Tonypet J. Rosales | Editor
IT APPEARS the most bloated government department—the Communications Group PNoy—simply can’t get the job done. To arrest the President’s sagging image, the administration is bringing more people into the fray, a move that could spark new hostilities between the Samar and Balay groups in Malacanang.
Since 2010, despite an awesome PR machinery, Malacanang never really got a hold of the public relations game. A series of missteps, snafus, blunders and miscommunications (beginning with the mishandling of the Luneta hostage incident involving a tour bus filled with Chinese nationals) have kept the President’s team of spokespersons and speechwriters busy fending off critics.
On Tuesday, a newspaper report by that the Palace is in “PR crisis mode”, hiring the services of a foreign pollster and political strategist to help reinvent the image of the President after the government’s net approval ratings plummeted to a record low.
The report said a crisis management team under Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. (Samar Group) and a political strategy team under Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas (Balay Group) has been activated to help refurbish PNoy’s image which has taken hit after hit since assuming the presidency in 2010.
A Palace source said Roxas is bringing back one Paul Bograd, the political strategist said to be responsible for Mar’s “Mr. Palengke” brand which made the DILG secretary No. 1 senator back in 2004. Bograd’s assignment: to fix PNoy’s image which suffered massively because of the Supreme Court’s adverse ruling on the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).
On the other hand, Ochoa has made changes in the Palace media group starting with the appointment of Presidential Operations Office Secretary Sonny Coloma as presidential spokesperson taking the place of Edwin Lacierda who is identified with Mar’s Balay group.
Ochoa is also said to have reactivated members of the Samar group involved in the 2010 campaign, including television director and PNoy cousin Maria Montelibano. Montelibano served as head of Radio Television Malacanang (RTVM) during the time of President Cory Aquino and was also the designated point-person for media in Noynoy’s 2010 campaign.
While Bograd’s appointment can be considered a slap in the face of Secretary Coloma, observers believe that recent turn of events is symptomatic of a leadership breakdown in Malacanang. The administration is slowly falling apart and may eventually cost the ruling Liberal Party (LP) the 2016 presidential elections.
Seed of Discord
The conflict between the Samar and Balay group started shortly after Mar Roxas lost the vice presidency to Jojo Binay. Balay is the the group that met regularly at the residence of Roxas and its core is composed of the LP leadership together with the Black and White Movement and Ronald Llamas’ Akbayan. Samar Avenue in Quezon City is where Montelibano’s media bureau and Ochoa’s legal team held fort. PNoy sisters Pinky and Ballsy and Sonny Belmonte also regularly joined the Samar meetings.
The difference between the two groups emerged when Balay members started blaming Samar for the emergence of the winning NoyBi (Noynoy-Binay) tandem. In 2010, Mar’s presidential candidacy was floundering (he was usually ranked 4th in the ratings) and things looked up only after he gave way to Aquino and ran for vice president instead.
However, in the last weeks before the elections, Binay eventually caught up with Mar in the ratings.
From sure winner, Roxas became a pathetic loser. The two camps exchanged barbs blaming each other for Mar’s loss with Balay—despite the polls—claiming the Binay win as a fluke. The seed of discord had already planted as early as 2010.
The latest polls showing the President’s net satisfaction ratings at an all-time low, forced both the Samar and Balay groups to reactivate their crisis management teams. The Palace is in panic and by racing to save the President and effect a quick turnaround—Pnoy and company could find himself in even deeper trouble.
Mar’s panic is understandable because his chance of becoming the LP standard bearer and winning the presidency in 2016 is directly proportional to PNoy’s pop ratings. If PNoy crashes and burns, Roxas might as well kiss his presidential aspirations goodbye.
Palace insiders say Ochoa is concerned with the way the LP has handled the DAP issue. The August 23, 2013 speech of the President defending the DAP was reportedly the idea of Roxas who managed to convince PNoy to deliver the speech on primetime television despite Ochoa’s protests.
“Ochoa believes the (Senate President Franklin) Drilon and (Budget Secretary Butch Abad are dragging the President down with them,” the Palace source said.
Abad is the architect of the DAP which has been declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. Meanwhile, Drilon—who failed on his promise to scrap the Senate pork—tried to make up for his failure with an attempt to salvage the impounded money by circumventing the TRO issued by the SC by having the funds declared as “savings” that the President can use in the event of a calamity. Drilon’s antics reportedly did not sit well with House Speaker Belmonte.
