Been neck-deep doing dramaturge work (among other things) for Tanghalang Pilipino’s Kleptomaniacs, a rap musical with libretto by Layeta Bucoy, compositions by Jose Carlo Frio and Nina Virgin, and directed by Tuxqs Rutaquio. It has been overwhelming, to say the least, as the years I’ve spent writing theater reviews—it turns out—was no preparation for being part of a production’s unfolding. And at this point when much of it is fine-tuning and tweaking, watching this cast doing the full run reminds me of how this particular subject matter got me to say yes.
It is what has made me a fan of Layeta’s work, and I say that with the admission that she has become a friend: she dares do the absurdity of the real that we all live with in this country, where the poor become poorer, and the rich and powerful … well. They are in government, and just don’t care.
And are full of themselves really.
Watching The President’s Men, i.e., Secretaries Edwin Lacierda and Sonny Coloma speaking to the press—and in effect to the rest of us—about their responsibility with regards the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) has been frustrating—and I am being kind.
Because we all know there’s something wrong with the disbursement of funds for projects that look good on paper, but which we do not see accounting for. And really, as with the pork barrel and the President’s discretionary funds, what they show us are mere lump sums that we are told goes to certain projects like school buildings and scholarships, disaster preparedness and relocation of informal settlers.
We never get a break down of expenses. And as it turns out: we also don’t get an apology from the person who signs off on these disbursements that are unaccounted for.
What we’ve gotten though is a whole lot of arrogance. And no sense of command responsibility.
What’s in a signature?
No matter how Malacañang and the President’s Men spin it, what’s clear is that PNoy signed off on those DAP documents. In late 2013, he also defended DAP, seemingly pissed that it was even being questioned.
The government websites—and the pretend-critical-sites (haha!)—are quick to show us that the DAP was a good thing. Because look at those hospitals it helped modernize! Look at the school buildings it helped build! Look at this clean river, that better province!
Of course we have no real sense of whether or not these projects—all on paper—actually happen. The attitude seems to be that as soon as the Executive allocates DAP funds for various projects (by its own Departments or Divisions, and “its” Senators), it becomes the responsibility of recipients to account for this allocation. So there’s no command responsibility, no real monitoring of where this money goes.
The Department of Budget (DBM) of course is to blame here, and it doesn’t help that the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) revealed on July 4 that they had filed a request for “data and documents covering DAP projects” in October 2013. The response they got then were that the information was being gathered and verified.
Nine months since, and PCIJ has gotten nothing from DBM. There were DAP allocations in 2011 and 2012. PCIJ was asking for it in 2013. And nothing.
Why would any self-respecting, transparent, tuwid-na-daan government not have documents readily available to prove that it cares at all about where taxpayers’ money goes?
This inefficiency, this refusal to provide the public with a list of projects, and a clear accounting of where our money goes, was everything that was wrong with the pork barrel system. It is everything that’s wrong with the DAP. It is unjust, and it is negligent. One might even think it corrupt to some extent.
This is what the President puts his signature on.
Asked by the Malacañang Press Corps if the Executive regrets the decision to put DAP in place, Lacierda struck back: how can government regret it when it allowed them to create Project Noah and acquire those Doppler radars? says Lacierda. All those projects it funded for the public good! All those public services!
Yet we have nothing on what these public services are, no sense really of how DAP allocations were used, to the last centavo—o sige, to the last hundred? We have no sense of what it is that these DAP funds have improved or made better.
Rains fall for half an hour and streets are flooded; traffic grinds to a halt. The MRT is congested, public transport is unsafe. Our public hospitals are being privatized, minimum wage remains low even as the prices of basic goods and services go up. The impoverished majority is told they aren’t poor if they can earn P46 pesos day – even a beggar or watch-your-car-boy will earn that daily.
This is the thing really: I’d be more forgiving of DAP if it had actually gone to something concrete, something that palpably changed public services, or the way we live in nation. Goodness, I’d be more forgiving if a huge part of it had gone to preparing all those provinces and towns in the path of Haiyan for the strongest typhoon to ever make downfall. I’d even be forgiving if it had gone to overwhelming storm victims with relief goods, and making sure that their houses and communities are being built better.
But we’ve got none of that here. Instead what we do have here is a nation that struggles with false political stability and a government that lives off spin. What we have is a majority impoverished and growing poorer by the day, proving that none of these DAP projects that government thinks it accelerates into fruition actually affect the poorest of the poor. What we know is that none of those DAP billions has meant free medical services and safer public transport, neither has it meant secure employment and an end to hunger and poverty.
Kleptomaniacs speaks of precisely this state of affairs, and asks if hope is even possible in the face of governance that is far from truly changing people’s lives.
At the rate this government is going, hope seems to be for fools.