COA checking Palace's spending booster program

MANILA, Philippines – Commission on Audit (COA) chair Grace Pulido Tan on Monday, September 30, said her agency has begun auditing the fund meant to boost government spending, but which has become controversial due to allegations of misuse.

In an interview on ANC's Talkback with Tina Monzon Palma, Tan said COA “is getting the list of all the recipients” of the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) from the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).

Budget Secretary Florencio Abad on Saturday, September 28, explained the DBM designed the DAP “to help accelerate economic expansion.”

Abad denounced as “inaccurate” and irresponsible” the suggestions that government used these funds as bribes for lawmakers to ensure the conviction of Chief Justice Renato Corona in the impeachment trial in 2012.

Senator Jinggoy Estrada delivered a privilege speech last week, insinuating that Malacañang, through then Senate finance committee chair Franklin Drilon, released an extra P50 million in pork barrel to senators as a reward for convicting Corona.

In her interview on ANC, Tan said the COA will focus on implementing agencies, not individual senators, in its DAP audit. “Hindi po kami puwedeng mag-audit ng tao,” she explained. (We can't audit people.)

The COA chair, however, said she expects the audit on the implementing agencies to reveal the legislators' involvement.

Tan announced the audit in reaction to a request by Sen Miriam Defensor Santiago, filed also on Monday, for the COA to conduct a special audit on DAP.

In a letter to Tan, Santiago said she wants to know the legal explanation “for giving special treatment” to Senate President Franklin Drilon, Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile, and Sen Francis Escudero, who reportedly got P100 million instead of P50 million. She also requested a detailed list of projects for which “the special 3 senators, as well as the rest of the Congress members,” disbursed their DAP.

Santiago said she understands that the COA is now “updating” its special audit reports on the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF). The PDAF audit is at the center of the pork barrel controversy involving businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles and a number of lawmakers.

“Nonetheless, I appeal for your early compliance with this request for information, because I believe there is now a compelling state interest in stabilizing the country, in the midst of multiple public outrage,” Santiago said. – Paterno Esmaquel II/