$2.8 million each for 6 senators

$2.8 million each for 6 senators

MANILA - Six administration senators were the recipients in 2011 of funds from supposed government savings released through the controversial Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), on top of their regular pork barrel entitlements of P200 million (S$5.7 million) each year.

In 2011, Senators Alan Peter Cayetano, Ralph Recto, Antonio Trillanes IV, Teofisto Guingona III, Sergio Osmeña III and now retired Sen. Francis Pangilinan each requested P100 million for "priority projects," according to copies of letters they wrote to Sen. Franklin Drilon that were obtained by the Inquirer.

That year, Malacañang let it be known that some P6 billion in "savings" were being made available to legislators who were told they could nominate any project or projects of their choice, the Inquirer has learned. But it was up to the leaders of the House and the Senate to determine how the amount was to be divided.

The signed letters of the six senators-which were all addressed to Drilon, the then finance committee chair-indicated that the legislators were working on a tight deadline.

Recto wrote that he was submitting his list based on Drilon's letter dated Nov. 22, 2011 requesting that he "submit to the Office of the Legislative Budget Research and Monitoring Office thru Director General Yolanda D. Doblon not later than Friday, Nov. 25, 2011 the list of my priority projects."

Recto's letter was dated Nov. 24, the eve of the Drilon deadline, and so were the lists submitted by Cayetano, Guingona, and Osmeña. Trillanes wrote on the same day that the senators were instructed by Drilon to submit their lists, while Pangilinan produced his letter the following day.

The six senators' priority lists came a month after the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) announced the implementation of "P72.11 billion in additional projects," funded through "savings" from 2010 and 2011.

Drilon said he could not remember if he had written to some senators asking them to identify P100 million worth of projects in November 2011, but saw nothing wrong in doing so, if he did.

"I do not remember that one but it's possible that I did," he said.

Little-known budget item

The disbursements were to be made through the DAP, a relatively new and little-known lump-sum item in the budget which it now appears the Aquino administration has been tapping as a source of funding for senators' additional projects, over and above their Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) entitlements.

It was not until Sen. Jinggoy Estrada-who had just been charged with plunder for his alleged involvement in the pork barrel scam allegedly orchestrated by Janet Lim-Napoles-disclosed in a privilege speech in late September that senators had been given additional pork of P50 million each in 2012 a few months after the then Chief Justice Renato Corona was convicted by the Senate impeachment court that Malacañang came clean about the DAP.

After allegations flew that the senators who voted to convict Corona had been bought off by Malacañang, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad admitted that 19 senators had indeed received additional sums, outside of their PDAF.

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