The situation has become a fight for the Aquino-Cojuangco clan’s life that even the “First Bunso” Kris has been put to active PR service.
Kris’ strategy jumps off from PNoy’s recent State of the Nation Address (SONA) where the camera cuts away to the gallery and catches the “Queen of All Media” wiping off her tears as her PNoy mouths off the sacrifices of their parents Cory and Ninoy in his impassioned speech.
On August 1, on the occasion of Cory Aquino’s 5th death anniversary, Kris even hinted on the potential martyrdom of PNoy. “He [Noynoy] can’t do it on his own. We need to stand by him and give him strength. Please pray with us also that he stays alive,” Kris told guests after the Holy Mass at the Manila Memorial Park in Parañaque City.
Kris, of course, was alluding to PNoy’s mentioning in his SONA of certain “dark forces” that were supposedly out to get him. While much of what makes the Aquino dynasty great has something to do with death, the idea of President Aquino dying to achieve a PR bonanza is totally out of the question.
If PNoy dies, then Vice President Binay becomes President defeating the whole purpose of initiating an ambitious PR mode to save PNoy’s neck and the LP from a public hanging.
What remains clear is that the scenario in the Palace remains as chaotic as ever with the administration content in plugging loopholes and providing band-aid solutions to the country’s problems. Common sense dictates that it is never wise to have two captains run a PR ship.
Right now, PNoy and company appear secure and safe—just like the passengers of the Titanic.
By Ronald Roy
Any breach of the law is an act classified either as malum in se (bad in itself) or malum prohibitum (bad because it is prohibited). Let us use this as a premise for a clearer understanding of the Supreme Court’s resolution declaring unconstitutional the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP). I think that this is necessary for observers who are not lawyers, given the complexity of the facts and the intricacies of the plunder law appurtenant to the criminal cases now before the Sandiganbayan.
An example of an act that is malum in se is stealing. An apprehended thief cannot claim he did not know that there was a law punishing theft. In this case, ignorance of the law will not excuse him because stealing is intrinsically bad, immoral or evil, and even an atheist knows this. An order for restitution and a jail term await him. On the other hand, an example of malum prohibitum is a traffic violation, like parking a car in a no-parking area. The driver will get a fine for this.
In relation to the DAP imbroglio, was the act of the executive department in usurping congress’ power of the purse malum in se or malum prohibitum? This is the essential question.
Under the constitution, congress is vested with the exclusive power to appropriate funds for the operations of government. The constitution and the General Appropriations Act (GAA) were violated when DBM Sec. Florencio Abad, his subordinates and other government functionaries gathered the unused funds of the departments, agencies and offices within the jurisdiction of the president, purportedly for the noble purpose of distributing the same to sundry priority projects to accelerate economic development. Purportedly? Granted.
It may even be further assumed for argument’s sake that the DAP was designed with a mechanism to insulate its operations from graft. Nevertheless, the DAP was still an unwarranted usurpation of the legislature’s exclusive power of the purse. And here’s why: When the executive department wrested away a power exclusively owned by both houses of congress, 1) it created an abhorrent imbalance of power among the three branches of government — a disrupting disequilibrium which no healthy democracy would wish to be home to, and 2) it opened the floodgates of graft, which incidentally is what actually happened in the premises. These are the two situations that the law seeks to prevent.
Last week, I wrote that President Noynoy could not claim good faith because when he was a senator, he authored and sponsored a bill outlawing the DAP which he then saw as evil, although his colleagues ignored him. Well, he’s now hard-pressed to convince anybody that when he woke up one morning, he realized that the DAP was a virtuous concept pala. And so, as a favor to the nation, he authorized its implementation. Ngek!!
In any event, the general consensus of observers is that DBM Sec. Abad now finds himself in deep s – – t. Last week, over a dozen youth leaders led by Kabataan Rep. Terry Ridon filed with the Office of the Ombudsman a complaint of the non-bailable crime of Plunder. The youths, acting under Youth Act Now (YAN), a nationwide alliance of youth groups, charged that Abad “conceptualized, developed and implemented the DAP himself, supposedly as an economic stimulus facility”. I’m sorry, but I fear the observers’ jubilant overconfidence will likely go for naught.
The facts of the DAP and the provisions of the plunder law itself are so complicated they will give defense counsel generous lea ways for securing Abad’s acquittal. YAN’s thrust, IMHO, would be virtually trouble-free if it had instead sued Abad for Malversation (Art. 217, Revised Penal Code). A feature in Malversation would have made it much easier to convict Abad, namely, his mere negligence in allowing another or others to illicitly profit from DAP’s operations.
