While abroad, I had occasion to read opinion columns in Manila’s leading newspapers on political developments in the Philippines.
The conclusion one invariably makes from reading these columns is that President Benigno Simeon Cojuangco Aquino III is under siege—beleaguered from nearly every quarter.
Aquino’s largely adoring press has turned against him. He has lost popularity and political capital. The public is dissatisfied with his performance. Critics are calling for his impeachment. Others are calling for his removal from office. The fear is that he may not even last his six-year term – which I doubt.
Aquino has been shown to have bribed the senators to convict Chief Justice Renato Corona, using hundreds of millions of pork barrel money. Corona was accused of corruption because he failed to disclose between P80 million and P100 million of income and earnings from various sources in his annual statements of assets, liabilities and networth (SALNs) during his years in the Supreme Court. For that failure, the chief magistrate supposedly betrayed public trust and was therefore guilty of graft, though much of the hidden money was hard-earned money, not taxpayers’ money, unlike pork barrel money.
But for senators to accept hundreds of millions of bribe to convict Corona is an even worse form of graft and abuse of power. And the briber was no less than the highest official of the land, the President. BS Aquino used money from two sources of pork barrel—the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) and his invention, the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) to bribe the senators.
Aquino’s fall from grace is reflected in the steep and broad fall in his net satisfaction rating, in the September 2013 by the Social Weather Stations, by 15 percentage points, equivalent to 15 million Filipinos— assuming a base population of 100 million.
The Philippine Daily Inquirer’s Amando Doronila put the fall in sharp relief Oct. 22, 2013:
“The survey results showed that the President’s net satisfaction rating (the difference between the number of those satisfied and those dissatisfied) dropped to +49 in September, down from +64 in June, and from +59 in March. His net satisfaction rating was gutted in all areas nationwide and in all socioeconomic groups, indicating the scale and sweep of public disaffection that has hit the administration midway in its six-year term.”
“Most disturbing was the 26-point plunge in the Visayas, from +74 in June to +48 (one point lower than the national average). The President’s rating also fell eight points to +38 in the National Capital Region, and 15 points to +52 for the rest of Luzon; Mindanao was +52, with a six-point drop. In the 2010 presidential election, Mr. Aquino polled close to a million votes in Cebu. Commission on Elections figures show that Cebu province had the largest number of people (1.8 million) who voted in 2010, while the Visayas accounted for more than eight million voters in 2010, or 21 percent of the total voters. In the September SWS survey, it appeared that the Visayas, especially Cebu, was leading in the erosion of the President’s popularity.”
“In the rural areas, where poverty is widespread, Mr. Aquino’s net rating slumped 18 points (higher than the national score) from +70 in June to +52 in September. On the other hand, his rating in urban areas (where the middle class predominates), dropped to +47 from +57 in June. It was among the class E respondents (the poorest sector), where Mr. Aquino’s popularity received the worst beating: It dropped 29 points, to +39 from +68 in June.”
“For a President whose most valuable political asset has been his consistently high popularity ratings (until last month), the across-the-board erosion of this political capital signaled the beginning of the end of the era of a Teflon presidency immune from criticism from a largely laudatory press and a fragile and coopted opposition.
“The opinion surveys tell us that, first, the administration has entered a period of discontent and smoldering political unrest, and second, street protesters (such as those who made up the Aug. 26 Million People March at the Luneta) are outraged over the President’s duplicitous stand on their demand for the total abolition of the pork barrel (not only of Congress but also of his huge patronage chest). The streets are in ferment again, as they were in February 1986. The protesters are denouncing the pork barrel as the parent of corruption feeding on taxpayer money.”
The No. 1 issue against BS Aquino is pork barrel which is basically corruption money. This pork is under two categories—PDAF and DAP.
PDAF is the money allocated congressmen at the rate of P70 million a year and senators at the rate of P200 million a year. The total per one congressional term of three years is P210 million. The total per year for all senators and congressmen: P25 billion.
The total per one senatorial term of six years is P1.2 billion. As the records of the Commission on Audit show, most of the PDAF pork barrel was stolen by our congressmen and our senators. This makes our congressmen and senators thieves—thieves of the worst kind because they are stealing people’s hard earned money.
This is why I have called Congress—the House of Representatives and the Senate— the largest criminal syndicate in the Philippines. For this reason, I have also proposed the abolition of Congress. We don’t need a Congress, at least this kind of Congress. We have already more than 15,000 laws and more than 30,000 lawyers. So we have more laws and more lawyers than Filipinos need in their entire lifetime.
And as it turns out, there is even a worse kind of pork barrel—the DAP. This is money assembled by President BS Aquino from various monies of the different cabinet ministries and agencies and pooled into a single fund. Only one man can disburse it—BS Aquino. In 2011 alone, disbursements from DAP amounted to P72.5 billion. In 2012, another P54.8 billion was released—a total of P127 billion in two years.
“DAP is an insidious sabotage of the Constitution and clandestine subversion of the General Appropriation Acts,” bewailed the Philippine Constitution Association in its petition to the Supreme Court asking that DAP be declared unconstitutional.
DAP is unconstitutional because no taxpayers’ money can be spent without the authority of Congress or a law passed by it. DAP is bad because there is very little accountability attached to its disbursement. This makes it prone to abuse and graft.