks?

/ 12:32 AM October 17, 2013

It’s obvious: Commission on Audit Chair Grace Pulido-Tan’s report on the Priority Development Assistance Fund or PDAF was made at the behest of Malacañang. A glaring proof of this was its failure to cite the involvement of President Aquino’s allies even as it highlighted that of opposition stalwarts and 2016 “presidentiables.”

The problem is the scheme blew up in his face because public indignation reached such levels that public scrutiny went beyond what Malacañang anticipated.

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With the breadth and reach of the PDAF scandal increasingly shown to be extending wider and higher, and with more and more PDAF anomalies, including those pulled off during this administration, being exposed, Filipinos are now questioning President Aquino’s own discretionary funds. By bundling his pork as Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), it has become obvious that he wants to keep his pork and has no qualms about using underhanded tricks to disburse it.

Earlier, the President said he would not give up DAP and used the same justifications lawmakers offer for the retention of their PDAF—to provide educational and medical assistance to the poor.

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To date, the Aquino administration has released about P142.23 billion for projects under DAP—P83.53 billion in 2011 and P58.7 billion in 2012. Take note: These releases were made without any legal basis, whatsoever. And there has been no COA audit of DAP funds. What is publicly known of the DAP disbursements comes from very rare reports of government agencies using them.

To put some legal semblance to it, Malacañang and Budget Secretary Florencio Abad said the funds came from “savings.” But as one columnist asked, how could the President realign “savings” for other purposes in October when the year wasn’t over yet, and therefore the government agencies still had time to spend their authorized budgets for the year?

The timing of the releases for senators invited speculations as they came on the heels of Chief Justice Renato Corona’s impeachment, after Sen. Jinggoy Estrada recently accused Mr.  Aquino of buying off senators to ensure Corona’s conviction.

With so much pressure from the public and media, Malacañang could not but accept the fact that the “cat is out of the bag” and some serious damage control has to be done. It admitted that some P130 billion released through DAP did not come from savings after all, and that the funds might have been misused.

And what are they doing after failing at their denials? Obscure the issue and misdirect public scrutiny by charging former president and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Arroyo, former executive secretary Eduardo Ermita and others for plunder. And President Aquino has again resorted to blaming Arroyo and her administration, claiming that she misused more than P1 trillion, while insinuating that stolen funds are now being used to dampen his anticorruption campaign.

The fact is, current evidence is enough to convict P-Noy and a lot of the current administration’s officials of plunder, malversation of public funds, bribery, and violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

—ALBERTO MANALILI,

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aljan21980@gmail.com

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TAGS: Commission on Audit, Grace Pulido-Tan, malacanang, PDAF, PDAF scandal, Priority Development Assistance Fund
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