And the effects thereof would be just as damning as in Plunder, viz, the penalty of reclusión perpetua (life imprisonment) if the amount misappropriated or embezzled is more than 22,000 pesos, or reclusión temporal (ten years imprisonment) if 22,000 or less; additionally, Abad would be slapped with perpetual special disqualification from holding public office and a fine equal to the amount involved, not to mention that in appropriate cases there would be prima facie evidence that he had unlawfully profited.
It has long been my belief that PDAF and DAP offenders can be more easily convicted under the provisions of Malversation. Just think: In Plunder, many transactions will usually be needed to reach the threshold of 50 million pesos for conviction, while in Malversation, one transaction will be enough.
Pres. B.S. Aquino lll? Well, his numbers in the lower house shield him against impeachment, but Malversation or the malum prohibitum offense of Technical Malversation will send him to jail after his term.
(To be continued)
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A CASE of ham acting and bad theatrics.
This is how the opposition and critics of the administration described President Benigno Aquino III’s decision to reject the resignation of Budget Secretary Florencio “Butch” Abad despite the plunder complaint filed against the latter over the controversial Disbursement Accelerated Program (DAP).
On Friday, Aquino announced his decision to turn down Abad’s resignation submitted Thursday. Abad and several administration officials are in hot water after the Supreme Court declared part of the government’s DAP—created by Department of Budget and Management Circular 541—as unconstitutional.
And, to fortify its “in good faith” defense, former Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban went on national television saying Abad and Aquino could not be held accountable for violating the Constitution as proponent and executor of the DAP—unless it is determined that they are guilty of “culpable violation of the law”.
Almost instantly, social media and the news networks were flooded with adverse reactions.
“It’s a bad day for good governance, Navotas Rep. Tobias Tangco, secretary-general of the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA), said in a text message describing Aquino’s retention of Abad. “I am waiting for them to sing ‘If We Hold on Together’”.
Renato Reyes, head of the militant group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, called Aquino’s decision to keep Abad in the Cabinet as a “stubborn defense” of DAP. He said the rejection “shows that the President is still in a state of denial regarding the illegality of the DAP. He is protecting Abad and in turn protecting himself.”
For his part, ACT Teachers party-list Rep. Antonio Tinio said Abad should have submitted an irrevocable resignation if the Cabinet official was sincere about taking responsibility for the DAP. “This is merely theatrics meant to ease pressure on himself and Malacañang,” Tinio said in a statement.
“As chief executive, President Aquino swore an oath to preserve and defend the Constitution and execute the laws of the land. This includes respect for and compliance with jurisprudence as embodied in Supreme Court ruling. In loudly and publicly rejecting the ruling on DAP, he is breaking his oath of office,” Tinio added.
Also on Friday, the Senate committee on finance has summoned Abad to make a public accounting on how the Aquino administration spent billions of pesos in public funds released under the Disbursement Acceleration Program.
Senator Francis Escudero, the chair of the Senate panel that examines the proposed national budget, asked Abad to appear before a public hearing scheduled July 21.
Escudero directed Abad to submit to the Senate panel the complete list of the all the Special Allotment Release Orders or SAROs that were disbursed under the DAP, including “projects/purpose and the amount of the releases. This is what we have been asking the DBM too since our last committee hearing: where is the list?” Escudero said in a statement.
Abad has not issued any statement on the DAP since it has been declared unconstitutional.
Meanwhile, impeachment complaints against Aquino have meanwhile been submitted to the House of Representatives, which administration congressmen vowed to block.
Described as a “stimulus package to fast-track public spending and to push economic growth on high impact budgetary programs, activities and projects”, the High Court gave three reasons for declaring the DAP unconstitutional: the withdrawal of unobligated allotments from the implementing agencies and the declaration of the withdrawn unobligated allotments and unreleased appropriations as savings prior to the end of the fiscal year and without complying with the statutory definition of savings contained in the General Appropriation Act (GAA); the cross-border transfers of the savings of the executive department to augment the appropriations of other offices outside the executive; and, the funding of activities, projects and programs that were not covered by any appropriation in the GAA.
The Supreme Court also voided the use of “unprogrammed” funds in the absence of a certification by the National Treasurer that revenue collections exceeded revenue targets.
