Pork barrel truth commission. Crowdsourcing a new constitution. National Transformation Council.
In times of rising discontent, a multiplicity of views mushroom on addressing national problems. So it is in these days of growing disenchantment with President Benigno Aquino 3rd.
A dissenter since the early Aquino years, Tanggulang Demokrasya (TanDem), rooted in the social democratic movement, has lately advocated a people’s truth commission to investigate the unconstitutional Priority Development Assistance Fund and the Disbursement Acceleration Program. PDAF, totalling P62 billion in 2010-12, and DAP, reportedly at least P147 billion, provided pork barrel outlays for Congress.
Launched at Club Filipino on July 31, the Bayan Ko Movement aims to crowdsource on its online forum bayanko.org.ph, proposals for a new constitution. Among those attending were former Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) president and Davao Archbishop Fernando Capalla and Lipa Archbishop Ramon Arguelles.
“We do not have to wait for 2016,” the fiery Lipa prelate thundered. “We must create a temporary government today,” as recounted by columnist and Bayan Ko convenor Carmen Pedroza. Also at the meeting were Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption head Dante Jimenez, as well as stalwarts of TanDem, Movement Against Dynasty, and other civil society groups. Former president Fidel Ramos sent a message of support.
Bayan Ko leaders have since staged an even bigger event: the August 27 convening of the so-called National Transformation Council in Lipa City, Batangas, with more religious and civil society representatives. The council’s Lipa Declaration states, in part:
“President Benigno Simeon Aquino 3rd has lost the moral right to lead the nation, and had become a danger to the Philippine Democratic and Republican state and to the peace, freedom, security and moral and spiritual well-being of the Filipino people. … we call upon him to immediately relinquish his position.”
Conspiracy to stay in power and out of jail
Aquino has apparently responded by backing away somewhat from his floated idea of amending the Constitution to enable him for re-election in 2016, and to clip the power of judicial review. But don’t hold your breath for him to resign. He, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, and their allies in Congress, all liable for PDAF and DAP, want to stay in power, if only to stay out of prison for misspending tens of billions of pesos.
To repeat: President Aquino, Secretary Abad, Senate President Franklin Drilon, House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte, and other pork-barrelled administration allies in Congress will fight to retain power now and after 2016, to protect themselves from investigation and prosecution for PDAF and DAP malversation and corruption.
This administration has built a reputation for fighting corruption by playing up its prosecution and incarceration of political rivals, even as it has abetted and protected sleaze among close Aquino associates and allies. It claimed to have turned around the economy, when in fact it inherited a growth momentum already among Southeast Asia’s fastest since 2007, as well as taxation reforms in 2005, which credit rating agencies have praised for leading the country to fiscal strength and rating upgrades.
Instead of economic resurgence and good governance, President Aquino’s own legacy consists of trebling pork barrel through PDAF and DAP, abetting record smuggling estimated at $19 billion a year, six times past levels; corrupting Congress and browbeating the Judiciary; manipulating polls under election chief and former Aquino lawyer Sixto Brillantes; and now, colluding with Congress to somehow stay in power and thus obstruct truth and justice in the PDAF-DAP scandal.
The man who a leading columnist once bizarrely thought could go down as the nation’s second-best President, now looks set to become its worst leader, spawning more anomalies in four years than in any similar period of any other administration, from skyrocketing contraband, losing P200 billion by Aquino’s own admission; to the inducement of legislators with pork barrel nearing P90 billion till last year; and the wholesale misappropriation of some P150 billion in budgeted funds through DAP.
And based on information presented by fellow columnist Rigoberto Tiglao this past Monday (“Aquino defies SC, renames pork”), the graft bonanza looks set to continue under new guise, with some P20 billion this year and next in so-called Grassroots Participatory Budgeting Projects consulted with lawmakers.
No doubt, the renamed pork is all part of the ruling clique’s overarching and unrelenting effort to dominate the 2016 polls, stay in charge, and thus, block probes, prosecution and punishment for pork corruption. Even if the schemers can’t win the Palace, they aim to take most Congress seats, provincial governorships, and city and town mayorships. Then they can pressure the next leader to forget that PDAF and DAP ever happened.
Plainly, the Aquino government and the Marcos regime are now the same in refusing to relinquish power, so as to avoid accountability for their abuses and anomalies. And like Marcos and his cronies, Aquino and his allies are using all the powers and resources of government, plus those of their moneyed and influential backers, to maintain control.
To advance change, we need PURI
So what can Filipinos seeking truth, justice and good governance do against the Aquino administration’s unyielding grip on power and unrepentant obstruction of truth, justice, and integrity?
First and foremost, pray. Nothing is impossible with God’s grace, and that certainly transpired with Marcos. At the end of the Philippines’ celebration of a Marian year in December 1985, the dictator called snap elections for February 1986, and fell from two decades of power after trying to steal the polls.
In June last year, Catholic bishops consecrated the nation to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Since then, events have eroded Aquino’s stature and clout: the Inecon bribery scandal and pork barrel expose in July 2013, the DAP revelation in August, the Zamboanga siege in September, Bohol’s earthquake in October, Yolanda in November, the PDAF decision in December, soaring food prices since early 2014, and the DAP ruling this past July (see July 9 article, “A nation consecrated to Mary”).
Of course, God helps those who help themselves. The forces of change must move with unity, resolve and intelligence.
Unity, because division will play into the regime’s hands. Resolve, because the conspiracy opposing truth, justice, democracy and good goverance, is immensely powerful and ruthless. And intelligence, because change proponents must act smart and should impart to tens of millions of Filipinos the truth about Aquino and the need for national transformation.
Prayer. Unity. Resolve. Intelligence.
PURI, in short. The Filipino word for honor, integrity and purity.
Something utterly absent in this government—and exactly what our nation needs.