In a short span of one week, President Benigno S. Aquino 3rd delivered two major speeches to defend the controversial Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) and to differentiate it from the nefarious Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF). The Chief Executive spoke before the members of the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (Focap) on Wednesday last week, October 23, and on prime time television in a rare public address to the Filipino people three days ago.
What may have prompted the President to address the Filipino people is the significant drop in his net satisfaction rating by 15 percent when a survey was conducted last September. The plunge in PNoy’s approval rating is a apparently due to the P10-billion pork barrel scandal that was exposed in mid-July and has been in the news for the past three months now.
However, what probably hurt the Aquino presidency the most in the month of October was the revelation made in late September by Secretary Florencio Abad of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) of the existence of the devious DAP scheme. These DAP funds were used to give additional pork to senators who voted for the conviction of Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona and to the congressmen who signed the Articles of Impeachment without reading the complaints. Of course, both the President and his DBM secretary have denied the alleged bribery, as can be expected.
The 12-minute speech of President Aquino on prime time TV was a pathetic attempt that failed to improve his popularity that has diminished with the PDAF scandal and the DAP controversy. Why? Because the passionate speech of PNoy lacked the same “focus and clarity” that it was supposed to provide. This in spite of the claim of Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma that “up to 75 percent” of the reactions (online) favored or approved the speech of Mr. Aquino.
In his fiery speech, the President proclaimed to the world, “I am not a thief!” But that is not and has never been the issue. He insists that “the issue here is theft” and that “those who have been accused of stealing are the ones sowing confusion.” PNoy has this conspiracy theory that he first broached during his Focap speech last week. The ill-advised President believes the alleged thieves who have been charged with plunder are now behind the confusion on the DAP funds. This may be true, but it is their own undoing.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) filed the case of plunder before the Ombudsman more than six weeks ago on September 16, 2013, against 38 persons that included three opposition senators, five former congressmen and five former chiefs of staff and their aides and five government officials of the implementing agencies involved in the scam.
Yet until today, the DOJ under the Aquino presidency has not filed the second complaint before the Ombudsman that would include Liberal Party senators, congressmen and their political allies. Hence, it is only natural that the public attention would now focus on the controversial DAP funds while waiting for the Ombudsman to decide on the case.
If PNoy really wants to put the spotlight on the thieves who stole public funds, then he should direct the DOJ to immediately file the second tranche or batch of complaints against those who participated in the P10-billion pork barrel scam through their PDAF allocations. So the question is why is the DOJ taking so long or what are they waiting for? The go-signal from the President? Then the same “confusion” is partly the fault of PNoy!
The real issue on the pork barrel is why did PNoy not only continue the PDAF, but increased it during the first three years (2011-2013) of his presidency when they know that it will worsen corruption? It was only P10 billion during the last three years (2007-2009) of President Gloria Arroyo, but increased by almost 150 percent to P 24.8 billion in just two years (2011-2012). Add the PDAF of P25 billion for 2013, that would be more than 300 percent more than the Arroyo administration for the same period of three years.
No less than Communications Secretary Coloma admitted with what is wrong with the PDAF. He said the lawmakers not only “identified” the projects of their pork barrel, but also had “specific involvement in ‘the follow-through’ of those projects.” (Philippine Daily Inquirer, November 1, 2013, page A17). Yet the Aquino presidency “institutionalized” the same pork barrel system and increased the billions of allocations of public funds to lawmakers, as earlier exposed by former congressman and erstwhile Budget Secretary Rolando Andaya (2006-2010) of the Arroyo administration.
Anything conceived in sin becomes evil! PDAF is a direct bribe of the President to the members of the Congress to pass the annual General Appropriations Act (GAA). This explains why the Aquino administration never had any problems having the national budgets approved in the past three years from 2011 to 2013
Secretary Coloma avers that the PDAF is different from DAP. “How could they be the same when the manner of implementation is not exactly the same?” Well, perhaps “not exactly the same,” nonetheless the same pork that is being dispensed with a different style of implementation. As the saying goes, there are a dozen ways of skinning a cat. In this case, it is skinning a big, fat pig or hog!
Among others, the issue with the DAP is why P 12.8 billion or 9 percent of the total P 24.8 billion were allocated to lawmakers. Is the Executive branch incapable of identifying projects for immediate implementation that they have to ask the Legislative branch for help to spend the almost P 13 billion in 2011 and 2012?
Yet the worst part with DAP is that it was hidden from the Filipino people from October 2011 up to September 2013. It was only after the privilege speech of Sen. Jinggoy Estrada on September 25, 2013, that exposed the additional pork given to senators that Budget Secretary Abad finally revealed it three days later on September 28,2013.
The simple question about DAP is why it was hidden or concealed from the public when it was supposed to be for the good of the Filipino people. Imagine that DAP was just like a fugitive in hiding for almost two years. Not even the senators knew about it until DBM later admitted its existence in late September. Whatever happened to the much-avowed policy of transparency under the Daan na Matuwid of the Aquino administration?
Rick B. Ramos email address at firstname.lastname@example.org