For most of the year now ending, we grieved as a people over the loss of some of our most precious public goods and basic liberties. Our Constitution, customs and consciences were viciously violated, our treasury pillaged and plundered, and all by the powers and forces that were supposed to protect and promote those goods and liberties. Congress became a willing and eager captive and tool of the Palace. And for a while, Supreme Court Justices lay in mortal fear that they would follow the path of Chief Justice Renato Corona who was impeached and removed for applying the agrarian reform law on Hacienda Luisita, the Cojuangco family estate.
Yet in a rare act of courage, when the time came for them to declare what the law was, the Court unanimously struck down PNoy’s pork barrel system, also known as Priority Development Assistance Fund and Disbursement Acceleration Program, as unconstitutional and void. It was a blow to the jugular which sent PNoy writhing on the canvas.
The PDAF involved some P25 billion, which in the last few years the members of the two Houses of Congress had been appropriating for their respective “projects:” P200 million a year for each of the 24 senators, and P70 million for each of the close to 300 members of the House of Representatives. The hitherto unreported DAP could run into hundreds of billions of pesos, but the documents submitted to the High Court by the Department of Budget and Management stopped at P150 billion. From this was taken the ungodly amount of P50 million to P100 million which Budget Secretary Florencio Abad admitted having given to each of the 19 senator-judges who had voted to convict Corona at his 2012 Senate impeachment trial. This was the only officially acknowledged payoff; it is not unsafe to assume it was not the only money those involved in the Corona case received.
The Court declared the DAP unconstitutional because it involved the transfer of funds from projects authorized by Congress to projects created by PNoy without the authority of Congress–in violation of an express constitutional prohibition of such transfer–simply by describing the funds as “savings” before they could ever be legally classified as such. The Court also directed the speedy prosecution of all those involved in the manipulation and misuse of the DAP.
So unprepared was Aquino for the Court’s rebuke that, in public statements, he literally threatened to have the Justices impeached, beginning with those he had recently appointed. He still threatens to do so, according to our best sources, should the Court dismiss with finality the government’s “Motion for Reconsideration,” which was filed by the Solicitor General, who previously argued the case before he was appointed to the 15-member Court.
Now, before Congress adjourned for Christmas, it passed without debate PNoy’s P2.6 trillion 2015 budget–the biggest in our history–and a P22.3 billion “supplemental budget” for 2014, which ends in a few days. In complete defiance of the Court, the P2.6 trillion spending bill resurrects all the discretionary lump sums which the Court had declared unconstitutional—-amounting to P1.3 trillion or half of the entire budget–and redefines “savings” to allow PNoy to play around “legally” with any appropriation by reclassifying it as “savings” at any time he wants to do so.
The P2.6 trillion spending bill will take effect after New Year’s Day, when both the calendar and fiscal year begins. But many have the distinct impression–and hopefully they are wrong–that the P22.3 billion will have to be spent by Dec. 31, 2014, just over a week from today. Even for an utterly profligate and corrupt government, the question has to be asked: unless they literally burn it, how will they ever get to spend this kind of money in just a few days?
Do we unduly exaggerate when we say the money will probably be treated as loot, and carved out among Aquino’s favored partisans in Congress? Is this not the latest version of the so-called “pabaon” (“going-away present”) which once became famous among retiring top brass of the police and military establishment? We pray not. But don’t forget that after the Court struck down the P70 million PDAF per congressman, two Malacañang emissaries —Health Undersecretary Janet Garin and Commission on Higher Education chair Patricia Licuanan—came to the Batasan to assure the congressmen that they would get not just P70 million per, but P108 million instead.
Apparently, that promise will now be fulfilled. And they may not even have to wait for 2015 to roll in. Perhaps, all in the name of Christmas. So while the country’s poor and calamity victims look to the skies and the visiting Pope for relief, our congressmen and senators would be having the time of their lives at our expense. We are being robbed blind by a regime that has lost all sense of public morality and decency, and acts solely on the basis of its sense of power and what it believes it can get away with.
Totally untethered to any moral or constitutional principle of accountability or respect for the public, its response to any question about any official wrongdoing is simply to ignore it “Okay, so you think we’ve done wrong? We are in power, and you are not, what can you do about it?” This is what they say, even without the use of words.
