President Benigno S. Aquino 3rd spent about P50 billion of taxpayers’ money on his campaign to get the insane Bangsamoro Basic Law enacted into law, documents as well as sources in government disclosed.
The money was spent on efforts to convince the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to agree to the BBL, generate support from traditional Muslim politicians and for Congress to pass it into law before Aquino steps down from power.
“With that kind of money, we thought BBL was unstoppable,” a source in government said. “But even the legislators we thought were already deep in our pockets found the Mamasapano massacre a perfect excuse to withdraw their support,” he added.
What’s P50 billion? Consider that as a 20 percent equity for a project, which means it could generate a further P250 billion. With that amount, we would have enough funds to build, for example, two MRT-3s in Metro Manila, establish a Manila-to-Batangas commuter hourly train, or two international airports.
What a criminal waste of taxpayers’ money then that it was spent on a drive to get the BBL passed, all because of this President’s naiveté that the MILF would lay down its arms, the hubris that he could ask the body politic whatever he wanted, and megalomaniac greed that he would win the Nobel Peace Prize that eluded his mother.
The breakdown of the P50 billion that went down the drain along with his BBL delusion is as follows:
First, the P10 billion hijacked from the 2011 Budget through the so-called Disbursement Allocation Plan (DAP), which according to a Malacañang October 2011 press release would be used for what it termed “Comprehensive Peace and Intervention Package.”
Some P8.6 billion of this was used to fund the “Transition Investment Support Fund.” This was ostensibly to “fast-track the Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao’s (ARMM) development,” to prepare for the setting up of the Bangsamoro. In reality, these were pork-barrel type of funds given to both MILF-linked, as well as traditional, Muslim leaders to get support for the BBL.
The TISP was unusually huge that even ARMM politicians could not come up with enough projects to justify the money they were receiving, that Aquino scolded them in a speech in Davao City on June 2012: “Gusto ko ho sanang maibalita sa inyo ‘yung mga accomplishments. Pero dito po sa status, as of May 31, 2012, napakarami po dito ay ‘not yet started’ or ‘ongoing,” (“I had wanted to report the accomplishments of the Transition Investment Support Plan. But based on its status report as of May 31, 2012, so many of these have not been started or are reported as ongoing.”)
The P10 million individual checks were released directly to each governor and mayor in ARMM, and sources said these politicians had little experience in inventing ghost projects of that scale, that they could easily be charged by the Ombudsman with malversation. “You have to understand the situation in 2012, Aquino was so popular and had so much political support that they thought he had the power to distribute those checks,” a politician from Mindanao claimed.
Second, P30 billion in pork-barrel funds given in 2014 and 2015 to a select group of members of Congress for them to rush the hearings over the BBL. Given the Supreme Court ruling in November 2013 declaring the pork-barrel unconstitutional, the funds were disguised as expenditures under the Bottom-up Budgeting (BUB) system. In 2015 for instance, BUB funds for Camarines Sur’s 3rd district totaled P119 million, according to documents from the Department of Budget. The district representative is vice presidential candidate Leni Robredo, who had voted for the BBL.
Third, about P2 billion was coursed through the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), funded both through the DAP and OPAPP, ostensibly for the setting up of “peace centers, Pamayanan Program, strategic roads,” and shelter in “conflict-areas.” Sources said, in reality, these were used to bribe MILF communities to strictly keep the peace and support the BBL.
Fourth, some P8 billion were sourced from DAP allocations and the regular budget for pork-barrel type of projects and other infrastructure undertaken by the Department of Public Works and Highways, the Department of Agriculture and other agencies, with Muslim and MILF leaders directing them where those projects must be located.
A huge component of the funding for the BBL, though, may not have come from taxpayers’ money. Various sources have claimed, although I have not received confirmation of this at this point, that the Malaysians gave P10 billion in funding both to Aquino and the MILF to agree and work together on getting the BBL passed into law.
The funding source, according to one claim, was from the $700 million that was transferred from the Malaysian sovereign wealth fund 1 Malaysian Development Berhad (1MDB) to the personal account of Prime Minister Najib Razak, according to findings by the Malaysian authorities. However, Malaysian Attorney General Mohamed Apandi Ali two weeks ago cleared Najib, claiming that the money was a donation from Saudi Arabia’s royal family.
Last week, though, the Swiss Attorney General shocked Malaysia — and the world — by issuing an official statement that $4 billion had been stolen from Malaysian state-companies linked to 1MDB, and transferred to Swiss accounts owned by former Malaysian public officials.
Could that have been the biggest source of grease money used in the Philippines to try to enact the BBL into law? I have written in many columns that the BBL will ultimately create a Muslim independent state at the heart of Mindanao, which could declare later on that it prefers to be part of nation whose state religion is Islam — Malaysia. *
When Malaysian Prime Minister Najib was here in 2014 to witness the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), which the BBL was to implement, was he merely a mediator, or the architect and financier of the scheme?
[*Paragraph 3.(1) Part I of Malaysia’s Federal Constitution: “Islam is the religion of the Federation.”]