Editorial: Time to do an FM
Editorial cartoon by Sonny Boy Surnit
PERHAPS Ferdinand Marcos had good reason to abolish Congress back in 1973.
With the extent and amount of thievery in Congress and the plunder of public funds reaching unbelievable proportions and spanning several decades, there is more than enough reason to shut down the operation of what critics and a newspaper columnist-magazine publisher describe as the “largest crime syndicate” of the land.
Throughout history, Congress has seen several evolutions and shifts from a unicameral to bicameral system. Marcos abolished Congress in January 1973 with a shift to the parliamentary system of government and the bicameral system was only reintroduced in February 1987 after Corazon C. Aquino assumed the presidency with the ouster of Marcos.
The primary role of Senators and Representatives is—supposedly—to draft and pass laws for the advancement of the nation and the protection of its people. Lawmakers are not supposed to have direct access to public funds. Well, not until the creation of the controversial Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).
Originally called the Countrywide Development Fund (CDF) in 1990, the PDAF is designed to allow legislators to fund small-scale infrastructure or community projects which fell outside the national infrastructure program—which was often limited to large infrastructure items. But over the years, the PDAF has been used for things other than countrywide development. It’s been used as a tool for blackmail, coercion as a reward for political loyalty and has been the object of plunder.
Currently, each of the 24 senators has access to PhP200 million in PDAF while the 289 or so representatives receive PhP70 million a year. In total, some PhP25.03 billion of the national budget goes to our honorable men and women in Congress.
Public outcry over the CDF led to reforms in the CDF and its evolution into PDAF. But nothing has changed. The PDAF remains prone to administrative abuse and plunder. And we’re not even talking about the Disbursement Acceleration Package (DAP), which is a different matter altogether but also involves the possible misuse of billions in government money.
PNoy and his administration is in deep trouble. Maybe it’s time to do an FM.
PNoy: Most Guilty
By Miguel Raymundo
PRESIDENT Benigno Aquino III’s Disbursement Acceleration Package (DAP) renders Congress useless. DAP is PNoy’s signature and declaration to the Filipinos that he has no need for Congress.
Filipinos spend tens of billions of pesos a year for salaries of congressmen and senators and to underwrite their stealing. Thievery in this Congress has gone too far that a weekly business magazine rightly described it as a crime syndicate.
Who needs a crime syndicate for a Congress? Even PNoy, by his acts, says he does not need Congress, except perhaps to impeach a Supreme Court Chief Justice.
Then will somebody please simply abolish Congress for failing the Filipino people for decades now?
First, Congress failed to protect the people from the biggest crime syndicate in the country led by the President himself.
The President misappropriated some PhP174Billion in forced savings from the budget of executive offices. He pooled these savings to form an illegal fund called the DAP. The Use of these savings is a product of technical malversation—a crime with defined penalties that include a jail term and dismissal from service.
This is PNoy’s biggest crime so far, a thievery ten times worse than that of the PDAF scandal supposedly masterminded by one Janet Lim Napoles.
While PNoy could be the most dishonest President this country has ever had by the magnitude of stealing now going on, his is a long list of dishonest acts from abandoning campaign promises to allowing subalterns to run away with billions of government funds.
PNoy promised us Daang Matuwid. With runaway corruption in the government service, no one but his yellow allies believed this. But of course Daang Matuwid meant a straight path of billions of pesos to the pockets and bank accounts of these yellow allies.
PNoy promised to wipe out poverty. Poverty incidence has gone up as we slipped deeper in international ratings on the measure of success in the fight against poverty.
PNoy said “Pag walang corrupt walang mahirap” and we see the reason why the “mahirap” has increased in numbers.
The people pay over P35Billion in keeping Congress. In return, Congress enacted insignificant laws, like in 2012 a bill on reproductive health and the postponement of elections in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, according to election lawyer Romulo Macalintal.
Every year, the only significant bill passed is the General Appropriations Act (GAA) or the national budget, the obligatory congress action to legalize government expenditure.
Under PNoy this GAA is not the bible in his spending, this is a scrap of paper that does not merit his attention or, worse, his respect. And, for circumventing the provisions of the budget and violating the Constitution, PNoy ought to go to jail.
According to Macalintal, the PhP35Billion savings from abolishing Congress could be used for other purposes.
But wait, should Congress be abolished, there will be absolute control of the purse by the executive branch.
Remember, Mr. Macalintal, the lawmakers are simply beneficiaries of theft by the executive branch. Remember that the process of stealing starts from Malacanang, passes through Congress and, finally, actually disbursed by the executive branches controlled by the Palace.
So Congress is just one step in the process of theft. Most guilty are those in the executive department, especially people in Malacanang.
Every step in the way in the disbursement of government funds has safety measures against acts of thieves.
I was the chief of budget division and management services division during the martial law days in one office attached to the Office of the President. I had this case of the top official ordering me to transfer funds from capital outlay to maintenance and other operating expenses (MOOE).
I refused to obey the order, advising the boss it was technical malversation. I briefed him, thinking that being new the government service he did not know our duties. I told the boss this was against the law and I could go to jail if I followed his order.
The national budget defines how the government funds must be used, I told him and I have a duty to my position as budget officer. Of course I resigned few months after that briefing for too suddenly it became very hot in the kitchen.
The system is not rotten. The people in the system are. In solving the corruption in Congress, you don’t kill the system. The solution is for us to stop electing the corrupt to Congress.
Those elected and continue with their thieving ways should be charged in court and put to jail. That is assuming our justice system is working, but that is another story.
The presidential is system is not rotten. It is working fine in other countries like the United States of America. The person in the position makes the position of President rotten.
In the case of the Philippines, our President has shown how he has ruined the image of his position, being most guilty in the PDAF-DAP crime. He should be impeached for everyone to again respect our system.
He is the puppeteer, the one using government cash as strings in the public dance to massive corruption.
Now, if you think stealing from the government coffers is the only form of corruption hurting the economy so much, think again.
Yes corruption has hurt so much the economy that when PNoy and budget secretary Florencio Abad were pooling forced savings to create DAP, the GDP growth went down to half at over 3%.
The forced savings meant putting a stop to infrastructure projects and other people welfare initiatives, pulling out from the national spending over P170Billion.
The ripple effect of this dip in national spending was slow down of economic activities by suppliers to government projects and no jobs. Government spending is also intended to inject life to the economy, to create employment by direct hiring by government and suppliers. Downstream, even the sari-sari stores had to suffer. The net effect of reduced government spending is reduced cash in circulation, reduced disposable income of families.
In the dip in disposable income, government holding down disbursements of public funds has a temporary effect on disposable income. This dip is offset when the hijacked funds are released to fund massive corruption.
The worst source and reason disposable income is on the dive is the cost of basic necessities and utilities like food, power, water, transportation and others.
In the privatization of utilities, corruption in government is not noticed, this form of corruption deliberately moved away from public attention by the taipan-controlled mainstream media.
How bad business succeeds in bleeding dry the middle class and the poorest in this country is a long story of corruption in our congress and our President who is even more corrupt.