WAR IN THE PALACE
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.
The Devil and Strange Bedfellows at Pastor “Boy” Saycon’s Birthday (July 8)!
By Linggoy Alcuaz
At the end of last week’s Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow column, I greeted Pastor “Boy” Saycon a “Happy Birthday!” The title of my Monday, July 7, column was “Quintessential Operator! Strange Bedfellows!” Boy is the Quintessential Operator. Strange Bedfellows are the people we meet at Boy’s parties as well as in Philippine Political History.
The Devil, I did not meet, but I heard about, also at the same party, from Melvin Mitra, Boy’s “Masa” operator. Its initials are “PPP”. Those stand for three words that may compose the name of Vice President Jejomar Cabauatan Binay’s new political party. Those letters are also the initials of Manuel Manahan and Raul S. Manglapus’s Third Force Political Party in the 1957 and 1965 Elections.
The main point that I was trying to get across to my audience or readers in my last two columns was that even Strange Bedfellows have to get together. That is, if they want to advance, progress, succeed and win. My YTT column for Monday, June 30 (two weeks ago), was entitled “Ides of July! Confluence of Events! Strange Bedfellows!” It hinted that a period of opportunity is unfolding.
Thus, in the realm of my advocacy and proposition, the devil is the “Purist”. My example of the Purist was the 1957, 1959 and 1965, PPP/GA/PPP Campaign and Election Run of the Third Force. At that time, at my tender young age, I belonged to and supported them. I’m not a “Balimbing” and Opportunist in the fashion of Mediaman turned Politician Ben Evardone. I’m not afraid of struggling and losing.
However, I believe in struggling and trying over and over again. I believe in consistently doing better and eventually winning. I have won many times – 1953 (Magsaysay), 1961 (the Grand Alliance coalesced with the LP in the United Opposition Party (UNO).), 1984 (The election of region wide Assemblymen for the Interim Batasan Pambansa. The Opposition won a majority of the twenty one seats in Metro Manila or the National Capital Region.), 1986 (EDSA I), 1987, 1988, 2001 (EDSA II), 2010 (PNoy) and 2013 (Erap).
The Left has been trying since 1930 but have not yet won. However, they have survived WW II and eight and a half decades of constant struggle. They have survived mergers (The “Partido Komunista ng Pilipinas and the Socialist Party of the Philippines pre WW II merger.) and many splits. They have been instrumental in and participated in ousting and installing two sets of Presidents – Marcos and Aquino in 1986 through EDSA I and Estrada and GMA in 2001 through EDSA II.
The problem with the PPP/GA/PPP – 1957/1959/1965 attempts was that instead of improving their position with every attempt, the reverse happened. They lost by bigger and bigger percentages or proportions with every attempt. In the context of the 1935 Constitution’s Two Party Presidential System (from 1935 to 1972), the first objective or step for the Third Party was to challenge and contest the strongest Opposition Party for its privileges, rights and status, specially the Dominant Opposition Party Inspectors in the Boards of Precinct Inspectors. Once this was accomplished, it would be much easier to challenge the Administration or Incumbent Party. And so, it was a matter of first things first.
And so the prejudicial question is, “Should the Leading Presidentiable for 2016 and the Upset (over MAR and Loren) Vice Presidential Winner for 2010, organize a new party that will have the same Initials as the loser Third Force Parties of the 50’s and 60’s?” The big differences are that the 1887 Constitution decreed a Multiparty Presidential System and did away with Government paid Election Inspectors. Thus, the connection may be more symbolic than real.
It may be good for VP JCB to establish the connection with the old PPP’s as the Reform Experiments as well as Uncle Sam’s protégées. Jojo may have too much of an Activist, Human Rights and Leftist Image and Roots. However, of all of us First Quarter Stormers, both Moderate and Radical, Jojo is the most successful Trad Pol Convert. Why not try to show that he is a wolf with the heart of a lamb.
On the other hand, it may be good also to display to the Americans that he is trying hard despite his Radical Youth to take shelter under the Eagle’s Shadow. After all, unlike the typical government official who is content to take a short course at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, Jojo has been back and forth to the USA taking these short courses in several schools. Perhaps the idea was to acquire as many classmates who might become future influential US government officials.
