First of three parts
Yes. I admit I voted for Aquino and now I admit it was a big mistake. I thought he was honest and he was experienced. But it did bother me that he never had any organization management experience. I did buy into the straight path line and thought he could help get rid of the corruption.
Slowly at first I began to see the incompetence but I always balanced this with his honesty and his reliance on his help. But the half-truths and lies came more and more. Excuses for bending and breaking the systems and the laws were explained as necessary because it was good for Filpinos. I now realize that his only management skill is that of bribing to get his way.
It also dawned on me that his promise of FOI, is meant as not FOI for him, but passed so that the next President will have to open up to the public. He cannot stand FOI for him because he would have to tell the truth and explain things honestly.
So yes my assessment of him has changed. He is honest in not stealing money from government for himself. But he is dishonest in enabling others to feast upon the people’s money. He has tried to make stealing money legal. There is no plan to make the Philippines a better place. I cannot wait to get to 2016 and see him leave.
— Online comment from ‘vg’ to my August 13 column
It took four years, three unconstitutional rulings (against RH, PDAF and DAP), two unprecedented anomalies of P200 billion each (the last two acronyms), and a single presidential term which now supposedly isn’t enough. But gradually, erstwhile supporters of President Benigno Aquino 3rd like “vg” are beginning to see him as he really is.
Those belatedly losing their yellow streaks need not feel ashamed. It was understandable for Filipinos weary of corruption scandals in the past decade to desperately seek a savior and wishfully think that they had found him.
Moreover, leading public figures and media extolled Aquino’s clean if unremarkable reputation during the 2010 election campaign and in his years as president. If these seasoned observers of national affairs could get things wrong, so much more would ordinary Filipinos, especially those relying on the largely pro-Aquino mainstream media.
In major newpapers and broadcast networks, his purported achievements get headline billing. Aquino was praised for the economy’s rebound, although it was already a regional growth leader since 2007, even managing to grow in 2009 while most countries sank in recession. Arroyo-era fiscal reforms heralded the Philippines’ current surge and set the stage for credit rating upgrades. Meanwhile, Aquino’s claims of near self-sufficiency in rice and declining crime would later prove illusory, if not distorted.
Presidential foibles and failings, on the other hand, while still reported, were quickly forgotten. When Aquino stopped talking up the disappointing public-private partnership program, so did media. It deplored his repeated defense of close associates caught up in anomalies, then quickly forgot them.
Mainstream media’s fawning praise of the Aquino regime and downplaying of its flaws, would seem disturbingly familiar to those who recall the Marcos dictatorship. But even in the time of Macoy, as the strongman was nicknamed, independent media managed to expose the truth. So have they in this time of PNoy. Here’s a slice of that largely hidden story, which hopefully will be shared with more Filipinos.
The jueteng scourge
Based on his winning campaign slogan, “If No One Is Corrupt, No One Would Be Poor,” Aquino’s paramount strategy is to reduce poverty by eradicating corruption. He has done neither, as the undeniable facts in this article show.
Among the biggest sources of sleaze in the country are jueteng, smuggling, and kickbacks. In Aquino’s first month in office, anti-jueteng crusader Pangasinan Archbishop Emeritus Oscar Cruz named then-Interior Undersecretary Rico Puno, the President’s shooting buddy, as “ultimate recipient” of bribes from operators of the illegal numbers game, along with then-Philippine National Police Chief Jesus Versoza.
Without investigation Aquino dismissed the accusation — the first time Cruz publicly named top officials allegedly on the jueteng take. The President did order then-Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo, who wiped out jueteng in Naga as mayor, to crack down on the vice. But Aquino kept the PNP — the main weapon against jueteng — under his control through Puno, not Robredo. Evidently, the President never really wanted to shut down one of the biggest sources of political funds.
The contraband flood
Two other staples of political war chests are smuggling and kickbacks, including pork barrel. It’s an age-old practice that ruling elites get their people appointed to revenue agencies, generating hefty amounts every day. And under Aquino, the lucrative smuggling trade surged to unprecedented levels.
Contraband is estimated by comparing exports to the Philippines as reported by its trading partners, with the total imports tabulated by the Bureau of Customs (BoC). The difference between the two figures is deemed to be the value of shipments not recorded or properly assessed to evade taxes and duties. In a word, smuggled.
For 2011 and 2012, based on data tabulated annually by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the discrepancy between exports to the Philippines reported by other countries, and total shipments tallied by BoC averaged $19 billion a year — more than six times the $3 billion annual figure in the Estrada and Arroyo governments.
If the uncollected levies were just the 12 percent value added tax and did not include hefty luxury duties, $19 billion in smuggling deprived state coffers of $2.28 billion or about P100 billion a year under Aquino. No wonder his 2013 State of the Nation Address (SONA), reporting on his first couple of years in office, blamed BoC for losing P200 billion in revenues. The SONA also lamented the inflow of guns and narcotics.
Those losses would have been much reduced if Aquino had named as BoC head the respected former customs and internal revenue commissioner Guillermo Parayno, one of the two men the President interviewed for the Customs post. Parayno’s leadership and computerization reforms made BoC one of the least corrupt agencies in the 1990s, and no less than the IMF hired him as consultant on customs reform.
But like Robredo, Parayno was denied the job of stamping out another big source of political largesse. And just as smuggling trebled under Aquino, so did pork barrel, our topic for Wednesday.
(The next part on Wednesday will discuss pork barrel and DAP.)