I can’t believe how President Aquino has had the gall to lie, to give false data in each and every State of the Nation Address (SONA) he’s given. Other presidents would fudge the data or exaggerate their role. This one patently lies.
In his 2011 address, he tried to shock us that a contract for the dredging of Laguna Lake made during the Arroyo years would cost P19 billion, but would involve only “playing around with the mud” (“para lang maglaro sa putik”). The Belgian contractor, the 150-year old Baagerwerken Decloedt En Zoon, one of the most prestigious engineering firms in the world, filed a case in a World Bank arbitration court against our government for cancelling the contract, and demanded P8 billion in damages. The court will issue a ruling this year that would very likely prove Aquino to be a big liar. After our Supreme Court, Aquino will then be cursing a foreign court.
In 2012, he claimed that under his watch, jobs increased by 3.1 million. The real figure was 1.5 million. In the 2013 SONA, he said the government would import only 350,000 metric tons of rice. We imported 2 million metric tons, and his insistence that we are on the way toward self-sufficiency resulted in the National Food Authority’s late orders, such that retail rice prices zoomed up for Filipinos this year.
I didn’t want to write on this year’s SONA anymore, but an ordinary citizen, a Facebook ‘friend,’ messaged me alerting me on this year’s big lie.
Is Aquino that stupid that he can’t understand that in this wired world, facts could be checked with a few clicks of the keyboard, and that patriots could very well alert others over lies the government tells us?
Aquino in his speech last week presented in the plenary hall’s giant screen a video interview of two workers, proof, he implied, of his achievements.
“Pakinggan po natin ang kwento ng dalawang TESDA graduates,” he introduced the video clips, referring to the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority.
The second graduate (Jonalyn Navarosa) was a female worker who said (in Pilipino) that she was a technical trainer in an automobile assembly firm and that she owes her job to the fact that she trained at an automotive servicing class at TESDA Region 8, and was even the “topnotcher” in its Batch 1.
The “automobile servicing school” at TESDA Region 8 is the Auto Mechanic Training Center in Tacloban. Yes, it is administered by TESDA, but it was the Japanese firm Isuzu Motors that proposed, funded with a $3 million grant, and manages the Center. World Vision, a global Evangelical Christian humanitarian aid organization was Isuzu’s partner in setting up the Center.
And when was the Center set up? It started operations in November 2008, and its first batch of graduates finished schooling in 2009, of which Aquino’s “witness” said she was the topnotcher.
Aquino brags as his accomplishment a project that was not really by a government agency but by a Japanese corporation and an Evangelical Christian foundation, and set up way back in 2008.
No wonder Aquino is now in such a rut.
Aquino’s favorite TESDA
But there must be some special reason why Aquino always mentions as proof of his achievements the training activities at TESDA.
It is, in effect, the third “education department,” after the Department of Education (in charge of schooling from kindergarten to high school) and the Commission of Higher Education (college and post-college). It’s a big agency, with a budget of P2.6 billion (in 2012) bigger than the labor department’s P2.3 billion.
Although it has a board headed by the labor secretary, it is the director-general who has a Cabinet rank, Joel Villanueva, who runs it as if he were responsible to no one else but the President. Villanueva is a son of “Brother Ed,” head of the religious tax-free organization Jesus Is Lord. For some reason, after two years in his job, Villanueva thought he could be Senator and started his campaign with massive media ads, until he was dropped from Aquino’s list of candidates in March.
TESDA was one of the biggest recipients of funds from the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), which totaled P2.1 billion from 2011 to 2013 for its new “Training for Work Scholarship Program.”
In its 2012 audit of TESDA, the Commission on Audit noted that this DAP money was 114 percent more than that appropriated for the project under the budget law. Some P500 million in funds received in 2011 from the DAP according to the COA were not utilized that year. Nevertheless, Aquino continued to give TESDA funds amounting to P1 billion from the DAP kitty in 2012 and 2013.
Could the P1.5 billion released from DAP money in 2011 and 2012 have been funds used for the May 2013 elections?
The COA 2012 audit pointed to the existence of ‘ghost trainees’:
• Sample training institutions’ records showed that some students were listed in training sessions held on the same dates and hours. “It was impossible for these scholars to be present at the same time in several trainings which were held on overlapping dates.”
• In a sample of 61 scholars the COA auditors checked, only 21 were found to have really attended the TESDA trainings.
• 218 scholars could not be reached through the contact numbers, shown in their records.
There is a modus operandi I was told about that made TESDA trainings profitable for unscrupulous operators, as long as the agency accredited them:
An operator would contact anybody who had the slightest skill in a particular field –mostly, I was told, for cooking and English literacy – to teach that skill. His neighbors or people in the barangay would be asked to attend the TESDA training. They’d be asked to sign forms attesting to their enrollment in the training. After a few days, the training would be ended, and the students would just go home happy with whatever they’ve learned.
The operator then would bring the records to his TESDA contact, who would attest that it was undertaken, and ask the agency to release the funding for the supposed cost of the training, which would be double or even triple what it really cost the operator.
I suspect that if COA really audits TESDA, the horror stories could be worse than what they found in the abuse of pork-barrel funds.
FB: Rigoberto D. Tiglao