THE allegations that have been thrown at the Liberal Party’s favored son Manuel A. “Mar” Roxas 2nd in the past few weeks are breathtaking in their scale, all the more so because there are glaring indications that they may be entirely justified.
Aquino’s ‘Plan A’ candidate, as he is being sarcastically referred to by many critics, is finding it difficult to escape scrutiny for three serious issues. The first, which we have examined several times since the beginning of this year, is the dubious “bottom-up budgeting” or BUB program, which Roxas has been dangling before local government officials all around the country as a reason they should support his candidacy. The offer sounds so much like a quid pro quo that some entertaining public commentators in the social media have suggested the acronym BUB actually stands for “bribe ur barangay,” and as we pointed out in an earlier editorial last month, it is almost impossible for Roxas and his camp to promise that it will continue under his administration without it sounding like funds-for-votes exchange.
What makes the tactic laughable is that the program is far from the benefit it is portrayed to be by the Aquino Administration and its would-be replacement. In an independent assessment released at the beginning of this month, only 23 percent of BUB projects started in 2013 have ever been completed, and a mere 1 percent of those begun in 2014 have been finished.
Even more alarming, only 4 percent of the not-yet completed projects from 2014 are still considered ongoing (the figure for the previous year is a little better, at 25 percent), meaning that under the current program that Roxas promises to maintain should he be elected, only one in four projects at most have a chance of actually being realized.
The second nagging issue, which has been widely reported, is Roxas’ liberal use of a fleet of expensive aircraft owned by close cronies of the Liberal Party, and of which at least a couple were exempted from proper importation taxes under questionable circumstances. Again, even though Roxas and his team have sought to reassure the public that the availability and use of these aircraft are entirely aboveboard, documentary evidence to back that assertion has yet to be offered.
The third issue, which was discussed in great detail earlier this week by our own columnist Rigoberto Tiglao, is the astonishing amount of money being spent by the Roxas campaign; if the figures, which Tiglao gathered from a number of sources, are even close to being correct, the implication is that Roxas has spent, at a minimum, P250 million more than is allowed under the law for the entire campaign period that still has about 11 weeks to run.
What is particularly distressing in all this is that, even if the Roxas machine is not actually using any public funds, the public machinery that is supposed to protect us from any candidate gaining an undue advantage through unethical or possibly even illegal means has been cold and quiet when it comes to these legitimate concerns about the conduct of his campaign. There has been no investigation or inquiry of any sort, and it has been made plain – albeit not explicitly stated – that there will be none, so long as the current regime is in a position to have anything to say about it.
It is not simply a matter of vast amounts of money that could be put to better use being thrown down a hole. It is the extremely disturbing confirmation that such disregard for the acceptable standards of campaign and selective application of rules have become the norm, that the Golden Rule has indeed become, “He who has the gold, rules.” It is an immoral mockery of our already imperfect democracy, and the people of the Philippines must, if they value their future at all, make certain it is not allowed to continue beyond May 9.