Aside from serious concerns about its legality and propriety—of being used as presidential pork barrel for patronage purposes, particularly the impeachment of former Chief Justice Renato Corona—the DAP has also been described as economically irrational which is consistent with the notion that the supposed stimulus effect is only a cover for self-serving political agenda.
According to the research, education and development institution Ibon Foundation, the practice of using government spending to stimulate or pump-prime the economy in a situation of low demand is well-established. But to generalize from this and claim that any and all government spending is a stimulus to the economy would render the practice tautological and meaningless.
In a report, Ibon said certain conditions need to be met for the spending to be a genuine stimulus. The most basic is that the quantity of spending must be large enough and occur within a short enough period to actually make a discernible difference. The quality of spending also matters and this should be on items that will have the most immediate and greatest multiplier effect on the economy. Notwithstanding all the justifications that the administration has raised, the DAP did not meet either of these and the so-called stimulus argument is weak.
When questions about the DAP first surfaced, President Aquino claimed that the program stimulated the economy in 2011 and created a momentum that carried on years after.
When the controversy first came out President Aquino himself claimed that the DAP stimulated the economy in 2011 and created a momentum that continued until years after. PNoy also specifically said that the DAP contributed 1.3 percentage points to the growth in the Gross Domestic Product (GDP)in the fourth quarter of 2011; this is considerable considering that growth in that period was just 4.0 percent as reported by the National Statistical Coordinating Board (NSCB). Since the brouhaha, government has released varying, incomplete and inconsistent statements on DAP, but there is nonetheless not enough information to make a sound conclusion.
Early reports from the DBM had total DAP spending of P159.36 billion broken down into P85.53 billion (2011), P58.70 billion (2012) and P15.13 billion (2013). But these DAP magnitudes are not additional to the spending programs for the respective fiscal years of P1,580.0 billion (2011), P1,829.0 billion (2012) and P2,005.9 billion (2013); these figures coming from the latest Budget of Expenditure and Sources of Financing (BESF) documents.
It is therefore important to note that the DAP did not provide additional government spending for any of the years it was implemented and was just, as the acronym suggests, merely an acceleration of the disbursement of budget that were already established under the GAA. This fact makes it grossly inaccurate to claim the DAP as a stimulus package as it did not introduce additional appropriations into the budget, but only changed the manner how these amounts were spent by changing the actual expense items through various means which the Supreme Court declared unconstitutional.
Ibon further notes that the DAP was not that all significant. Total government spending – computed as the sum of government final consumption expenditure (GFCE) and public construction from the national accounts measured at current prices – in those same years was P1,132.67 billion, P1,376.10 billion and P1,558.24 billion, respectively. This means that the DAP was just 7.6 percent of total government spending in 2011, 4.3 percent in 2012 and 1.0 percent in 2013. Measured versus the economy the DAP was just 0.9 percent of GDP in 2011, 0.6 percent of GDP in 2012 and 0.1 percent of GDP in 2013.
So even at its peak in 2011, the DAP could not have had any substantial impact on the national economy. The Ibon report even proceeded to compare the DAP with equivalent figures of more genuine stimulus programs. For instance, the US government’s stimulus program – consisting of the $787 billion US economic recovery package of 2009 and $700 billion in Troubled Asset Relief (TARP) funds, unemployment insurance, health care—was, if spent as programmed—equivalent to about 20-30 percent of total annual federal outlays and some 4-6 percent of the US economy.
Meanwhile, stimulus packages in other countries in 2009 were also similarly large or larger, such as: Malaysia (7.9 percent of GDP), China (4.8 percent), Spain (4.5 percent), Germany (3.4 percent), Thailand (2.8 percent), Korea (2.7 percent), Indonesia (2.5 percent) and Japan (2.2 percent).
Still, to claim the DAP accounted for 1.3 percentage points of the 4.0 percent GDP growth in the fourth quarter of 2011 would have been meaningful if true, because then it would have accounted for more than one-fourth of the economic growth. But again, this 1.3 percentage point contribution to was not actually just of the DAP but rather of total government consumption and public construction for the period (of which the DAP was just a small part of). The contribution of DAP-related spending to economic growth is likely just one-fourth of a percentage point at most in the fourth quarter of 2011 and less than a tenth of a percentage point for 2011 as a whole.
But since there is no accounting yet of how the DAP was spent, it could even be possible that for it to have reduced the contribution of the national budget to economic growth. If it is true that portions of the DAP were lost to corruption or for bribing lawmakers to vote for the removal of Chief Justice Corona, it is possible that instead of being spent in the real economy the DAP has been lost to hidden bank accounts here—or even abroad.
