Second of two parts
Yolanda and Mamasapano disasters
IN President Aquino’s uninhibited self-assessment, he has achieved “far beyond the expectations of the public” during the past year and his six years in office. This claim is uttered with the ring of dogma, without need to explain anything. In this, he has outdone Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s propaganda minister. Goebbels used to say that the bigger the lie and the more often it was repeated, the more likely the people were to believe it.
What Aquino wants to show now is that the bigger the lie and the more often it is repeated, the more likely the one peddling it would believe it.
This was evident in Aquino’s handling of the Yolanda/Haiyan crisis and the Mamasapano massacre. We saw this in the first part of this article. In this second part, we shall examine other incidents which made 2015 a year we could have done without.
The PDAF and DAP outrage
What began in 2012 as an attempt to do away with the separation of powers and seize control of the three coequal branches of government through the bribery of Congress, the impeachment and removal of Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona, and the manipulation and misuse of the Priority Development Assistance Fund and the Disbursement Acceleration Fund continued to exert its rigor through all of 2015.
In July 2014, the Supreme Court struck down both the PDAF and the DAP as unconstitutional and ordered the prosecutorial arm of the government to investigate and prosecute all those involved in the manipulation and misuse of the same. That entire year passed without the Ombudsman or the Department of Justice complying with the SC directive.
Failure/refusal to prosecute
In August 2015, the Ombudsman was ordered again to investigate and prosecute, but after an initial show of activity, the year ended without anyone being charged and arrested. Not even Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, who appears to be the most culpable, has been hauled to jail or suspended from office.
Of the 19 senators who each received P50 million or more from DAP to convict Corona, not a single one has been investigated. On the other hand, some had the effrontery to investigate others for alleged corruption. Some are even running for reelection or for higher office, without having explained or apologized for their involvement in the bribery scandal.
Senators Alan Peter Cayetano, Antonio Trillanes IV, and Aquilino Pimentel III had received more or less P50 million each to convict Corona. They have not been investigated nor cleared, but through most of the year they had misused the Senate blue ribbon committee in order to attack Vice President Jejomar Binay with unsubstantiated charges related to his term as mayor of Makati, before he became Vice President.
Because the three confederates illegally disguised their fishing expedition against Binay as a “Senate committee inquiry in aid of legislation.” They violated every rule under the Constitution and the Rules of Senate to conduct their so-called “inquiry in aid of legislation.” It was not a legislative inquiry at all; it was an Inquisition. And the Senate leadership under Senate President Franklin Drilon, instead of stopping it, supported the Inquisition.
Alan Peter Cayetano, for one, totally disgraced himself for being a party to the scandal. As chairman of the Senate committee on Rules, for which reason he is the Senate Majority Floor Leader, his primary duty was to prevent such abuse. It appears that he never quite understood his role. This fellow habitually quotes Scripture whenever he speaks, and even kneels inside the session hall when he prays at the beginning of the plenary sessions. But he has such a poor understanding of his duties, which require adherence to established parliamentary procedure. So he remained a prime mover of the Inquisition until he saw the negative public reaction to what he, Trillanes and Pimentel were doing.
Now, with P50 million or so DAP bribe marked on his forehead for Corona’s ouster, Alan Peter Cayetano is running for Vice President. But as early as 2014, he already had some soothsayers and necromancers announcing he would be the next President of the Philippines.
So is Antonio Trillanes, with the same amount written on his forehead, running for Vice President, even without a presidential candidate.
So is Sen. Francis Escudero, who received P98 million in exchange for Corona’s head, running for Vice President, even with a constitutionally ineligible presidential candidate.
Only Senate President Frank Drilon, who as chairman of the Senate Finance Committee at the time got the biggest chunk of P100 million, is running for reelection, not for president or vice-president.
For his part, Koko Pimentel, who got a little less than the others, is not running for any office. But he has designated himself the official “postulator” in the proposed PDP-Laban canonization of Mayor Rodrigo Duterte as “Santo Rodrigo” for his other-than-saintly private and public endeavors.
Repeating the crime
Aside from failing to prosecute all those involved in the DAP scandal, Aquino and the Congress simply repeated their original crime by reenacting in the 2016 P3.002-trllion election budget all the lump sums (“pork”) which the High Court had previously struck down. As former national treasurer and Social Watch Philippines convenor Professor Leonor Briones pointed out, at least P33.185 billion “pork” has been inserted in the gargantuan budget.
This was the biggest budget ever enacted by Congress in the nation’s history; and also the biggest presidential pork ever inserted in the budget. Yet, Aquino claims it is “pork-free”? The meaning is clear: the High Court may rule according to the Constitution and the law, but the Executive and the Congress will do as they please. The Constitution has long ceased to function, but it reached its lowest point in 2015.
