President BS Aquino has kept his word this once—his commitment to make a state visit to South Korea. He really makes all Yellows proud for he has again solidified the Philippines’ claim to having the only true BS for a president in the entire world.
Our president didn’t let the temblor that hit Cebu and Bohol keep him from honoring his word. He said he would go to South Korea and, like a postman who would never let hail or storm stop him, he delivered on his commitment. The suffering of Cebuanos and Boholanos couldn’t prevent him from going. After all, the schedule for the state visit was prepared well in advance. The occurrence of the quake was not scheduled.
How different he is from US President Barack Obama who disregarded his scheduled visit to Southeast Asia, including the Philippines, just because there was a shutdown in the US government and there was an imminent danger of default. Obama stayed home despite his earlier commitment. BS Aquino saw things differently. Aren’t we lucky to have a president who has his priorities in correct order?
All Yellows could point out that BS Aquino has done enough to alleviate the suffering of the quake victims. In fact, he stayed for a number of hours in Cebu and Bohol and ordered the release of P6 million for the victims before flying to South Korea where he stayed for two days and spent P12 million.
Some find repugnant the picture of BS Aquino smiling while viewing the devastation in Cebu wrought by the earthquake. Well, he’s merely being true to the Filipino trait of finding something funny in tragedies. Recall that he was also caught on camera smiling while discussing the massacre of Chinese tourists in Luneta early in his administration. If he finds something funny in tragedies and shows it, then we should all salute him. No, I’m not proposing a gun salute with live bullets so banish that evil thought.
There were also criticisms on why BS Aquino didn’t invite Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama when he visited the city. Instead, he had defeated mayoralty candidate Tommy Osmena by his side. I wouldn’t blame the president for letting politics color his supposed humanitarian activity. Why should he get Rama who bested his candidate? He was just being himself—a person with a long memory. (Er, is that the correct English term for “mapagtanim?”) Recall that to this day, he refuses to talk with Joker Arroyo, a family friend of more than 40 years, after he dared to debate a legal issue on the Senate floor with the legal eagle and was made to look like a nincompoop. Er, is “to look like” unnecessary?
What is necessary, however, is for the proposed national budget to be truly reflective of the will of the people. This means the Legislative and the Executive Departments should both do away with their respective pork barrels. I know that BS Aquino is using the pork barrel as the primary tool to get what he wants from lawmakers. I also know that he wants to give the impression that the people are his “boss.” I don’t know, however, how he could maintain this impression and still keep his pork barrel.
One way of limiting the president’s pork is by doing away with government savings as much as possible. The late Rep. Rolly Andaya of Camarines Sur, arguably the best chairman ever of the House Committee on Appropriations, had said that it’s a cardinal sin in budgeting to have savings. A department should make full use of its budget or else its next budget would be cut by Andaya equal to the unspent amount. Yet, the present dispensation is carrying on as if savings is a virtue.
The administration is so full of conceit that it even has the gall to put a halo on an evil scheme. Now, we know why the Aquino administration was slow in implementing the budget. It was not to ensure less graft and corruption. It was not because the administration has forgotten that the budget should be a prime mover of the national economy. Rather, it’s because BS Aquino already had a scheme to convert billions of savings into a presidential pork barrel so he could bend Congress any way he wants to.
Incidentally, Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago has filed a resolution expressing the sense of the Senate that all off-budget funds should be included in the Budget of Expenditures and Sources of Finances submitted annually by the President to Congress. The Senate can win back some of its lost sheen by adopting this resolution. Its adoption will prove that the chamber under Senate President Franklin M. Drilon will really root out pork barrel.