With the DAP dwarfing the amount of money involved in the PDAF scandal an immediate accounting of where and how it was spent is required if Aquino and company want to come clean and get themselves out of the public crosshairs.
Problem is, there is no available information of the criteria applied by the government in deciding which projects to fund through the DAP or how it chose which projects to in effect discontinue by realigning funds away from them. A complete listing of the project also remains unavailable and a cursory glance of what projects have been made public is more than enough to cast doubt on how the administration utilized the funds which is several-fold bigger than the amount involved in the PDAF scandal.
Included in the items of alleged prima facie dubious stimulus impact are: PhP30 billion capital infusion to the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP); PhP8.6 billion for Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) peace and development interventions; PhP5.4 billion in landlord compensation; PhP3.4 billion in GSIS premium payments; PhP1.8 billion for the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF); PhP1.5 billion for the Cordillera People’s Liberation Army (CPLA); PhP1.6 billion for the Department of Science and Technology’s (DOST) DREAM project; PhP1.1 billion for human resource development of BPOs; PhP750 million to settle the tax liabilities of the National Power Corporation; PhP666 million for the Department of National Defense (DND); and others.
The issue is not whether these identified expenditures are desirable, but if they have had any significant impact on the economy. The ultimate objective of any supposed stimulus package is to increase aggregate demand. The multiplier effect of any particular amount of government spending is however diminished if it is spent for foreign goods and services rather than locally, if it is not spent by the recipients, if it is not spent on labor-intensive projects, and so on. The situation therefore demands greater transparency on the part of the Aquino administration which is presently engaged in bringing the perpetrators of the PDAF scandal to justice.
A Cabinet secretary tendering his resignation and a President rejecting the same is simply not enough to address the issue and to calm the brewing storm.
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.
By Ronald Roy
Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines “hypocrisy” as the false assumption of an appearance of virtue or religion. There are disturbing reasons to believe that the much-touted daang matuwid (righteous path) slogan of Pres. B.S. Aquino lll qualifies as a shuddering example of the definition.
Good attracts while evil repels, and this explains the slogan’s proselytizing power. The Tagalog catchphrase is excellent political fodder for largely religious, fanatical, and superstitious Filipinos. They are, to a fault, easily beguiled by the slogan, the same way they are often finagled by quick-money operators who build bogus shrines and sell fake healing water.
Needless to state, the slogan’s large-scale deception is pernicious to our floundering democracy, and only our citizens, if reawakened and unshackled from the yellow camp’s “Rasputinean” enticements, can be their own saviors. However, most of us didn’t believe then Pres. Gloria Arroyo’s claim that God had ordered her to ignore the public clamor for her resignation because He wanted her to continue her good work for the country; so maybe there is hope P-Noy’s bewitching mantra will fizzle out.
But, is there? My persistent irritation is that: despite the president’s slowly diminishing popularity, his slogan still appears to be getting the better of us. Without rattling in public, he quietly seethes with anger whenever confronted by legitimate dissent. And he is good at appearing virtuous, notwithstanding his obviously undemocratic contempt for opposition leaders, vis-à-vis his overwhelmingly indecent defense of misbehaving political allies.
He is a bad sport. His kind of politics is dirty and foul-ridden; and if governance were a basketball game, he would have already been ejected and banned for life which, in reality, is a possibility now that the Supreme Court has unanimously declared DAP ( disbursement acceleration program) to be unconstitutional.
The sovereign people’s anguished cry for justice and restitution of their money has been heeded by the high tribunal, and this for the moment is a reassurance that our magistrates’ principal concern is the people’s welfare — a welcome reminder that the high court is the ultimate rampart for an oppressed citizenry, and that it stands ready to play an activist role to countercheck the abusive executive and legislative departments. But this is only the start of a long, daunting struggle.
As expected, impeachment of the president quickly came to the public psyche on the day of the official announcement of the tribunal’s resolution and, as of this writing, countless theories have evolved regarding its impracticality, futility and legal untenability, as bandied about by the Palace and its cohorts; and most likely, by the time this article’s been published, a number of impeachment complaints have already swamped the lower house’s impeachment committee.
Predictably, not one of them will prosper, impeachment being a political exercise, a numbers game, where P-Noy’s lackey, Speaker Feliciano Belmonte, is in full control, not to mention the president’s bottomless kitty for political self-preservation. The DAP reportedly funded the removal of impeachment respondent CJ Renato C. Corona, and it is ironic that the high tribunal’s subject DAP decision now portrays his tormentor, President Noynoy, as having received a dose of his own medicine. Karma?
