Second of three parts
Aquino-era smuggling, estimated at $19 billion a year based on IMF trade data, was not the only unprecedented scam abetted by this administration. Also at record levels and mostly uninvestigated by the government were the Priority Development Assistance Fund and the Disbursement Acceleration Program.
Both ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, PDAF and DAP under Aquino have yet to be audited and probed with the same minute detail as seen in the Commission on Audit’s Special Audit Report on PDAF, published last year, which covered one-third of the 2007-09 pork barrel.
The COA report picked apart P8 billion of the P29 billion in 2007-09 pork, detailing disbursements mainly for three opposition stalwarts, Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada, and Bong Revilla. But two-thirds of the sum or P21 billion was not covered by the special audit—most of the outlay going to projects of Aquino allies. Reason: despite repeated COA requests, the Department of Budget and Management under DAP architect Florencio Abad did not provide records on those outlays.
PNoy tripled PDAF and tried to save it
Also spared special audits was PDAF from 2010 to 2012, totaling P62 billion—more than twice the 2007-09 amount. Indeed, under the National Expenditure Plans for the last three years, crafted by Budget Secretary Abad, pork barrel shot up to about P24 billion a year, from P9 billion average in then-President Gloria Arroyo’s last four budgets.
Thus, while PDAF disbursements to opposition lawmakers got the fine-toothed comb treatment, COA Chairman Grace Pulido Tan said that all the other pork, including two-thirds of the 2007-09 outlays and all the Aquino-era disbursements, would be audited the usual way at the agency level. For that largesse there has been no tally of what each legislator got, unlike the Special Audit Report used against the accused senators.
Thus, PDAF for Aquino allies—not to mention pork barrel for Aquino himself when he was senator in 2007-10—would not be the subject of a special audit. Many now wonder if all those monies—totalling more than P100 billion up to last year—would ever yield plunder cases like those for which Enrile, Estrada and Revilla are detained without bail.
The President’s defenders credit him with PDAF’s demise and the probe and prosecution of suspect legislators. In fact, he opposed pork’s dissolution until massive protests last August forced him to recast it while still keeping it in the 2014 budget. It disappeared only after the Supreme Court ruled PDAF unconstitutional last November.
In sum, not only did Aquino nearly triple PDAF to the highest ever in history, despite its widely known abuses. He also tried to continue it in a different guise until the High Court scrapped it. And he and his allies have yet to be held accountable for the mammoth pork they got. That definitely is not Tuwid na Daan, but the administration’s protection of Aquino’s KKK clique in Congress.
Irregularities in the P100-billion mountain of pork look set to be swept under the rug, judging by actions and statements of the Department of Justice, the Ombudsman, and COA — Aquino’s anti-PDAF task force. Along with the audit agency’s decision not to do another special report on pork, DOJ Secretary Leila de Lima has been giving excuse after excuse for failing to charge more lawmakers after the three opposition senators.
Lately, she affirmed the DOJ-supervised National Bureau of Investigation’s finding that signatures of Aquino ally and vocational education head Joel Villanueva were forged in the former congressman’s pork papers. By contrast, the Office of the Ombudsman said Revilla and Estrada must prove their claims of falsified PDAF signatures.
Notably, the OMB has yet to charge Aquino-allied congressmen for the P728-million fertilizer scam of 2004, despite voluminous documents and testimonies implicating them for years. If that happened to a decade-old anomaly probed long ago by both the Senate and the Ombudsman, it doesn’t hold out much hope that administration lawmakers would be brought to court over PDAF and DAP.
The accountability picture is even more murky with the Disbursement Acceleration Program. Variously estimated at P144 billion to P170 billion, DAP was not detailed and disseminated like the General Appropriations Acts of 2011, 2012 and 2013, whose funds it hijacked and, as the Supreme Court found, “allocated to DAPs [programs and projects]that were not covered by any appropriations in the pertinent GAAs.”
No one but DAP creators Aquino and Abad know its full and detailed extent. At Senator Nancy Binay’s prodding, Abad promised to submit records of the program to the Senate, but has yet to do so weeks after the hearing. Senators Binay and Grace Poe also wanted him to account for not just the P147 billion in listed DAP projects, but another P90 billion in “savings” declared by the government since 2010, but not included in DAP.
However, Congress itself is not pressing Aquino and Abad to account for the P247 billion in purported “savings” realigned to items different from the original budgeted outlays. Instead, it is pressuring the Supreme Court for declaring DAP unconstitutional. And if Aquino has his way, the legislature as a constituent assembly may yet propose constitutional amendments weakening the Judiciary’s power of review, and possibly removing the single-term limit on the President.
Thus, Congress is working to spare the DAP perpetrators and recipients from being held accountable for as much as P237 billion in realigned public funds. It is not demanding a full and public DAP accounting. It is hitting back at the Supreme Court for defending its power of the purse by voiding the illegal transfer of some P150 billion. And lawmakers seem set to enact charter changes that would make itself and the President less accountable to the nation by clipping the power of judicial review.
And we haven’t even mentioned next year’s draft budget said to contain half a trillion pesos in appropriations for the President to allocate, possibly for 2016 electioneering.P200 billion in smuggling losses counted by Aquino himself. P100 billion in unaudited pork barrel. Up to P237 billion in realigned funds still unaccounted for. Cha-cha to reduce presidential and congressional accountability—nd add more years of Aquino.
With those mind-boggling numbers, this presidency may turn out to be the biggest mistake Filipino voters ever made. And the poor are paying for it. We remember them on Friday.
(The first part was published on Monday; the last will run on Friday.)