However, let us go back to the Strange Bedfellows at Boy’s Birthday Party at the Pastor’s Gastro Pub (sandwiched between the GSIS and the PNB along the Diosdado Macapagal Highway). I first took notice (at the Makati Sports Club) of Pastor “Boy” Saycon during FVR’s Lakas-NUCD-UMDP 1992 Presidential Campaign. However, I was with 1992 cheated Presidential Candidate Miriam Defensor Santiago and her husband, Narciso “Jun” Yap Santiago, and the Philippine Reform Party (PRP) from 1992 to 1995.
I really met Boy when I joined GMA’s KAMMPI in 1997. I have been going to his Birthday Parties since 1998 except when they fall on a weekend. My son Manuel, “Mikko’s” birthday also falls on July 8 since 1975. Fortunately for Boy, when Mikko’s Birthday falls on a weekday, we celebrate it on a Saturday or Sunday and are free to attend. Boy has turned the celebration of his parties into a political art of sorts.
From 1998 until 2004, his parties were held at his Ayala Alabang home. In 2003, Danding Cojuangco who was contemplating running for President again in 2004, was the star of the party. In 2005, his birthday coincided with the Hyatt Ten defection. We had a big rally in Makati that could have led to toppling GMA if FVR and Joe de V, had not stood by her. After the Ayala Ave. rally, I drove alone to Ayala Alabang to find a dark and lonely home without a party. The party was at the UCC in Ft. Bonifacio.
Since then, Boy has held his Birthday Party in various other places: his condo at Boni Ridge, a Chinese Restaurant in Ermita or Malate, at the top floor of the Fully Booked Bookstore at Boni High Street, a Tent at the Reclamation area near EDSA and MOA and finally, his very own restaurant – Pastor’s Gastro Pub.
In the years after “Hello Garci”, disgruntled military and police officers populated his parties. In the years before the 2010 Presidential Elections, Manny Villar, Loren Legarda and Alan Peter Cayetano were permanent fixtures. In 2010, a week after Noynoy assumed office, Iggy Tuason Arroyo was one among a thousand guests. In 2011 at Le Pavillon PMAP’s Ronald Lumbao put in an appearance. (To be continued)
Foreign Investments to PH Still Smalltime
EVEN as inflows of foreign direct investments (FDI) rose four-fold in April on the back of higher capital inflows and reinvestment in the country, as the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) reported Thursday, a private bank analyst said the amount is smalltime and not enough to compete with regional peers.
Metropolitan Bank & Trust Company (Metrobank) research head Ildemarc Bautista said the growth is welcome news, but it is still not enough to be competitive in the region. “It is welcome news, but those are still absolute numbers,” Bautista said.
FDI soared to US$597 million from US$ 149 million in 2013, BSP data showed. This was driven by a spike in investment inflows in debt instruments to US$518 million from US$23 million in the same comparable period.
“If we hit $4 billion by year-end, it’s still small compared to our peers in the region,” Bautista added.
The Philippines registered $3.86 billion in FDIs in 2013, low compared to Southeast Asian peers, according to United Nations Conference on Trade and Development’s (UNCTAD) World Investment Report 2014. As of end-2013, FDIs in Malaysia reached $12.31 billion, $12.95 billion in Thailand and $18.44 billion in Indonesia.
Reinvested earnings also increased by 26.2 percent to US$80 million compared to last year’s US$63 million, the BSP noted. However, equity capital investments registered a net outflow of US$1 million as withdrawals of US$79 million offset US$78 million gross equity capital placements. FDI in January to April grew by 9.1 percent to $2.4 billion $2.2 billion net inflows last year as net inflows were recorded across all components.
“The sustained increase in net inflows continued to reflect strong investor confidence in the country’s solid macroeconomic fundamentals,” the BSP said.
Net investment inflows in debt instruments also increased by 42 percent: US$1.6 billion from the US$1.1 billion of the previous year. Reinvested earnings increased by 1.3 percent year-on-year to $265 million while net equity capital placements reached $635 million.
Most equity capital came from the United States, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, and Taiwan and was channeled mainly to financial and insurance, real estate, manufacturing, wholesale and retail trade, and mining and quarrying activities.
Foreign direct investments (FDI) have been flowing out more than in since 2010, according to the UNCTAD report. In 2010, FDI reached US$1.07 billion but US$2.712 billion were withdrawn at the same time. Then in 2011, total inflows amounted to US$2.007 billion while withdrawals totaled US$2.350 billion. By 2012, total foreign direct investments in Philippines reached US$3.215 billion, but US$4.173 billion were also taken repatriated by foreign investors.
