Regardless of the Senate moro-moro last Thursday, the case to make Butch Abad and senators accountable for senatorial bribery is alive and kicking.
Abad, Drilon, Trillanes, et al. have nothing to celebrate. They may be in a deeper hole than they imagine.
When Budget Secretary Butch Abad emerged from his foxhole last week to testify at the Senate, accompanied by a retinue of Cabinet secretaries, he did not demolish the people’s case against the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) and its authors and implementors.
The sham hearing was a show at the expense of the nation.
But theatrics aside, no one got off the hook. Some wound up hurting themselves in the court of public opinion. And the Senate got a black eye.
President Aquino’s fourth State of the Nation Address (SONA) yesterday did not resolve his DAP predicament. True to character, he was unapologetic and defiant.
The arrival of the 100-millionth Filipino was indisputably more eventful.
And the first centennial of the Iglesia ni Kristo provided more spectacle.
So shameful English cannot find the words
It struck me while watching the televised Senate hearing that what happened was historic. We were watching the briber and the bribed in the Corona impeachment meeting face-to-face or eyeball-to-eyeball.
Did they wink at each other?
The acts which an angry public are accusing President Aquino and our senators of perpetrating are so shameful, the English language actually has no words for the one who gives the bribe, and the one who takes the bribe (like, say, the words vender and vendee). It’s as if the crimes are so unspeakable, Shakespeare’s tongue could not comprehend them.
Of six dictionaries I consulted, only the Random House Dictionary of the English Language dared to list “briber” (the corruptor) and “bribee” (the corrupted).
The way the Senate hearing went, both sides of the crime of bribery appeared to be calm and collected.
Senate President Franklin Drilon shattered the tableau by stopping Senator Nancy Binay from forcing Abad to give his testimony under oath. What on earth was Drilon afraid of that she would ask ? Abad’s mentorship of Napoles? That Abad might be forced to perjure himself – like Bill Clinton lying, “I did not have sex with that woman”?
The muzzling of the oath gave the impression that the dark side scored a point.
When Drilon started lawyering for Abad, when Trillanes offered PR advice to the administration, and when Senators Recto, Osmena, Escudero, Angara, threw lifeless questions, it became apparent that everything had been rehearsed between the Cabinet and the Senate and that the questions had been planted. It looked like Darth Vader had won the day.
But that’s only a momentary delusion of this shameless bunch.
In fact, they have huge legal issues to hurdle, say the lawyer experts, starting with the Supreme court DAP decision.
SC decision lists senators and their loot
Remarkably, as if to seal the fact for posterity,
The High Court in its DAP decision lists down each senator by name and the incentives/rewards they got for Chief Justice Corona’s impeachment, including the dates of fund releases.
And it is the budget secretary attesting to the payoffs himself.
The details can be found on pages 113-114 of the consolidated SC Decision (which includes the majority opinion, and the concurring and separate opinions).
The damning information forms a key part of Justice Arturo Brion’s concurring and separate opinion. He reproduces as a footnote the full text of Secretary Abad’s official statement on the DAP releases to senators.
I quote below Justice Brion’s narration and the text of Abad’s statement from the SC decision:
1. The DAP and its origins
“On September 28, 2013, Secretary Abad released an official statement, through the DBM website, explaining that the amounts released to Senators on top of their regular PDAF allocations towards the end of 2012 were part of a fund he called the DAP. He claimed that these releases were, in fact, not the “first time that releases from DAP were made to fund project requests from legislators” because the DAP had been in existence since the latter part of 2011.
“In the course of hearing these petitions, the respondents submitted ‘evidence packets’ explaining how the DAP came into existence, and how it was operated.
Statement of Secretary Florencio Abad: On the releases to the senators as part of the Spending Acceleration Program [Released on September 28, 2013].
In the interest of transparency, we want to set the record straight on releases made to support projects that were proposed by Senators on top of their regular PDAF allocation toward the end of 2012. These fund releases have recently been touted as ‘bribes,’ ‘rewards,’ or ‘incentives.’ They were not. The releases, which were mostly for infrastructure projects, were part of what is called the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) designed by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to ramp up spending and help accelerate economic expansion. To suggest that these funds were used as “bribes” is inaccurate at best and irresponsible at worst.
