PNoy is on a roll, and it is no surprise. We do not fight with someone who has three communications offices but will fall back on cliché, if not sound dismissive of questions instead of engaging these.
Or games. Connect the dots, the President says, about the noise that has surrounded the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP). It only happened when the Office of the Ombudsman had filed plunder cases against “well-known politicians.” Yes, he threw us a blind item for good measure.
But see, connecting the dots would mean just really building the chronology of events?
Certainly we know who his blind item’s referring to, and certainly it was absolutely within Senator Jinggoy Estrada’s rights to do a privilege speech and drop us the DAP bone. And no, contrary to what PNoy thinks, we have not forgotten that the alleged plunderers have been charged. In fact, we are giving our justice system a chance at working, and we are waiting and seeing.
Also, we know that there are more of them out there, and we want PNoy to realize that we are waiting for more names to be added to that list of plunderers being charged. It’s not that we’ve lost sight of Enrile, Jinggoy and Bong being charged with plunder, it’s that we are insisting that it is impossible that they’re the only ones who should be charged with it, or who at least should be investigated further.
Now granted that DAP is not the same as the pork barrel, as PNoy insists. And granted that it is all legal and aboveboard, his Budget Secretary insists. The dots are also clearly connected to each other here: what is legal does not necessarily mean it’s right. What we are saying is not that the DAP is illegal, but that it is wrong.
No, I am not even talking about it in terms of whether or not it is constitutional for the President to move around public money in the way that he has. And no, I will save the patronage card for later, because we seem to be in denial about that as well. I will say that it is wrong as a matter of how we live in this country every day, how little we feel that government cares for us, and how that money could have been put to better use. The same goes for those PhilHealth and SSS bonuses.
Because we are connecting the dots when we think of all that money, and yet government has not solved the flooding problem in the metro, or the lack of decent public transportation, or has not made the streets safer for all of us. Because we are connecting the dots when we wonder: there is all that money, and yet we have no healthcare for all, or free education? And we ask the question why.
The truth is that the DAP is legal, so was the PDAF. But these two depend on lawmakers to serve the people, which in this case is about identifying the needs of far-flung provinces.
But too, these allocations would tell us that the needs are generally the same: healthcare and educational support.
PNoy has asked elsewhere: what will we do with all those scholarships we give out with these funds? It seems easy enough to connect those dots: build an office, pick a desk in the regional offices of the Department of Education and the Department of Health, and make these the official and only place where people might go for educational support and healthcare. These regional offices can also identify the needs of these provinces infinitely better than any senator or congressman, who has no choice but to be based in Manila for most of the year. It is also easy to keep track of corruption, or missing funds, on that level, yes? And if people know that there is free education and free healthcare to be had, and that there is only one place to go for it, then it is even easier to catch it when those dots are being disconnected.
That would mean disbursing funds to a government office, and not to a senator or congressman, none of whom we trust at this point. Neither should PNoy, even if these are allies in the Liberal Party. Ah, sorry it’s that patronage card.
Which brings me to this: the President has said that the ones who are critical of the DAP are the media, who jumped on the anti-DAP bandwagon after the charges of plunder were filed against Senator Jinggoy, et al. He was in fact pointing out that this public outcry against the DAP is because media is in the hands (or the pockets) of the three charged with plunder.
The answer to that of course, is no, not at all. He might be surprised in fact that those of us who are writing and blogging, putting up Facebook statuses and Tweeting, are the most diverse set of critics any government will find. We do not agree on many things, but we do agree that these funds, discretionary and otherwise, need to be better accounted for, need to be broken down better. We deserve better than lump sum allocations – PNoy’s transparency told us we could ask for better. He would also have the hardest time connecting the dots that will prove how each of the critics of DAP (and the pork barrel) is controlled by any of these politicians.
And yes there might have been members of media who praised him two years ago, but that does not mean his government cannot be criticized now. Now that we know better, now that we have new information about the ways in which this government works at keeping its numbers up. In the same way that I might praise PNoy now for having spent that time in Bohol, (seemingly) camping out, eating under tent – hooray for finally being in the place of tragedy when his mere presence is needed.
This praise does not mean I will stop critiquing his government’s refusal to admit that there’s a problem with lump sum allocations, and an even bigger problem with funds unaccounted for. Because dealing with this nation’s travails is not merely about the tunnel vision that connecting the dots demands. It is about realizing that there are too many games being played, say, snakes and ladders? Whodunit? Some good ol’ Monopoly? And one just has to keep one’s eyes on every ball there is.
That ball mister President, is a moving one. And in relation to DAP and the pork barrel, it is still in your court.