PRESIDENT BS Aquino is in corruptible. He can’t be bribed. He can be a giver of bribes though, what with billions of public money as his virtual piggy bank. He can easily do this because the leaders of Congress have meekly yielded their constitutional, inherent power of the purse to the executive department.
It’s not surprising that the House under Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. continues to toe the Malacanang line. No congressman can be Speaker without support from Pasig, right JDV? The Senate is an altogether another matter. It has been shouting from the rooftops of its independence from Malacañang. It has been claiming that it will never be a rubber stamp of the Palace. Well, Senate President Franklin M. Drilon (FMD) has removed this façade of Senate “independence” and is dancing with gusto to the Palace tune.
Malacañang defends pork barrel; FMD defends pork barrel. BS Aquino says the Priority Development Assistance Fund will be abolished; FMD says the PDAF will be abolished. Malacanang says nothing illegal with the Disbursement Acceleration Program; FMD says DAP completely legal.
In all these issues, FMD never cared to mention the diminution of the Legislative’s power of the purse. He saw nothing wrong in BS Aquino’s shanghaiing of the “savings” from government-owned and -controlled corporations (GOCCs) and “slow-moving” infrastructure projects and converting them into the DAP. He found nothing wrong in Malacañang’s use of these “savings” without authority from Congress. He saw nothing extraordinary in the trebling of pork barrel under BS Aquino compared to that of the previous administration. To him, everything associated with BS Aquino is “daang matuwid.” Those who follow a different path are evil.
FMD had the loudest voice against the excesses of the GOCCs in the previous administration. Yet, we still have to hear from him about the unauthorized allowances and benefits amounting to P51.91 million given by officials of the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) to themselves in 2012. And how about the P10-million bonus that eight executives of the Social Security System had brazenly awarded themselves “for a job well done” while asking SSS members to pay more?
I recall that it was FMD who authored the GOCC Governance Act of 2011 to curb such abuses and make GOCCs more efficient vehicles for national progress. He sold that bill really well. He had revealed that members of the boards of the MWSS and of the Local Water Utilities Administration (LWUA) received a 25-month bonus each in 2009 in addition to their regular 12-month salaries. And what were those bonuses for? Among them were a one-month bonus for Family Week celebration and a one-month bonus for Gender and Development program.
Then, there’s his tirade against the patronage system practiced by GOCCs by granting senior managerial positions to retired military and high level civil servants or relatives and friends of powerful politicians. He cited studies showing this practice led to inefficiency, low levels of productivity and financial losses. With such a background and rationalization, who would oppose FMD’s bill?
Ah, but one did—then Sen. Joker Arroyo, the only congressman and one of two senators who didn’t touch his pork barrel, the senator with the least expense to the public in his entire 12 years in the chamber. Joker said in voting against FMD’s measure: “Despite the innocuous title of this bill, namely, ‘to promote the financial and fiscal discipline in government-owned and -controlled corporations and to make them more responsive to the needs of the public interest and other purposes’ the understated effect and impact of the bill is the blanket authority for mass lay off of the GOCCs chief executive officers and directors.”
The good-intentioned law bred a placement agency as warned by Joker. Directors and chief operating officers of GOCCs appointed by the previous administration were all laid off, including those with unfinished tenure, or even those who had performed credibly well. They were all replaced by supporters of the administration. The crown jewels—SSS, Government Service Insurance System, LandBank and Development Bank of the Philippines, among others—fell to the arms of salivating Yellow loyalists. So much for ending the patronage system under the BS Aquino administration.
Oh yes, I can’t end this column without commenting on FMD’s wreaking havoc on the committee system. He refused to sign the subpoena on Janet Lim-Napoles despite the recommendation of the Senate blue-ribbon committee. Oh well, this isn’t the first time that he ignored a committee. In June 2011, he sponsored a bill resetting the election at the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao although the Senate Committee on Local Governments headed by Sen. Bongbong Marcos had voted to archive it. With five other senators, FMD revived the bill but sponsored with a completely different recommendation without conducting a hearing.