Like a sore loser, PNoy has taken every chance he gets to excoriate the Supreme Court (SC) over its decision declaring the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) unconstitutional. That or he’s justifying the use of the DAP as having boosted the country’s economy.
During a good governance forum hosted by the Palace a few weeks ago, for instance, PNoy claimed that the High Court’s ruling would have a chilling effect on the economy and on millions of Filipinos. He warned that the SC decision would paralyze our economic development or reverse the alleged “massive” progress achieved by the country.
PNoy also claims the decision will have the effect of once again slowing down government spending. He adds the SC ruling “severely limits government’s capacity to serve its people in the quickest manner possible.”
PNoy, however, shouldn’t blame the slowdown in government spending or the downturn in the economy on the SC. After all, it was he who ordered the suspension of programs and projects funded under the DAP, including those involving infrastructure and social services.
If PNoy truly wanted “to deliver the benefits due our countrymen in a fast and correct way” – which was his rationale for the DAP in the first place—all he had to do is seek a supplemental budget from Congress to pursue activities and projects that could really improve the economy and alleviate the suffering of poor Filipinos. The DAP is not the only means or vehicle for “the executive branch to act in a swift, responsive and . . . bold manner.”
But PNoy didn’t appear too keen on asking Congress for a supplemental budget claiming that it’s “an already lengthy process that may even be extended by obstructionists and oppositionists.”
PNoy seemed to have conveniently forgotten that in November last year, he got a supplemental budget worth P14.6-billion for disaster rehabilitation and reconstruction programs, which was approved by both houses of Congress in a record time of less than two weeks. So what lengthy process is he talking about?
Truth is, PNoy wasn’t about to ask Congress for a supplemental budget because his administration had already filed a motion for reconsideration before the SC. He was clearly more concerned about proving his point: that the “DAP is good” and that his administration’s “intentions, processes and the results were correct.” Never mind the economy.
PNoy’s rosy endorsement of DAP, however, doesn’t fly with many Filipinos.
Citing the World Bank (WB), PNoy claimed that the “DAP contributed 1.3 percentage points to our GDP [gross domestic product]growth in the fourth quarter of 2011.” But as our Manila Times columnist Bobi Tiglao pointed out, the WB subsequently backtracked on the DAP after it realized that the program was a “mere realignment of funds” and that the amount involved in the DAP was too insignificant to make an impact on the economy.
Moreover, the recent Senate appearance of Budget Secretary Butch Abad only served to confirm the true nature of the DAP as an arbitrary and capricious mechanism to impound and disburse public funds.
According to neophyte Senator Nancy Binay, the Palace pooled P237 billion in savings since 2010 but only P167 billion was proposed for DAP projects. Of this amount, only P157 billion of the proposed projects was approved while only P144.3 billion was released under DAP, leaving P90-billion in government savings which Abad could not account for.
And as Senator Binay brilliantly elicited from Abad, apart from the list of DAP-funded projects, there is another savings mechanism where funds for other government projects are obtained. This means Malacañang has another kitty that’s beyond the prying eyes – and control – of Congress, which it could distribute as it pleases.
How? By simply inserting projects not included in the DAP menu in Abad’s funding list, such as the additional P4.1-billion funding for the Comelec and the P5-million given to COA Chair Grace Pulido-Tan to buy a new car.
The DAP’ssupposed influence on our economy has recently been debunked by the UK-based Barclays, which said in its Emerging Markets Quarterly report, that the Philippine economy slowed down to 5.7 percent in the first quarter of this year (long before the SC’s DAP ruling).
For British bank HSBC, the country’s economy is showing signs of fatigue. It says the manufacturing industry—the biggest generator of jobs—slowed significantly to 6.3 percent from 12 percent of the fourth quarter of 2013.
Unfortunately, it seems PNoy would rather expend more time and energy getting the SC to reverse its decision and uphold the validity of the DAP rather than focusing his attention on more crucial matters like generating higher, sustained and more inclusive economic growth—the type that creates more and better jobs and reduces poverty.
Why? Because the self-styled “father of our nation” is really just a child after all.
Happily, it seems that the child has grown up a bit–at least about the DAP. In his SONA yesterday, he at last surrendered to common sense and asked Congress for the supplemental budget for his pet projects.