It could push–perhaps it is already pushing–the nation to the brink. Yet PNoy’s immediate reaction was to party with the members of Congress, in grateful appreciation for their support. We have been spared the details of the political perversity. But it is not unreasonable to look at it as PNoy’s ultimate feast–the most outrageous bacchanalia in recent Malacañang history, not unlike (symbolically at least) that of Caligula’s orgiastic banquets, where the “Emperor of Excess” drank himself to a stupor and gorged himself to the point of vomiting and had imperial sex with whores from the two sexes. The very idea of feasting to celebrate a crime while millions starve is utterly craven and depraved. It is revolting and repulsive. It makes a fully grown adult cry out in rage. What have we done to deserve this, Mr. President?
In one recent small gathering of friends, where everyone was supposed to spread Christmas cheer, we could not help but sing “Ang Bayan Ko,” and recite Gat AmadoV. Hernandez”s“Kung tuyo na ang luha mo, aking Bayan”—(When your tears have dried, my people, my country). Nobody sang like the rising tenor Dresden Roxas Ramos, whose pre-Christmas appearance with the Ateneo de Manila College Glee Club at Greenhills’ Teatrino Promenade was a big hit, or recited Ka Amado’s lines like any poet laureate. But the experience was wholly purgative. I would ask you to try it.
For those who need it, I essay an unauthorized free translation of Ka Amado’s poem. But it is so much richer and far more powerful in its original. I think it is one of the truly great patriotic poems in the world. And here it is.
Lumuha ka, aking Bayan, buong lungkot mong iluha
Ang kawawang kapalaran ng lupain mong kawawa;
Ang bandilang sagisag mo’y lukob ng dayong bandila,
Pati wikang minana mo’y busabos ng ibang wika.
Ganito ring araw noon nang agawan ka ng laya,
Labin tatlong Agosto nang saklutin ang Maynila.
Lumuha ka, habang sila ay palalong nagdiriwang,
Sa libingan ng maliit, ang malaki’y may libangan,
Katulad mo ay si Huli, na aliping bayad-utang,
Katulad mo ay si Sisa, binaliw ng kahirapan;
Walang lakas na magtanggol, walang tapang na lumaban,
Tumataghoy kung paslangin; tumatangis kung nakawan!
Iluhamo ang sambuntong kasawiang nagtalakop
Na sa iyo sa pampahirap, sa banyaga’y pampalusog;
Ang lahat mong kaya ma’y kamal-kamal na naubos,
Anglahat mong kalayaa’y sabay-sabay na natapos;
Masdan mo ang iyong lupa, dayong hukbo’y nakatanod,
Masdan mo ang iyong dagat, dayong bapor nasa laot!
Lumuha ka kung sa puso ay nagmaliw na ang layon,
Kung ang araw salangit mo ay lagi nang dapithapon,
Kung ang alon sa dagat mo ay ayaw nang magdaluyong,
Kung ang bulkan sa dibdib mo ay hindi man umuungol,
Kung wala nang maglalamay sa gabi ng pagbabangon,
Lumuha ka nang lumuha’t ang laya mo’y nakaburol.
May araw ding ang luha mo’y masasaid, matutuyo,
May araw ding di na luha sa mata mong namumugto
Ang dadaloy, kundi apoy, at apoy na kulay dugo,
Samantalang ang dugo mo ay aserong kumukulo,
Sinigaw kang buong giting sa liyab ng libong sulo
At ang lumang tanikala’y lalagutin mong punglo!
Weep, my people/my country, weep,
Weep with all your grief for the sad fate of your sad land,
Your flag now flies beneath a foreign flag,
Your own tongue ruled by an alien tongue.
It was a day like this when they took away your freedom,
On 13 August, Manila fell under arms.
Weep, while they feast to such excess,
Upon the graveyard of the poor, the rich have fun and games.
Like Huli, you were sold for an old debt,
Like Sisa, poverty has made you insane.
Too weak to parry, unwilling to thrust,
You whine when mugged, you moan when robbed.
Weep away all your woes,
Which made you frail, the stranger strong;
Gone is all your wealth,
And all your liberties,
Upon your shores, the alien boots,
Upon your seas, the foreign ships!
Weep, if in your heart desire has fled,
If under your sky dusk never ends,
If in your sea waves no longer break,
If in your breast fire no longer speaks,
If for the dawn one no longer waits,
Weep and weep once more, your liberty is dead.
The day will come when all your tears will dry,
When from your swollen eyes no longer tears but fire,
And fire like blood will run, while your blood turns to burning steel.
You’ll cry with the fury of a thousand flames
And with one shot snap the tyrant’s chain.