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Philippines President Benigno Aquino open to talks with groups questioning fund allocation

Hacktivist group to take part in ‘Million Mask March’ on Tuesday

Gulf News

Manila: Smarting from successive attacks from critics over his administration’s alleged effort to divert Congress-budgeted allocations for other purposes, President Benigno Aquino announced that he is open to dialogue with detractors.

Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Secretary Herminio Coloma, in an interview over government-run radio station dzRB, said Aquino is willing to take suggestions from concerned citizens concerning the Disbursement Acceleration Programme (DAP) as he had already manifested in speech aired over primetime television last week.

“The president is open to dialogue with the people to clarify the issue. His speech before nationwide television is proof that he is open to discourse on this matter with the people,” Coloma said in Filipino.

The controversy over the DAP was an offshoot of prior scandal involving the so-called “pork barrel” allocations or the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).

The DAP and PDAF as two different issues, however, both involve budget outlays, the former involve that coming from the executive branch of government — such as the Office of the President — and the other pertains to allocations set by Congress (House of Representatives and the Senate).

Under the constitution, allocations by the Executive Branch can be transferred from one department to another, but critics said this function is prone to abuse by the presidency as savings from budget allocations can be channelled for other purposes such as for political patronage.

Because of this, critics are now calling for the abolition of the DAP.

More than a month ago, Aquino had ordered the abolition of the PDAF after it was found out that some of the fund allocations earmarked for projects for the people were being diverted to questionable non-government organisations that serve as conduits for certain corrupt politicians.

Coloma, meanwhile, reiterated that the Aquino administration is dead set on to prosecuting individuals behind the PDAF diversion.

He said Justice Secretary Leila de Lima is already preparing the necessary documents for the second complaint or information to be filed against the concerned individuals in the PDAF scam before the Office of the Ombudsman soon.

He said even public officials allied with the administration would not be spared from the process he pointed out that Aquino specifically instructed all agencies tasked to investigate the case to “Let the evidence point to the direction of the inquiry.”

In the meantime, a group of Internet activists under group “Anonymous Philippines” defaced a number of websites, including that of the Office of the Ombudsman.

According to an entry in the group’s Facebook account, dozens of national and local government websites in the country had been hacked since Saturday.

“The government, in many ways, has failed its Filipino citizens. We have been deprived of things which they have promised to give; what our late heroes have promised us to give,” it said.

“Fairness, justice and freedom are more than words. They are perspectives,” is said.

The group vowed to take part in a protest action they dubbed “Million Mask March” on Tuesday.