As I wrote in a previous article, do not expect P-Noy to fire DBM Sec. Butch Abad who is generally seen as the brains and/or orchestrator of the DAP. How could P-Noy, really, have the heart to dump Abad whose wrongful acts he had authorized or acquiesced to? However, a charge of Technical Malversation against Abad is being studied, according to Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales. Good move, although this could be a clever ploy that effectively diverts attention and pressure from P-Noy. Resignation? I do not think Abad will “take the bullet” for his master by stepping down. I hear this guy is a kapit-tuko of the kapal-muks variety.
So, what have we got before us? The spectacle, no less, of a graft-ridden administration on survival mode, fiercely banking on the power of its hypocritical daang matuwid to convince us: that we have a virtuous leader who rules the country with the best of intentions, by using our money for allegedly legitimate and noble purposes, and without pocketing a single peso, and that this declaration should be enough to shield him against accountability. HUH??? I disagree.
Their unbearably monotonous refrain of “good intentions” and “good faith” must now be laid to rest in the face of the Supreme Court’s statement that the Palace is not yet off the hook, not till the DAP’s sponsors can prove good faith.
Well, P-Noy and cohorts are finished, and here’s why. Senate records show that Sen. Noynoy sponsored a bill to outlaw the DAP because he saw it as an evil. But his colleagues rejected it. Therefore, he has been in bad faith all along. He should graciously resign if only to reduce the ignominy of being tagged as a hypocrite.
THE Aquino administration is in a quandary.
Shortly after putting senators Bong Revilla Jr. and Jinggoy Estrada behind bars for their alleged involvement in the PhP10-billion pork barrel scam and issuing a warrant against former Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, government is now beset with a problem bigger than pilferage of the PDAF—that of the issue of the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) being declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.
Designed as a stimulus package to fast-track public spending and economic and push economic growth—which was supposedly being hampered by a prevailing under-spending in government disbursements—President Aquino approved the DAP in October 2011 upon the recommendation of the Development Budget Coordination Committee and the Cabinet Clusters.
From its approval and throughout 2012-2013 government spent a total PhP142.23 billion in realigned savings from different government agencies on a total 116 DAP-funded budgets. And in declaring the practice to be in violation of the Constitution, the High Tribunal cites the culpability of the proponents and implementers of the illegal government program.
The chief architect of this budget impounding system is Budget Secretary Florencio “Butch” Abad, the same person whom some quarters have accused of orchestrating and providing tutelage to the players and con artists of the PDAF scam.
If the PDAF scam lists senators and congressmen as possible conspirators, the DAP tags the Office of the President—President PNoy—for approving a program that is against the fundamental laws of the land.
In defense, Malacanang said it “acted in good faith” when it spent hundreds of billions in public funds circumventing the provisions of the Constitution via the DAP. Also, being unconstitutional—in the words of Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda—should not be equated to criminality. Acting in good faith could be taken as the government’s admission of incompetence or an ignorance of the law, with both providing no excuse for the commission of an illegal act.
Because the DAP is very similar to the PDAF in many respects including the funding of projects identified by lawmakers, it is not easy to accept that the line that DAP was money well spent and the thievery was limited to the PDAF.
The PDAF involved an amount less than one percent of the total national budget and the DAP spending is ten times that of the money that Janet Lim Napoles and her co-accused were able to stick their fingers into.
If PDAF is just “pocket change”—Napoles and company are just petty thieves. An audit of the DAP and national budget could lead us to the big-time crooks and the smooth criminals in government.
By Ronald Roy
It’s understandable that for high-profile actor-politicians, nothing is more humiliating than being arrested, handcuffed, brought inside a patrol car with head being shoved into it by a strong hand, fingerprinted, made to pose for mugshots, then locked up in a high-security cell like a “common criminal”.
And the ironic humiliation is devastating for senators, particularly Sen. Bong “Pogi” Revilla and Sen. Jinggoy “Sexy” Estrada, top cinema action stars who not only play roles risking life and limb in heroic defense of the oppressed poor, but were also 2016’s top contenders for president and vice president, respectively, until they were implicated in the scandalous pork barrel scam.