The APEC fiasco
The trumpets and drums have not been stilled since Aquino’s hosting of the APEC summit in Manila last November 16 -20. Malacañang had to justify the enormous expenses incurred to mount this particularly inept and inane extravaganza. The most vapid commentaries have tried to portray the summit as a great success because all the dignitaries had a grand time enjoying “Philippine hospitality,” and nothing like the Nov. 13 ISIS attack in Paris and Saint Denis took place. But all the supposed benefits to the Philippine economy being hyped in the conscript press were purely speculative, if not illusory, while the real cost caused actual damage and injury.
The closure of large sections of Manila to vehicular traffic, causing so many motorists to stay on one short stretch of the road for hours, or to abandon their cars somewhere and walk long distances under heat and rain, or so many others to stay home or to avoid Manila altogether, and the cancellation of about 1,000 domestic and international flights to and from Manila during the event, severely impacted the economy first, and then the nation’s psyche in the end.
P18 billion to P30 billion lost
Professor Gerardo Sicat, former director-general of NEDA during the Marcos years and one of the nation’s most highly respected economists, in a published article, estimated that the economy lost anywhere from P18 billion to P30 billion, and that was not a final assessment either. But more than the economic and financial loss suffered, the nation totally lost all of its political illusions–it finally saw that it had a government that could not walk and chew gum at the same time.
It became so obvious to all and sundry that the summit could have been held in a place that did not have the population and transport problems of Manila, like Clark or Subic, where Fidel V. Ramos successfully hosted the last APEC summit before Aquino hosted his. One could never understand why the government had to cancel so many incoming and outgoing flights while Paris, at the height of its tragedy, chose to put in more flights to allow people to fly in and out as warranted.
The war against PCOS
For the best part of the second half of the year, the nation’s most popular concern was the oncoming change of government. From August 27, 2014 onward, the National Transformation Council tried to point out that for all of Aquino’s claims of an “incorrupt government,” corruption had in fact become the system, and that what the country needed was not only regime change but above all systems change.
Pursuing the Lipa Declaration’s “urgent call for national transformation,” the NTC called on Aquino to step down and allow a non-partisan caretaker council to fix the broken constitutional order before elections are held again, under normal political conditions. The NTC’s call was repeated with fervor by various groups, from Right to Left, across the nation. But it did not have the mass base or the military teeth which the NTC saw was needed, but did not want to involve right now, unless the AFP moved as a single institution in the performance of its constitutional duty as “protector of the people and the State.”
Election in any form?
Moreover, the call for change was quickly overshadowed by the popular mania for elections, which have remained the national sports and national fiesta at the same time. Despite the fact that the 2010 and 2013 elections did away with all the security and safety features and accuracy mechanisms of the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines, and were therefore rigged and farcical, the masses did not seem to mind that a worse farce could be enacted next year, resulting in a new de facto government or a failure of elections.
Throughout the year a community of dedicated patriots, scholars and scientists tried to convince the Commission on Elections to junk Smartmatic’s Automated Election System using PCOS machines and adopt an indigenous voting system with absolute transparency and reliability. But the government was determined to keep Smartmatic’s stranglehold on the elections. At yearend, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines finally added its voice for the mounting calls for the reinstatement of the security and safety features and accuracy mechanisms into the PCOS machines.
This is no assurance this fight will be won. Smartmatic international chairman Lord Mark Malloch Brown, a known partner of George Soros in destabilizing governments and who worked for Cory Aquino in 1986, met with Aquino at the Pangarap last June, and that may have sewed up everything in favor of the foreign firm.
Trying to save Grace Poe
But the problem is not only technical. A former American citizen, whose husband and children remain Americans, insists on running for President despite the fact that the Comelec has already ruled she is not a natural-born citizen and does not have the 10-year residency requirement in order to run. She has raised the Comelec ruling before the Supreme Court, which is now on recess, and the Chief Justice has temporarily restrained the enforcement of Grace Poe Llamanzares’s disqualification and the cancellation of her CoC.
As the principal petitioner in this case, I was inclined to look at the provisional TRO “as an extra mile for fairness” on the part of the High Court, amidst the accusation that the Comelec en banc acted unfairly by ruling on the four petitions before it on the eve of Christmas, while the High Court was on recess. But other parties believe something is rotten in Denmark when to restrain the implementation of a clear constitutional ruling, an order is issued “within hours” after a voluminous petition is received by just a couple of justices.
They suspect there’s a play somewhere, and that Malacañang itself, not just one ambitious CEO of a food conglomerate, is involved. The objective? To make sure that the last annus horribilis would look better than 2016.
To all my readers, God is good, God is gracious, God is merciful. Do not let our sorry politics ruin your New Year!