FDI inflows outpaced outflows only last year.
Economists cited foreign ownership limits as a major impediment to FDI growth.
“When they see the necessity of needing a 60-percent local partner, that diminishes the attractiveness of coming in,” Ateneo professor Cielito Habito said in a forum last month. “It’s really time to revisit our age old resistance to opening up because we are one of the few remaining around in the ASEAN who are still quite restricted. The sooner we do this, the better,” he added.
The 1987 Constitution limits foreign ownership in certain industries, particularly utility companies, to 40 percent. The Charter was written during the time of then-President Corazon C. Aquino, mother of President Benigno S. Aquino III. To amend the foreign ownership rule will require constitutional change.
“There are challenges since there are many bills pending and Congress is not taking action, as it is busy with other issues,” Habito said.
In February, the BSP reported that inflows of foreign direct investments (FDI) dropped nearly 60 percent, reflecting policy inconsistencies, lack of enabling laws and easing of equity placements. BSP data showed foreign direct investment (FDI) fell by 59 percent to US$350 million in February from U$854 million in the same month last year.
“The country needs enabling laws and environment, lower cost of doing business, more transparency and consistency to attract more foreign investments,” Bautista said.
Infrastructure – mainly the power situation and the condition of airports – also help ruin the investment climate, Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI) economist Nicholas Mapa said in a separate interview.
There were also more equity placements last year as investors were anticipating credit rating upgrades from debt watchers, Mapa noted. “This year, there are still some inflows but not at the same pace as that of last year,” he said.
Though FDIs are improving, the Philippines remains a laggard among Southeast Asian peer markets, Mapa said. “The country has to address factors [related] to FDIs so we can attract more long-term investments”.
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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He Who Controls Technology Rules
By Erick San Juan
I was amazed to read at the Wall Street Journal (7/9/14) an article entitled “From Hidden Station, China Spies on the World” by James T. Areddy, Paul Mozur and Danny Yadron. It pictured how sophisticated the Chinese espionage and their high-tech weaponry capability that can compete with the western technology.
The report vividly described the China’s version of the US National Security Agency monitoring Russia and track missiles from the mountains near Beijing. China’s military experts allegedly analyze internet phone calls on an island dubbed as China’s Hawaii and eavesdropped on Europe from a secret town hidden behind an array of residential towers.
The Wall Street Journal assembled an overview of some secret operations of China’s global monitoring organization using Chinese government websites, academic databases and foreign security expertise. The 3rd Department of the Peoples Liberation Army’s General Staff Department which spy watchers call 3PLA is reportedly central to China’s military strategy, tasked with monitoring and analyzing much of the world’s communication, including embassy cables, corporate emails and criminal networks for foreign threats and competitive advantages.
China’s national security operation is perceived to maintain what active and former US officials say are facilities around Shanghai specialized in watching the US. One of them is located close to the main transoceanic communication cables linking China to the US.
Last May, the US Justice Department indicted five officers of 3PLA on charges that they stole US corporate secrets. The report added that as Beijing modernized its high-tech defensive arsenal, the Wall Street Journal backed up ‘on the ground’ views of 3PLA facilities with an examination of the organizational structure of the NSA like military departments. Pundits believe, it rattled governments and corporations around the globe while remaining obscure outside security circles. Its operational units are spread out widely throughout China.
According to foreign experts, recruits came from elite specialist universities. 3PLA’s estimated 100,000 plus hackers, linguists, analysts and officers populate a dozen military intelligence units. Its multiple sub-operations divvy up responsibility according to geography and task as reported. At some 3PLA units in Beijing and Shanghai, arrays of satellite dishes seemed to dwarf the walls surrounding them where visitors face stiff-faced guards and written warnings. Some farm fields sprout dozens of thin radio towers next to a base in Northern Shanghai.
According to the Wall Street Journal report, two former US officials familiar with intelligence assessments said 3PLA’s operational structure has parallels with those of the US National Security Agency and the Pentagon’s Cyber Command, both run out of Fort Meade in Maryland, USA. There are so many secrets and detailed information at the WSJ report. Who will taught that this top level information can be exposed like the Wikileaks, Snowden report, spy novel like Ludlum, Le Carre and has a semblance of the James Bond spy thriller.