It’s pretty certain that it was Revilla’s bruised pride that made him design and fund his voluntary surrender cum theatrics and fanfare, his egotistical tact fixated on redeeming a tarnished image or worse: delusively reliving his glory days with captive voters with an announcement he might seek the presidency in 2016 . Love him or hate him, you just have to admire the guy’s chutzpah — an attribute that shows that his die-hard fans had elected an unfit person into the senate.
But, well, there’s nothing in the law that prevents Pogi from becoming the first prisoner to run the affairs of our country as its president. After all, he’s still presumed innocent until proven guilty, ‘di ba? That way, he gets to be the first president to pardon himself — hahaha — ‘di ba? But wait, this scenario is not as loony and farfetched as it looks! Seriously, with crazy votes snowballing for him and P-Noy’s popularity steadily vanishing, the indictee’s dream may yet come true!
Reform comes best from the worst of misfortunes like Ondoy’s havoc, Yolanda’s wrath, bloody revolutions, and the Lord’s crucifixion. Yes, no less than the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth was imposed by his Father to reform a sinful world; so, if it takes a catastrophic Revilla presidency to wipe out this generation, then by all means let’s welcome the opportunity to warn the next generation that it will not pay to vote clowns and showbiz “celebs” into public office.
But what if, by some celestial miracle, the Revilla presidency turns out to be a smash hit?! Then, jolly by golly wow, we’ll have to respect the so-called vox populi despite its stupidity, and let all the laugh be on me and other Pogi-bashers!! After all, Dimas the thief and Cupertino the dullard were not barred from becoming saints.
Over a month ago, scuttlebutt had it that, by a vote of 8 to 6, the Supreme Court had thumbed down as unconstitutional the Disbursement Acceleration Program, or DAP, for short, also derisively taken to stand for Drilon, Abad and P-Noy. Shortly after that, rumor circulated that alleged pork barrel brains Janet Lim Napoles had advanced the sums needed to be granted to those senator-judges who had voted to convict then impeachment respondent Chief Justice Renato C. Corona, reimbursable from the DAP fund, which incidentally has come to be known as President Noynoy’s discretionary kitty.
It taxes the imagination to contrive a refutation that the president — who incidentally was the knowledgeable Chair of the Budget Committee when he was a solon — had nothing to do with the DAP’s creation, an act in flagrant violation of the constitution’s express and unequivocal mandate that only Congress can appropriate funds for the operations of government. He adamantly remains in denial mode, although his camp once posited that the DAP’s constitutionality issue had become moot and academic since they had already stopped using the fund. What??? “You cannot arrest me now because I already stopped killing people last year”???
In fairness to Drilon, it may be doubted that he is a co-inventor of the DAP. But, holy macaroni, the heinous culpability of P-Noy and Abad here is as manifest as Satan’s horns, tail and hooves!! It’s an open-and-shut case. No ifs or buts about it, they are both answerable to all Filipinos this very instant!! Huh??? The high tribunal has scrapped, back-burnered or revised its 8 – 6 resolution for hundreds of millions of reasons???
Sorry, but I don’t buy that. These robed men and women of the high tribunal are made of honorable stuff. They are learned and incorruptible. Call me naive, but I prefer to laze in a comfort zone seeing them that way. On the other hand, P-Noy will be hard-pressed to deny that he had made an attempt to cross government officials’ palms with silver. And this is explained by two public perceptions: his notorious temerity for bribing officials, like Corona’s impeachment senator-judges, and his visceral disdain for minority leaders.
Hmmm…who can be certain that the president’s downfall isn’t now being foretold by his own unmitigated chutzpah?
by Ronald Roy
ON the eve of last All Saints Day, Pres. Benigno Simeon Aquino lll delivered a hurriedly crafted twelve-minute damage-control speech that instead created greater damage to his plummeting popularity ratings triggered by his boners in the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) imbroglio. I cannot fathom why, for the life of me, so much dissension has been generated by a prime-time discourse defending the administration’s indefensible DAP position.
DAP is unconstitutional, period; and no amount of sophistry from the finest of student councils can validate or rectify it — sophistry is the use of clever but false arguments, especially with the intention of deceiving –notwithstanding the supposed best of intentions behind its cryptic creation, along with their trumpeted beneficial results, if any.
DAP is unconstitutional because P-Noy, his fair-haired boy, Department of Budget and Mismanagement Secretary Butch Abad, and other sycophants unilaterally (i.e., without the required legislative participation) invented it, and there is absolutely no excuse for this culpable breach of the fundamental law.
