Miriam: Include Malampaya Funds in 2014 Nat’l budget
Manila, Philippines – Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago pressed yesterday President Benigno S. Aquino III to submit to Congress the controversial P130-billion Malampaya Funds for inclusion into the proposed 2014 P2.2-trillion budget to make its disbursements legal.
Santiago said the President’s request to both the Senate and the House of Representatives to include the funds coming from the Malampaya gas project would make the disbursements in accordance with current regulations and auditing standards.
Her suggestion comes on the heels of the questionable disbursements by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) of the multi-billion-peso Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), which critics claimed was used as an “incentive” or “bribe” to majority of the 24-man Senate to convict then Chief Justice Renato C. Corona in mid-2012.
Earlier, Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph G. Recto stated that the DAP should be included in the national budget.
Both Senator Santiago and former senator Joker Arroyo deemed the DAP to be unconstitutional and illegal, emphasizing that it is only Congress that may exercise the constitutional “power of the purse” principle and not the DBM.
Before the DAP controversy, Commission on Audit (COA) officials testified before the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee that several senators and scores of members of the House of Representatives were linked to the questionable use of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), involving P10 billion from 2007 to 2009.
Santiago said the President’s imprimatur in including the Malampaya fund in the proposed 2014 General Appropriations Act (GAA or national budget) is needed so that both houses of Congress could act fast on the appropriation measure.
Having said that the DAP is unconstitutional, Arroyo had suggested the President could have committed an impeachable offense, drawing flak from the Palace.
Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda accused Arroyo last Monday that he (Arroyo) did not react to irregularities that surfaced during the nine-year administration of then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (GMA) that ended on June 30, 2010. The two Arroyos are not related.
Yesterday, the former senator tagged Palace spokespersons as lazy for “playing things by ear and passing them off as facts,” pointing out that he fought the questionable policies of the Arroyo administration both in the courts and at the Senate floor.
“Staff indolence, that’s why the President gets into trouble for missteps that are not his,” he said in a two-page rejoinder to Lacierda’s pronouncements which was sent to Senate reporters.
Arroyo cited as an example, among others, the fertilizer fund scam which was investigated in the 13th Congress by Sen. Ramon B. Magsaysay Jr., then chairman of the Senate agriculture committee as the lead committee, and his (Arroyo’s) Senate Blue Ribbon committee as the secondary committee.
Back to the issue of Malampaya funds, Deputy Presidential Spokeswoman Abigail Valte brushed aside allegations that some of it might be missing and insisted that the money is well guarded in the Bureau of Treasury.
Valte’s remarks come after Recto called on the DBM to disclose where the Malampaya funds went. Recto has expressed concern that P130 billion of the total P170 billion Malampaya funds was untraceable.
“We can assure the good senator that the P130 billion, or at least the balance of it, is not sitting in someone’s bathtub. It’s with the National Treasury,” said Valte.
Valte was alluding to detained businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles, who reportedly placed her looted public funds on her bathtub when the money would not fit in her vault. Napoles is one of the persons slapped with plunder charges in connection with the alleged misuse of the Malampaya funds during the past administration. (With a report from Genalyn D. Kabiling)