By Rowena F. Caronan

REP. ELPIDIO F. BARZAGA JR.of Cavite’s fourth district on Monday, Aug. 11, sent a letter with multiple annexed documents in response to PCIJ’s story about the congressional districts that secured the biggest sgares of funds from the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).

He pointed to a P5.5-million difference in the figures cited in the story and his own records of his DAP-funded pet projects.

PCIJ’s story titled “Pork redux? Districts of LP solons, allies get biggest slabs” said that the fourth district of Cavite that Barzaga represented in the 15th and 16th Congresses, was allocated P60.5 million in DAP funds for projects in the district that includes Dasmariñas City.

Barzaga wrote that he had actually sent five itemized request letters for project funding to Speaker Feliciano “Sonny” Belmonte Jr., House Appropriations Committee Chair Jose Emilio “Jun” Abaya, and Budget and Management Secretary Florencio “Butch” Abad.

As a result, Barzaga said he received nine Special Allotment Release Orders (SAROs) corresponding to his requests.

Altogether, the documents showed that supposedly only P55 million in DAP funds went to Barzaga’s district. {The Department of Budget and Management or DBM releases SAROs to authorize an implementing agency to incur an obligation for the government.)

Barzaga attached copies of the letters he sent from December 2011 to January 2013 and related SAROs, which were released within eight to 35 working days after Barzaga made the requests. (See Barzaga’s letter)

In summary, over half or P25.5 million of the P55-million total DAP monies that Barzaga said he received was released as financial subsidy to Dasmariñas City.

Of the total,too, nearly half or P25 million was implemented by the Department of Public Works and Highways, while another P4.5 million was assigned to the National Kidney and Transplant Institute, Philippine Heart Center, and Philippine General Hospital.

Barzaga also named the following pet projects that he had identified and received DAP funding:

* Construction of multi-purpose building , P30 million;

* Financial assistance for burial, calamity, medical and/or dental missions, and to indigent or displaced families, P13 million;

• Financial assistance to indigent patients, P7 million; and
• Construction of classrooms, P5 million.

The PCIJ story revealed the clear winners and losers in the distribution of at least P11.34-billion worth of DAP funds for projects “requested by lawmakers, local officials and other national agencies.” On July 1, 2014, the Supreme Court voted 13-0 to declare certain acts and practices of the DAP as unconstitutional.

The PCIJ looked into DBM’s list of DAP projects as of July 24, 2014 and reviewed 3,400 plus releases under Items No. 40, 41, 53, 73, 100, and 133 in DBM’s initial list of “116 DAP-funded projects.”

Barzaga, who had served as prosecutor during the impeachment of former Supreme Court chief justice Renato C. Corona from December 2011 to May 2012, was mentioned as one of the leaders and members of the House of Representatives whose congressional districts received at least P60 million and more DAP monies or more than what other areas without a Liberal Party or ruling coalition member as their representative.

The PCIJ story listed the amount of P60.5 million for Barzaga’s congressional district to represent the P7.5 million released directly to Barzaga’s district on Dec. 22, 2011, and a total of P53 million to Dasmariñas City. The latter amount consisted of P35 million released on Dec. 22, 2011, P8 million on Jan. 15, 2013, and P10 million on Mar. 1, 2013.

Except for the P35 million, the three DAP releases for Barzaga’a congressional district matched with those identified by Barzaga in his letter. According to DBM data, the P35 million was released as financial subsidy to Dasmariñas City, which also forms part of the fourth district of Cavite that Barzaga represents.

In addition to the projects that PCIJ said were implemented under DAP for the fourth district of Cavite, Barzaga identified six other DAP-funded projects on top of the P60.5-million DAP amount that had been listed under the district. These included:

• Department of Public Works and Highways, P10 million on May 28, 2012 and P15 million on Oct. 16, 2012;
• Philippine General Hospital, P1 million on Dec. 22, 2011 and P2 million on Jan. 15, 2013;
• Philippine Heart Center, P800 million on Dec. 22, 2011; and
* National Kidney and Transplant Institute, P700 million on Dec. 22, 2011.

To be sure, these amounts are just a fraction of the P18.8-billion that had been funneled through various national agencies, state universities and colleges (SUCs), government-owned and-controlled corporations (GOCCs), and government hospitals.

To this day, however, DBM has not yet disclosed which legislators have requested the projects that had been implemented by these agencies using DAP monies.

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