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OPAPP funds questioned 

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Various groups protest illegal use of government funds.

MANILA (Mindanao Examiner / July 31, 2014) – A Filipino human rights group called Karapatan has questioned the allocated funds for the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process after it uncovered a huge amount of  money channeled from the controversial Disbursement Allocation Program of President Benigno Aquino.

The program was declared unconstitutional and illegal by the Supreme Court and Karapatan said the OPAPP under Secretary Teresita Deles received as much as 400% more from its approved budget included in the General Appropriations Act or GAA for 2011 and 2012.

It said a total of P2.294 to 2.542 billion went to OPAPP for 2011 and 2012. The amount covered the combined GAA 2011 and 2012 approved budget of P475 million, and the P1.819 billion and P248 million given through DAP in 2011 and 2012, respectively.

Where’s the money? 

Cristina Palabay, Karapatan’s Secretary General, said while OPAPP acknowledged the P248 million it received from DAP in 2012, but she noted the amount was not included in the Malacañang’s release of DAP-funded projects.

“Is the OPAPP deliberately evading public scrutiny by not including their proposed projects for proper allocation in the GAA? Did they find DAP as a way to evade scrutiny for the large amount of money that goes to OPAPP?” she asked.

“Whatever magics the OPAPP and DBM do, such huge amount of people’s money supposedly spent for the peace initiatives of the government did not translate in concrete gains for the people. At best, only allies of the administration benefited from the DAP funds,” she added.

DBM refers to the Department of Budget and Management headed by Secretary Florencio Abad, who is behind the DAP.

“The government’s peace initiatives have become a business venture rather than a sincere effort to go into the root causes of the armed conflict and solve poverty, landlessness and joblessness. Presidential pork (barrel) oils OPAPP to put up every obstacle it can think of in the peace the process, especially with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, as it continues to ignore all previously signed agreements and commitment. The government continues to insist on the surrender of the members of the revolutionary movement as if this will end the armed conflict,” Palabay said.

PAMANA projects

She said even in the guise of livelihood projects through the Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan or PAMANA, OPAPP could not boast of judicious use of billions of people’s money especially because it is allegedly being used to finance paramilitary groups like the Cordillera People’s Liberation Army or the Revolutionary Proletarian Army-Alex Boncayao Brigade.

She said both groups are involved in several cases of human rights violations in the Cordillera region and Negros provinces. The CPLA received P264 million supposedly for projects coursed through PAMANA while the RPA-ABB got P31 million.  

“The peace process should serve the interests of the majority of our people and just a few groups that sow terror. Through DAP the money stolen from the people are used against them. With OPAPP, it becomes worse as paying lip service to the peace process only denies the people of a venue where their basic social and economic problems can be discussed and solved,” Palabay said.

Senator Nancy Binay also questioned – in a recent Senate Finance Committee hearing – why the Moro National Liberation Front, through the OPAPP, was given P1.8 billion in DAP funds. She said Abad failed to clarify issues related to DAP and OPAPP.

Peace projects

OPAPP Undersecretary Jose Lorena said their DAP funding allocation in 2011, which amounted to P1.8 billion as reflected in the DBM report, was used for different peace and development initiatives in conflict-affected and vulnerable communities across the country, and in support of several existing peace tables and not in support  of the MNLF peace process alone.

Of this amount, nearly P 704 million was used to fund 219 projects – such as community infrastructures, post-harvest facilities, local roads, and water systems, among others – in MNLF peace and development communities in 14 provinces and four cities, which were implemented by national agencies and local governments under the PAMANA program, he said.

Lorena said: “We would be happy to discuss this further with Senator Binay to clarify any misconceptions regarding the DAP allocation to OPAPP peace and development initiatives as well as on the GPH-MNLF peace process.”

Aquino approved DAP

The OPAPP website has no entries on where its funds went or how its budget was spent, but President Benigno Aquino approved the DAP in 2011 on the recommendation of the Development Budget Coordination Committee and the Cabinet Clusters as a “stimulus package” by the government for the projects.

From 2011 to 2012, DAP funding reached P142.23 billion – P83.53 billion in 2011 and P58.70 billion in 2012 – and most of the funds went to healthcare, public works, housing and resettlement, agriculture, tourism, road infrastructure, school infrastructure, rehabilitation and extension of light rail transit systems, and electrification project in the villages.

Last year, some P15.13 billion in DAP funds were also released by Abad and these went to the police and redevelopment of the Roxas Boulevard in Manila and other rehabilitation projects in areas affected by typhoons.

Aquino said the DAP funds came from the savings of various government agencies and is legal, citing Article VI Section 25 (5) ng 1987 Constitution.  “…the President, the President of the Senate, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, and the heads of Constitutional Commissions may, by law, be authorized to augment any item in the general appropriations law for their respective offices from savings in other items of their respective appropriations.”

And Book VI Chapter 5 Section 39 of the 1987 Administrative Code: “Except as otherwise provided in the General Appropriations Act, any savings in the regular appropriations authorized in the General Appropriations Act for programs and projects of any department, office or agency, may, with the approval of the President, be used to cover a deficit in any other item of the regular appropriations….”

“If there is a singular legacy that I am leaving and sana, masanay ang kababayan natin na ito ang kaya ng gobyernong pinapatakbo nang matino,” Aquino said. (With a report from J. Magtanggol)

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