There is only one explanation for President Aquino’s unexpected prime-time speech the other night that just repeated the lies he has said over his Disbursement Acceleration Plan, a scheme through which he hijacked government funds, and used at this whim.
Mr. Aquino has become desperate that the Supreme Court will be ruling his DAP as patently unconstitutional before the year ends. Even his two appointees, Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno and former UP law school dean Mario Victor Leonen, our sources claim, are now thinking of their post-Aquino reputations, and have given up trying to convince other justices to their benefactors’ indefensible side.
Indeed, Aquino has become so distraught that he defied the law and junked civility that he called the three opposition senators thieves. How blatantly can anybody violate sub-judice rules, especially coming from the head of government? The thievery of pork barrel funds he alleged as having been committed by Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada, and Ramon Revilla, Jr. is the subject of a case his justice secretary has filed at the Ombudsman.
The reason why Aquino has become so desperate as to use gutter language is that a Supreme Court decision against the DAP will be so devastating that it could even trigger Aquino’s fall, and even hit our economy severely.
Because of space constraints, I’d have to discuss this possibility only next week, as we cannot let Mr. Aquino’s lies in his speech pass without comment, although we have pointed out these falsehoods in previous columns. In bold are Aquino’s claims in his speech, translated from Pilipino.
Lie 1: “The DAP is legal according to the constitution and other laws.”
False. Only Aquino, his now missing spokesperson Edwin Lacierda, and of course Budget Secretary Florencio Abad who concocted the scheme, believe so. There is a consensus among constitutional experts, including the very much respected Father Joaquin Bernas and Philippine Constitutional Association, that the DAP very clearly violates the Constitution, as it disregards the authority of Congress to determine how government money is spent.
Contrary to Aquino’s pig-headed reasoning, the President can only realign funds, and only funds out of savings—defined as what’s left over after a project is undertaken, and not when it is cancelled arbitrarily by the budget secretary—and only within a department.
Aquino didn’t realign funds but patently corralled government funds allotted for departments and projects specified by the budget law, and ordered it used according to his whim. The most scandalous instance of this was the P13 billion he converted into a pork-barrel bribe to secure Congress support, especially for his plot to take out Chief Justice Corona.
Lie 2: “Funds used for the DAP came from savings generated from stopping graft in government contracts, from better budget spending, and from more efficient management of government corporations.”
False. Funds allocated by Congress’ General Appropriations Laws from 2011 to 2013 to departments and programs were arbitrarily impounded, and spent for purposes Aquino and his cronies in government preferred. For instance, the budget department refused to release P1 billion in 2012 for the ongoing project for the Leyte international airport and put this amount in its DAP kitty. To create artificial savings, Budget Secretary Abad in late May 2012 issued a circular that all unused budgets by June that year would be impounded to fund the DAP.
On the other hand, the savings the public works and highways department has been claiming have been mostly the result of downsizing or suspending road and bridge contracts.
Profits of government corporations are not for the President to use as he wishes. These are by law remitted to the Treasury to form part of the government’s General Fund, the use of which is determined by Congress through its annual appropriations laws.
Aquino even stupidly used as an example the 2012 profits of the water regulator MWSS. These profits however have been questioned in Congress as paper profits arising from foreign exchange rate re-computations, which that agency’s board cleverly concocted to justify their huge profits.
Lie 3: “Wasn’t it the leadership I appointed at the Commission on Audit who went through the documents with a fine tooth-comb that unearthed the abuses over PDAF?”
This is one of the Aquino administration’s biggest lies.
The COA special audit of the Priority Development Assistance Funds (PDAF) was ordered under COA Office Order No. 2010-309 dated May 13, 2010. The agency at that time was headed by Reynaldo Villar, whom past president Gloria Arroyo appointed but whom Aquino kicked out and even accused of involvement in the plunder case involving PCSO funds.
The audit was undertaken by team headed by a career official Susan P. Garcia under the COA’s Special Audits Office, who signed and submitted the report to the budget secretary. The COA chairman appointed by Aquino, Grace Pulido-Tan or even his favorite commissioner Heidi Mendoza, had nothing to do with the report.
Tan didn’t even sign her approval of the report. It was only after the Philippine Daily Inquirer ran a series of exposes on the pork-barrel scam that Tan publicly released the COA’s report, and even provided the theatrics for it, as in her “kahindik-hindik” remark to the scam.
If Aquino’s administration had any role in the audit, it was to impede it, with the report complaining: “The DBM could not provide the Team, despite repeated requests, with the complete schedule of releases per legislator from PDAF for soft projects and VILP for hard projects.”
The DBM submitted documents involving only senators who were not in Aquino’s camp, mainly Enrile, Estrada, Revilla, and Ferdinand Marcos, Jr., the last three of whom were not coincidentally tipped to run for vice-president or even president in 2016.
Lie 4: “The DAP helped in stimulating the economy. According to the World Bank, the DAP contributed 1.3 percent to the GDP during the last quarter of 2011.”
False. How could it when the DAP was set up only October 22, 2011, and most of funds hijacked through it were released only in 2012 and 2013? Our GDP in 2011 was in fact a disappointing 3.9 percent, due to the Aquino government’s bungling when it suspended infrastructure contracts approved in the previous administration, on grounds that these were riddled with corruption.
Economic growth in the past three years was due certainly not to the DAP but mainly to the multiplier effects of increasing overseas workers’ remittances, to a healthy macroeconomic base created by past President Arroyo’s reforms, and to the global business community’s confidence over the economy when it weathered the global financial crisis of 2008 to 2009.
What also contributed to the 6.3 percent growth in 2012 was the increase in government spending for infrastructure. This was after sanity returned to the Aquino government to realize that its suspension of such projects due to suspicion that these were tainted with corruption was unwarranted and obviously counterproductive. The Aquino government simply restored the level of public spending on infrastructure of the past decade, but which was recklessly and foolishly reduced in 2011.
To illustrate, how could anybody claim that the following projects funded through the DAP stimulated the economy?
• P8.6 billion to the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, known to be a sinkhole of corruption. Aquino himself complained in June 2012, that the DAP projects in the region were moving so slowly or had not even started yet. The ARMM government had so much money that as late as this year, its governor Hajiv Hataman was distributing checks for P10 million to the regions’ provincial governors;
• P1.8 billion to the Cordillera People’s Liberation Army and the Moro National Liberation Front ostensibly for the training in livelihood projects of their surrendering guerillas (a stimulus program in the hinterlands?);
• P2 billion for the Department of Social Welfare and Development for such projects as day-care centers and its endless “supplementary feeding projects’; and, of course, the biggest allocation,
• P13 billion or nine percent of the P142 billion DAP as additional pork barrel for members of Congress in 2012, on top of their P24 billion PDAF, mostly used at best for building basketball courts and providing scholarships to the law-makers’ constituencies to bolster their political bases.
“I am not a thief,” Aquino claimed in his speech. Let’s however wait for the audit by the Commission on Audit.
That statement reminds me of another president, so desperate that he would be removed from office for covering up for a crime, that he also made a prime-time speech. That was Richard Nixon, who infamously declared in 1973 also on television “ I am not a crook.” Less than a year later, he resigned, lest he be thrown to jail.
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