DISAPPOINTING and defensive.
This was how renowned political and anti-corruption analysts saw President Benigno Aquino 3rd’s speech that he delivered on national television Wednesday night which, they said, failed to address the main issue of fund misuse in government.
Political analysts Ramon Casiple and Clarita Carlos said that while there was nothing wrong with the speech, it also did not contain any significant declaration that would address the issue regarding the questionable Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) and other forms of “pork.”.
Considering that the President took the prime time slots of all major broadcasting networks, Casiple said Aquino should have given the people what was due them and squarely faced the issue instead of issuing statements that only tend to defend his own people.
He also noted that the President’s statement that he is not a crook and that he would go after the corrupt only implied that he was already clearing his allies who are also being dragged into the pork barrel controversy.
Carlos, for her part, said that Malacanang should stop its effort to control the damage from the DAP issue and instead come up with data that would show how the funds coursed through DAP were spent.
The President should also explain why the administration was being selective in choosing legislators who should be allotted funds through DAP.
The two added that the real issue is the DAP and the failure of the administration, particularly the Budget department, to be transparent about it since the public was never aware of its existence until Sen. Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada disclosed it in a privilege speech last month.
As for Aquino’s statement that DAP is being used to divert the attention of the public from the pork barrel scam, Carlos said that she sees nothing wrong if ever there was really an attempt to make a diversion because the people deserve to know the truth.
She added that the government should include everybody in the investigation, regardless of their political labels.
Carlos said that while she believes that the President is not corrupt, he lacks the courage to run after his own partymates and allies.
On Thursday, University of the Philippines Prof. Bobby Tuazon told The Manila Times that the president’s speech indicated how he was deeply affected by the plunge in his ratings.
Tuazon, the policy director of the Center for People Empowerment in Governance (CenPEG), also noted that nothing in Aquino’s speech can be considered as “consequential or eloquent.”
It was the first time for Aquino to do such an address since he assumed the presidency in 2010. The last presidential address that happened on primetime TV was in 2005, when former President Gloria Arroyo apologized over the Hello Garci scandal.
Aquino reiterated in his 10-minute speech that he, along with his allies, are not thieves. He also used the opportunity to lash out at his unnamed detractors for muddling and misleading the public with regard to the pork barrel scam.
But Tuazon said the President’s pronouncements were far from what his “bosses” wanted to hear. He stressed that the public outcry against pork barrel is not just about his administration but the whole system itself.
The political analyst said that the administration has to seize this rare opportunity to scrap the pork barrel system by allocating government funds to poverty alleviation and basic social services and through participative budget planning like in Canada.
Also on Thursday, the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) warned Aquino that “stubbornness” could lead to his downfall.
Dante Jimenez, chair of the VACC, said that Aquino’s collapse has already started following the result of the survey conducted by the president’s Office of Political Affairs showing a steep 35 percent drop in Aquino’s rating.
Aquino’s ratings also suffered drops in the surveys conducted by Pulse Asia and the Social Weather Stations (SWS).
He said that the president should start listening to his “bosses” and scrap all forms of lump sum funds if he really wants to regain the trust of the people who now doubt his capability and sincerity.
Meanwhile, in Malacañang, officials defended the President’s speech.
Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said that the speech was not meant to sow intrigues among those individuals who have been charged before the Office of the Ombudsman in connection with the pork barrel scam.
The 89-year-old Senator Juan Ponce Enrile is among the more than 30 people who are facing charges in connection with the alleged pork barrel scam. Senators Ramon Revilla Jr. and Estrada were also indicted.
According to Coloma, he witnessed the preparation of the speech and that the president himself drafted it and never mentioned names.
The President, he said, was already mulling to deliver his speech on the DAP as early as the first week of October.
Coloma also claimed that 75 percent of online feedbacks to the President’s speech were positive.
Senate President Franklin Drilon, meanwhile, said the negative propaganda against the administration steered people’s focus away from the real issue which is corruption in the use of the PDAF.
He said that he himself has been a subject of a supposed highly-funded vilification campaign to make him appear crooked and corrupt before the public.
Drilon reminded the people that they should refocus their consciousness towards ensuring that the country’s justice system will work by punishing and jailing those who pocketed people’s money.
Senator Antonio Trillanes 4th meanwhile maintained that there is nothing patently illegal with the DAP as long as it is allocated to projects that benefited the people.
At the House of Representatives, Reps. Sherwin Tugna of Citizens Battle Against Corruption party-list, Teddy Baguilat of Ifugao and Rodel Batocabe of Ako Bicol party-list also defended Aquino’s speech.
But for Rep. Sitti Hataman of Anak Mindanao party-list, it would have been better if the President emphasized how his discretionary funds made an impact on the lives of ordinary Filipinos.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) declared that it will continue to follow the chain of command amid allegations of large-scale corruption in the Aquino government.