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DAP clone in 2015 budget?

Is the government resurrecting the constitutionally-challenged Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP)?

This cropped up yesterday after Kabataan party-list Rep. Terry Ridon assailed a cloudy provision in the proposed 2015 General Appropriations Act (GAA), which he described as a “clone” of the DAP.

Ridon said this DAP-like mechanism is the so-called Grassroots Participatory Budgeting (GPB) process, which would cost taxpayers P20.9 billion based on the proposed P2.606-trilion national budget for 2015. He said the amount is higher by almost P1 billion compared to last year’s allocation.

The GPB, formerly referred to as Bottom-up Budgeting, allows the national government to fund various pet projects in chosen local government units (LGUs) around the country, Ridon said.

“This P20.9 billion budget for LGU projects is on top of the P501-billion “Special Purpose Funds” for 2015, which includes a P2.9-billion Local Government Support Fund,” he said.

Within the GBP is a provision that enables LGUs to cancel and replace projects already indicated in the annual GAA or national budget, Ridon, a member of the militant Makabayan bloc in Congress, disclosed.

Ridon had earlier slammed the GPB for being “highly vulnerable to corruption.”

He also branded GPB as the ruling Liberal Party’s (LP’s) own campaign aid for the 2016 national elections.

ROAD WORKS GALORE

“The Aquino administration cannot hide the fact that the 2015 GPB-funded projects are meant to boost LP’s election bid. A cursory analysis of the projects listed for 2015 reveal tons and tons of road construction, rehabilitation and concreting,” noted Ridon.

The minority solon cited other GPB-funded projects such as irrigation and sitio electrification, “but the sheer number of road projects outshines these,” he said.

“The public is already aware of politicians’ modus operandi of building roads just before elections in order to gain kickbacks from these projects.”

‘TO BE IDENTIFIED’ PROJECTS

Ridon also noted several dubiously-labeled projects listed under the GPB.

“There are projects worth P500,000 to P1.5 million simply listed as ‘various road projects,’ ‘various LGU projects,’ or simply, ‘various projects.’ Worse, there are projects – like those in Cabuyao, Laguna; Alabat, Quezon; and Malvar, Batangas – that are simply listed as ‘to be identified,’” he said.

“There are also several cities and municipalities – including parts of Bohol, Aurora, Samar, and Nueva Ecija – that list multi-million projects that are yet ‘to be identified,’” added Ridon, who is a lawyer.

“Budget Secretary [Florencio] Abad assured the public that the six-volume proposed 2015 budget contains detailed projects that have been properly itemized and identified. But what in the world are ‘to be identified’ projects? How will Congress scrutinize such allocations?” he asked, saying that approving funding for unidentified projects is “counter-intuitive.”

SIMILAR TO DAP

In House Resolution (HR) 1284 filed last July, Ridon explained that the implementing rules of the GPB gives LGUs the ability to cancel and replace certain programs and projects, a trait akin to DAP.

In National Budget Memorandum No. 121 issued on March 18, the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) stated that, “If a project [under GPB] is deemed not feasible for implementation after validation of the concerned participating agency, the project may be replaced with another project that can be implemented by the same participating agency in the same city or municipality” subject to certain conditions.

Among the conditions are: 1.) The project has been deemed not feasible for implementation by the concerned participating agency, 2.) The project is located in a city or municipality that was greatly affected by “Yolanda,” Bohol earthquake, and Zamboanga City siege, and 3.) The project has been funded/implemented through another funding source(s).

“By allowing the cancellation and replacement of projects already identified in the General Appropriations Act, the GPB has actually opened a new way for the executive department to usurp the congressional power of the purse,” Ridon said.

In its July 1 ruling on the DAP, the Supreme Court (SC) had already struck down as unconstitutional the “funding of projects, activities, and programs that were not covered by any appropriation in the General Appropriations Act.”

“Replacing a project or program already approved by Congress through the GPB mechanism is thus illegal and unconstitutional,” the Kabataan solon stressed.