It entered my mind like a ‘deja vu’ when I attended a security conference abroad recently. One of the lecturers told us that the old adage-” He who controls the gold rules.” is already passé and the future war will be won by superior technology. Humint or human intelligence through clandestine and spy networks will soon be replaced by super computers and hi-tech gadgets. Soldiers as warriors due to its vulnerability will be retooled by intelligent robots. Planes, drones, tanks and other weaponry will be unmanned and controlled by computers and satellites.
It’s very clear now that the hype of sophistication is part of psy ops and myth to make the perceived future enemies believe that they now have the capability to fight and defeat the western technology and strategy.
I have to remind some nation-states not to ‘bite the bullet’ and stop their provocation of war just to cover their leaders’ deficiencies and impending domestic strife. In disguise of uniting their nationals, they are trying to be bully for a ’cause’ and possibly fight another enemy.
Such leaders should learn from the mistakes of the past and history of wars. The west have created thousands of think-tank like Project 2049 Institute, a Virginia based organization whom the WSJ was provided with unpublished analysis on 3PLA. What about the several security conferences analyzing and assessing possible and future conflicts inviting members of the academe, top intelligence and defense officials and security analysts worldwide.
The real problem lies with the pawns. The Philippines could possibly be the ‘guinea pig’ if our leaders will not be careful. Be wary!
Crime in a Culture of Corruption
(The following are excerpts from ‘The True State of the Philippines: Crime in a Culture of Corruption’, by Ruel Pepa, published 2013 July 21 in NewsJunkiePost.com. Mr. Pepa is a retired university academic in the fields of philosophy and cultural studies. He was born, raised and spent most of his life in the Philippines. He is currently based in Madrid, Spain.)
The Philippines government has long been ineffective at solving crimes, many of which are categorized as being heinous. Rampant crime has plagued practically all levels of Philippine society, and their occurrences have largely been attributed to the weak and useless systems that characterize the government, especially those mechanisms within it that are meant to address the crime problem.
The crime problem has taken its toll on the lifeblood of the nation’s socioeconomic situation. Crimes have tremendously affected the country’s economic growth. A large segment of our people has lost confidence in the law-enforcing agencies of government. Many fear that tragedy might suddenly strike them in broad daylight. Stories from the newspapers (particularly the tabloids) are sufficient to send tingles down the spine. One thing is certain: Filipino society is crime-ridden and the government is helpless at effectively checking and containing the already serious and increasingly more serious crime problem in the country.
1. Poverty. In a society like the Philippines, where poverty is a given, no second thought is needed to ascertain that in one way or another, poverty causes criminality. Crimes are committed in areas where the urban poor live, and their occurrence is quite regular. Poverty may not be strictly identified as a direct cause of crimes but certain circumstances brought forth by and within a situation of poverty cause them.
2. Abuse of Power. Another prominent cause of crime in Philippine society is somehow also related to our economic condition. It is not the type of crime perpetrated by people in a situation of poverty but one that terribly affects them. It exploits the economic weakness of the poor, and none but the poor are the unfortunate victims of its ravaging onslaught. This cause of crime is: abuse of power.
Abuse of power is routinely perpetrated by powerful government officials and law enforcers with a mandate to defend the rights of people and protect them from harm. Abuse of power is terribly serious in the Philippines. In most cases, crimes related to the abuse of power are not treated as crimes due to methods of circumventing the laws.
Every day newspaper banners report crimes committed by policemen and military personnel—hold-ups, kidnaps-for-ransom, murders, bank robberies, carjacking, etc. The crimes of these people are even more heinous than those committed by some poor, unknown and desperate criminals. Since the justice system in the country is so discouragingly defective, most of the time, powerful criminals are exonerated of their crimes, even those categorized as heinous. Meanwhile, the unknown, powerless poor suspects in lesser crimes are not given fair trials and thrown immediately in jail.
This is the true state of the Philippines as a nation. We are governed by corrupt leaders whose major agenda are their own personal vested interests. We have law enforcement agencies and institutions whose major task is to protect and defend the corrupt leaders of the country and in the process perpetuate the system of corruption. Because of these conditions, criminality has proliferated and will continue to proliferate in the next generations. The whole situation has put common Filipinos at great economic disadvantage, and poverty is here to stay “’til kingdom come.” Hopeless? Who holds the key to the most sensible answer?
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.
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.
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.