FORMER Sen. Panfilo “Ping” Lacson chose an auspicious occasion—a meeting of the Philippine Institute of Certified Public Accountants—to reveal that he and a team of auditors he put together had discovered P424 billion in highly questionable lump-sum appropriations in the 2015 national budget
Lacson emphasized that the amount was only a partial tally; so far, his investigation has only covered 11 of 21 major line agencies, meaning that the true total of public funds artfully captured for use at the President’s discretion might be as high as P700 billion or more, or more than a quarter of the entire budget.
To put the P424 billion discovered so far in some kind of perspective, let’s consider this: the amazing mission of NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft, which buzzed the planet Pluto yesterday after a 10-year voyage of nearly 5 billion kilometers, cost a total of about $700 million. That covers the cost of designing, building, and launching an extremely sophisticated spacecraft (it is, among other things, the fastest vehicle ever built by man), and employing a team of several dozen people for nearly a decade to manage it.
The amount that President BS Aquino 3rd and his “clever” budget manager Florencio Abad Jr. are known so far to have managed to hijack from just one year’s budget would be enough to fund 13 New Horizons missions, with enough change left over to buy at least a dozen second-hand F-16 fighter jets.
Not since the days of the famously rapacious Ferdinand Marcos regime—and maybe not even then—have we seen wholesale plunder of such a breathtaking scale. And in an Inquirer headline yesterday, Presidential spokesman Sonny Coloma—who might be a candidate for NASA study as his density rivals that of dark matter—blithely declared that the “proper use of public funds is one of the Aquino administration’s reforms.”
The scam, which is not substantially different from earlier ones such as the PDAF and DAP already declared illegal by the Supreme Court, works something like this, as Bobi Tiglao explained in his Times column yesterday: Allocations for farm-to-market roads, for example, are made in the budget—the budget deliberated and approved by Congress, under the authority reserved to it by the Constitution—for individual provinces and regions according to need. Under the new program, which the Administration has crudely tried to hide by stopping the publication of budget and expenditure information on government websites, all the individual allocations are lumped together in a single sum under the control of the relevant national agency, to be doled out on a discretionary basis.
Since the agency heads are invariably close allies of the despot, it is a safe presumption that funding will only be directed to those areas Aquino and his party deem worthy, either as a reward for supporting the regime, or to curry favor with voters whose commitment to national socialism is a bit unsteady.
Besides being patently illegal and an insult to the intelligence of anyone whose IQ is greater than their shoe size, the Aquino/Abad scam is a recipe for economic misery. Under the best conditions, it will lead to wildly uneven development across the country. And because it is actively being kept hidden from public scrutiny, it will inevitably lead to further corruption and leakage, meaning that even places which benefit from it will be getting less than their money’s worth.
Former Senator Lacson has said he will pursue legal action at the Supreme Court to attempt to put a stop to this pillaging of public coffers, and I certainly hope he follows through on that, and that the Supreme Court maintains its consistency in reminding Comrade Aquino that these kinds of shenanigans are unacceptable under Philippine law.
Unfortunately, he and his cabal have yet to display any respect whatsoever for that law, and so stronger measures may eventually become necessary to drive the point home. What those measures may be is something for others to debate.