A Machiavellian Offense
Wrong is wrong. For instance, a thief cannot be allowed to say, “You cannot sue me because I am not guilty of anything! I stole, yes, but I delivered the goodies to our pitifully impoverished countrymen. In fact, I did not in any material way benefit from my altruism.” Sadly, however, he is still criminally liable because Machiavellianism is anathema to our legal system that operates under the Rule of Law.
Needless to say, it is very devastating that the Machiavellian offender in the instant DAP case is no less than Pres. Noynoy himself. Now, is this not a very negative image that he has managed to portray of himself under the circumstances?!
I felt sorry for him as he addressed the nation either with such ignorance of the law or with outright defiance of it. I felt sorrier for myself, feeling like a hapless citizen held hostage by a madman gone berserk on survival mode. Wow, I mulled, this guy’s gonna be around for another two and a half years!
P-Noy’s delivery was expectedly fluid and rhetorical; a speech trait generally associated with the Aquino clan. No other Filipino president could have delivered the same piece with as much persuasiveness and elan.
This was, again, his big moment before the cameras, except that, this time, the more knowledgeable of his listeners and viewers could detect the deception, along with subtle reminders that the power that he had wielded to crush the impeached CJ Renato C. Corona could again be unleashed to silence his critics on the DAP fiasco. He irritatingly chose the issues, rattling off A B C D E F etc. while we wanted to hear him go through 1 2 3 4 5 6 etc. For instance, he intoned: “I am not a thief!” even if nobody was calling him one.
The Undelivered Message
What then would I have wanted to see and hear from P-Noy? Well, this: an angry and contrite President saying that he was sorry for all the pork barrel and DAP mess his administration had caused, that he had fired Abad, Agriculture Secretary Alcala, the notorious Ronald Llamas who has been widely rumored to be in constant touch with SC Associate Justices, and other lackeys. P-Noy seems to have forgotten that consigning Undersecretary Rico Puno to oblivion helped prop up his then sagging presidential image.
I also would have wanted to hear P-Noy say he was giving up his pork barrel in favor of line departments. Wow, if he had done all these, he probably would have primed himself up to becoming the greatest president our country has ever had!!
No, it would not be in P-Noy’s character to step down. He will hang in there until hell freezes over. Ever since he took “Cojuangco” out of his name, he has remained determined to be his own man, a president who gets what he wants and intends to leave behind a legacy all his own. You get 95 million citizens demanding his ouster, and he still will not budge an inch. P-Noy is just irreversibly bent on being his own man even if it means tempting Fate by doing so.
BANG is the awesome resonance caused by an assassin’s fury, and how well P-Noy the gun enthusiast knows it. Of course he should be aware his adamance could take him to an inglorious tarmac-like cul de sac, but he is pathetically too busy being his own man to sense any danger. Then again, perhaps he has deluded himself into thinking he has the sort of courage that is the stuff of martyrdom. Could he be crazy? Hmmm…Yes, maybe.
Politics, Politics, Politics
In any event, I hear its business as usual back at the Palace. Strengthening of the Liberal Party is up in the air. Sen. Ralph Recto has loomed as the strongest choice to replace the embattled Senate President Franklin Drilon, whose latest embarrassment is his being found out to be the chairman of a foundation organized for the mother of Janet Lim Napoles.
Incidentally, P-Noy has reportedly cautioned Drilon and former Sen. Ed Angara against indiscreet contacts with officials of the Office of the Ombudsman and the Commission on Audit. Also, being eyed this early is a probable Mar Roxas – Kris Aquino tandem for the 2016 elections. Repeat: this early. Ho-hum.
But it’s all up to P-Noy, really. I would not be surprised if he would choose to extend his term and his confreres gave way. Fools, these traditional politicians!
(http://musingsbyroy.wordpress.com. | 09186449517 | @ronald8roy | #musingsbyroy)
- Aquino’s half-baked legal defense (opinion.inquirer.net)
- The President’s speech (opinion.inquirer.net)
- Trouble at the top (manilastandardtoday.com)
- Give P’Noy the benefit of the doubt (leytesamardaily.net)
- Revilla, Estrada chime: ‘We too are not thieves’ (manilastandardtoday.com)
- Aquino may be going out on a limb over pork issue, say critics (newsinfo.inquirer.net)
- P-Noy’s brother-in-law volunteers in relief drive (newsinfo.inquirer.net)
- Netizens jeer, cheer Aquino (technology.inquirer.net)
- Opposition sees Aquino speech to nation as damage control (newsinfo.inquirer.net)
- Fall and rise (opinion.inquirer.net)