In 2012, most releases were made during the period October-December, based entirely on letters of request submitted to us by the Senators. Those who received releases during that period and their corresponding amounts were:
Sen. Antonio Trillanes (October 2012-P50M), Sen. Manuel Villar (October 2012-P50M), Sen. Ramon Revilla (October 2012-P50M), Sen. Francis Pangilinan (October 2012-P30M), Sen. Loren Legarda (October 2012-P50M), Sen. Lito Lapid (October 2012-P50M), Sen. Jinggoy Estrada (October 2012-P50M), Sen. Alan Cayetano (October 2012-P50M), Sen. Edgardo Angara (October 2012-P50M), Sen. Ralph Recto (October 2012-P23M; December 2012-P27M), Sen. Koko Pimentel (October 2012-P25.5M; November 2012 -P5M; December 2012-P15M), Sen. Tito Sotto (October 2012-Pl lM; November 2012-P39M), Sen. Teofisto Guingona (October 2012-P35M; December 2012-P9M), Sen. Serge Osmefia (December 2012-P50M), Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile (October 2012-P92M) Sen. Frank Drilon (October 2012-PIOOM).
There were two earlier releases made in late August of that same year: Sen. Greg Honasan (P50M) and Sen. Francis Escudero (P99M).
No releases were made in 2012 to Senators Ping Lacson, Joker Arroyo, Pia Cayetano, Bongbong Marcos and Miram Defensor-Santiago.
In 2013, however, releases were made for funding requests from the office of Sen. Joker Arroyo (February 2013 – P47M) and Sen. Pia Cayetano (January 2013-P50M). The 24th Senator then, Benigno S. Aquino III, was already President.
This was not the first time that releases from DAP were made to fund project requests from legislators. In 2011, the DAP was instituted to ramp up spending after sluggish disbursements-resulting from the
Government’s preliminary efforts to plug fund leakages and seal policy loopholes within key implementing agencies-caused the country’s GDP growth to slow down to just 3.6%. During this period, the government also accommodated requests for project funding from legislators and local governments, GOCCs, and national government agencies.
Arroyo, Marcos, Santiago did not get DAP funds
In summary then, only Senators Joker Arroyo, Ferdinand Bongbong Marcos Jr. and Miriam Defensor Santiago did not receive DAP funds during the 15th Congress.
This is consistent with their vote to acquit Chief Justice Corona in his impeachment trial in the Senate.
Sen. Ping Lacson, who voted to convict, also did not get a DAP fund release. He got his reward later in the form of a cabinet post.
Abad ran circles around the budget
For Abad, hurdling a moro-moro at the Senate is one thing. Hurdling questioning by the Supreme Court is something else altogether.
Apart from the testimony of documents, Abad could not adequately explain or defend his implementation of the DAP before the high court.
Under direct questioning by Justices Brion, Bersamin and Carpio, Abad was repeatedly shown up as being less than honest.
In his opinion, Brion writes : “As a lawyer and with at least 12 years of experience behind him as a congressman who was even the Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, it is inconceivable that he (Abad) did not know the illegality or unconstitutionality that tainted his brainchild. Consider, too, in this regard that all appropriation, revenue and tariff bills emanate from the Lower House so that the Chair of the Appropriations Committee cannot but be very knowledgeable about the budget, its processes and technicalities. In fact, the Secretary likewise knows budgeting from the other end, i.e., from the user end as the DBM Secretary.
“Armed with all this knowledge, it is not hard to believe that he can run circles around the budget and its processes, and did, in fact, purposely use this knowledge for the administration’s objective of gathering the very sizeable funds collected under the DAP.”
Justice Carpio for his part criticized the Department of Budget and Management for not being candid with the court, and feigning ignorance of jurisprudence in which DBM had been a respondent.
(Concluded in Yen Makabenta’s Oberver column on Thursday July 31)