If there is anything at all surprising about the immature, bratty response of President B.S. Aquino 3rd to the implied warning from Senator Sergio Osmeña III that the former would likely not be getting the “emergency powers” he has lobbied for since mid-July, it is that anyone still tolerates him.
The House of Representatives obliged Aquino by passing an emergency powers resolution last week, but to an extent that he apparently considers inadequate. The House measure only provides for funding to reimburse participants in the Interruptible Load Program (ILP), big power users such as malls and factories who have their own generators and can provide a small amount of power to the grid. Significantly, the measure also dictates that any additional power costs incurred must be shouldered by the government, and cannot be made “pass-through” charges to electricity consumers.
If the problem—a shortage of power reserves during the peak months between April and July, and not the several hundred megawatts of supply shortage the hysterical Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla was, and still is, claiming will happen despite his own department’s presenting convincing evidence to the contrary—actually occurs, then the measure passed by the House does makes some sense, as surprising as that may be.
Osmeña’s contention, however, and he may very well be right, is that any sort of emergency powers are wholly unnecessary; ILP can be managed according to existing guidelines. Besides, Osmeña pointed out, the Senate has more important things to, such as passing next year’s national budget, in the short time left in its session before the holiday break. The implication was that the measure passed to the Senate by the House might not even make it out of the Energy Committee, which Osmeña chairs, before the end of the year, and perhaps not at all.
In response Aquino said, “Senator Serge, with all due respect, is saying all these things and he has convinced some of his colleagues and until now we don’t have emergency powers . . . “If we suffer from power shortage, I hope he volunteers to answer to the public why we do not have enough energy supply. The government was not lacking in efforts to avert this problem.”
Incredibly, Aquino is still pressing for authorization to lease expensive, oil-fired power barges to solve the “problem,” apparently clueless that option has already been scotched by Congress, and resurrecting it in a Senate measure would essentially put the whole legislative process back to square one.
In his statement, Aquino fired one parting shot, warning that investors would be discouraged if there was a shortage of power. “Businessmen have a saying—the most expensive power is power that is not there,” he said.
Businessmen do have a saying or two, it’s true. That’s not actually one of them.
Aquino’s vainly feeble attempt to convince his audience that he has any understanding of the common tao notwithstanding, his blackmail is still pretty disturbing. His reaction to being denied emergency powers was tantamount to an announcement that there will be power shortages, just to teach everyone a lesson about the peril of not giving him what he demands, when he demands it.
And it wouldn’t be the first time. The word from inside several government agencies—naturally, passed along in that maddening “you didn’t hear this from me, but . . . ” sort of way—is that in the wake of the Supreme Court’s ruling against the DAP at the beginning of July, a number of directives about spending issued from the palace, all of which made it more difficult for line agencies to follow through with expenditures, even for projects and expenses that had already been approved. None of the orders explicitly tied the curbs on spending to the President’s tantrum over having his slush fund declared illegal—no one is quite that stupid —and not all of them were even written down, and so it appeared as though the Executive was simply on a drive, albeit an annoying and counterproductive one, to practice a form of “transparency” and extra-cautious accounting.
But when the third-quarter GDP figures were released, and quickly followed by the lame explanation from several different high-ranking officials that the 2.9 percent retraction in government spending was due to the SC’s prohibition of the DAP (a program that had supposedly outlived its usefulness and ended on its own in mid-2013), it rather appeared to those closer to the situation that the Aquino regime had intentionally created a problem out of spite.
If that’s true—though objectively, given the rumor mill nature of the information, we must keep in mind it might not be, plausible though it is—then the lack of “emergency powers” for Aquino to deal with energy supply issues should cause us to be gravely concerned. The only emergency powers Aquino needs or should be given are those that compel him to sit quietly in his office and not say anything more controversial than “God bless the Philippines,” because the nation should not have to question whether or not its own President will engage in economic sabotage to satisfy an obstreperous whim.