Aquino stands firm on DAP

MANILA – A defiant President Benigno Aquino III on Wednesday night defended the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) despite widespread clamor for the abolition of the program that has been slammed as unconstitutional and another pork barrel fund with a different name.

Aquino, in his address to the nation that was broadcast live on television and news websites, maintained that the DAP is constitutional and has been effectively used as a mechanism to stimulate economic growth.

He said there has been no anomalies involving the implementation of DAP projects, unlike the Priority Development Assistance Fund that the administration claims has already been abolished.

“The issue here is theft. I did not steal,” he declared in a fiery 12-minute speech that purportedly sought to set the record straight on the stimulus program and on what critics have described as presidential pork barrel.

“Those who have been accused of stealing are those who are sowing confusion; they want to dismantle all that we have worked so hard to achieve on the straight path.”

“We were stolen from, we were deceived—and now we are the ones being asked to explain? I have pursued truth and justice, and have been dismantling the systems that breed the abuse of power—and yet I am the one now being called the ‘Pork Barrel King’?” he added.

Aquino then vowed to go after those who pocketed millions in pork barrel funds.

“If you think that this will stop me from going after you, if you think that you can divert the public’s attention, if you think you can get away with stealing from our countrymen—you have sorely underestimated me and the Filipino people,” he said.

“If there still remains some vestige of kindness in your hearts, I hope that you stop acting in self-interest, and instead act to help your fellowmen.”

The President called attention to the purported strategy being employed by those accused in the pork barrel scam.

“If you can’t explain it, muddle it; if you can’t deodorize it, make everyone else stink; if you can’t look good, make everyone look bad. You have heard what they are saying: that we are all the same,” he said, claiming that his accusers “have taken the advice of an old politician from their camp.”

The presidential address Wednesday night marked the first time President Aquino had “asked networks for airtime to directly address the Filipino people,” Malacañang said.

Aquino’s televised address came at a time when his approval ratings among Filipinos were being eroded by growing public outrage over the misuse of pork barrel by lawmakers.

His administration has been also heavily criticized for the little-known DAP a program created by Budget Secretary Florencio Abad in 2011 to pump-prime the economy.

The budget department belatedly admitted last September that an additional P50-P100 million in pork barrel projects were given to each of the 20 senators who voted to convict then Chief Justice Renato Corona in May 2012.

The legality of DAP is now being discussed in the Supreme Court, Supreme Court, which scheduled oral arguments on Nov. 19.

Several senators and a host of constitutional experts, including Fr. Joaquin Bernas, averred that the Constitution prohibits the transfer of funds in the General Appropriations Act from one department to another.

The uproar over pork barrel prompted Malacañang to admit on Oct. 14 that although an “overwhelming majority of Filipinos remain supportive of the President and his agenda, we recognize that the increase in those dissatisfied reflects the depth of anger and disappointment of the people at the way public funds have been stolen.”

The Palace recognized this “general outrage about how these funds have been spent or how these funds have been misused, and some of that may be directed again to the present administration.”