Malacañang sources have revealed that a nasty shouting match transpired between President B.S. Aquino 3rd and Budget Secretary Florencio “Butch” Abad after the Supreme Court ordered the Ombudsman to have them investigated and possibly charged for their role in the manipulation and misuse of the constitutionally outlawed Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) amounting to P150 billion.
It is not known who got the upper hand, but PNoy reportedly blamed Abad for the DAP scandal, and Abad reportedly shot back by reminding PNoy that the program had the President’s full approval and that it was used to bribe Congress in order to remove Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona and implement the rest of his “personal program.”
This reveals two things. First, PNoy is now under investigation by the Ombudsman for possible impeachment, and he is pissed off by it, despite the fact that he remains in virtual control of the impeachment process and has less than a year to stay in office. By tradition, although not specified in the Constitution, the President is immune from suit; but the Supreme Court effectively divested him of his immunity when it struck down the DAP as unconstitutional and ordered the prosecution of all those involved in it. He is the official author of the DAP. Still, PNoy obviously did not expect to be investigated by the very Ombudsman he had appointed after driving her predecessor out of office, in order to go after his enemies and political targets. He apparently blames Abad for this.
Second, the “fear” Aquino has instilled in his Cabinet members appears to have worn off. Abad’s heated exchange with Aquino shows this. It is a dangerous precedent that could be imitated by other members of the original Hyatt-10, said to be the real power running the Aquino government under Abad. This is the same group, with some minor modifications, which President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo ousted from her Cabinet while threatening to oust her.
Not only is Abad the “brains” of Aquino’s ingenious schemes to take full control of the government’s resources; his entire family is virtually in charge of the entire financial and budgetary operations of the government. While he controls the entire Department of Budget and Management (DBM), his only daughter runs the Presidential Management Staff, his only son holds a pivotal position in the Office of the Secretary of Finance; and his wife is not only Executive Vice President of the Liberal Party but also senior Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives.
In the relationship between Aquino and Abad, the latter is seen as the puppet master, and the former the puppet. Although it has not happened before that the puppet masters had to answer to the puppet, it is happening now, so the relationship is strained, to say the least. It could strain further as more serious cases are brought before the Supreme Court against the Aquino government’s undiminished effort to put vast sums of money under the sole discretion and control of the President. One probable suit could be against the P424.15 billion in lump-sum appropriations embedded in nine strategic departments and two agencies of the government in the 2015 General Appropriations Act, in contemptuous disregard of the Supreme Court ruling declaring such lump sums unconstitutional and void.
The worst is yet to come.
The generals speak out
But it is not only the Cabinet that’s on fire. The military, police and entire security sector is equally on fire. And Aquino’s recent reckless statement about an “alternative truth” on the Mamasapano massacre, which cost the lives of 44 Special Action Force police commandos on Jan. 25, 2015 in the hands of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, has unduly stoked that fire. PNoy’s statement has prompted a closer look at what the various official inquiries had said and did not say about the massacre. It is now clear to all and sundry —-infinitely clearer than before— that the truth about the most important issues on Mamasapano was never aired. Why did Aquino discard the established PNP chain of command, and put an important police operations in the hands of a suspended PNP chief? Why did PNoy give the stand-down order which barred the military reinforcement unit from giving support to the beleaguered SAF contingent at the most critical time?
What the public heard on these questions was either a Sphinx-like silence or an elephantine lie. Now, if Aquino really wants to set the record straight, he has to tell us the “untold and unvarnished truth,” rather than an “alternative” one; otherwise, what he really needs is an “alternative lie” to replace the existing one. The search for the real truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth has now been complicated by the latest press reports from abroad on certain details of the Mamasapano affair, which the government had until now suppressed.
A report in the Sept. 16, 2015 issue of the Los Angeles Times, and reprinted on this paper on Sept. 18, 2015, says that “five or six US counter-terrorism advisors assisted (the SAF commandos) from a police command post nearby, tracking the assault team in live video from a US surveillance aircraft circling overhead. Their main role was to provide tactical, live intelligence.” At no point during the inquiries were we ever told that the US government was involved in Operation Exodus; in fact, the US Embassy repeatedly denied any US involvement, even without anyone suggesting it. In light of the LA Times story, the government has a duty to bare all the facts about the US involvement.
Aquino has tried to minimize the public distress over Mamasapano by trying to steamroll the passage of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law, arising from the highly questionable Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) and the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), which seeks to replace the present Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) for the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) with a new autonomous political entity for the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). Although fraught with constitutional infirmities, Aquino wanted the proposed BBL rushed to satisfy the desire of Malaysia and other foreign entities.
It took Sen. Ferdinand (Bongbong) Marcos Jr. and a wide array of concerned Filipinos to stop the proposed law from being bulldozed through Congress. But PNoy’s zeal is undiminished. He wants the widely opposed bill passed before he leaves office. Stories have since circulated in the Malaysian political circuit that some $700 million had been coursed through the Malaysian Prime Minister’s office to facilitate the passage of the proposed BBL. It could be pure spin, but it is repeated on both sides of the Sulu Sea with relish, showing what the CAB/FAB/BBL means to interested parties. But if Aquino is determined to press its passage, an important segment of the military has warned him not to force it.
In a full-page ad in the Philippine Daily Inquirer on Sept. 14, 2015, 31 retired senior officers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the Philippine National Police, the Philippine Coast Guard, the Bureau of Fire Protection, the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology, reservists and veterans expressed “great apprehension and alarm” over the FAB and the CAB, and strong opposition to the passage of the proposed BBL, in its original form, “even as it now undergoes congressional scrutiny.”
Among the signatories were former Secretary of National Defense and AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Renato de Villla, former AFP Chiefs of Staff Gen. Generoso S. Senga, Gen. Alexander Yano, Gen. Efren Abu, Gen. Dionisio Santiago, former Vice of Staff Lt. Gen. Alfredo Filler, Lt. Gen. Edilberto Adan, chairman and president of the Association of General and Flag Officers (AGPO), Lt. Gen. Raul S. Urgello, chairman and president, KAMPILAN, Inc., Maj. Gen. Jose Magno, former Commander, CENCOM and SOUTHCOM, Rear Admiral Tagumpay Jardiniano, former Flag Officer in Command, Phillipine Navy, Brig. Gen. Danilo D. Lim, RAM Foundation, Inc. They had never signed any similar declaration on any issue before.
Saying that “the implementation of these crafty agreements is an express trip to the dismemberment of the country’s territory and the creation of a Moro state in Mindanao,” and the “renewal of organized violence and horrendous destruction of life and property,” they expressed “unsullied support” for the SC petition filed by PHILCONSA president Congressman Martin Romualdez, Archbishops Ramon Arguelles of Lipa, Romulo de la Cruz of Zamboanga, Archbishop Emeritus Fernando Capalla of Davao, former national security adviser Norberto Gonzales, and this writer, asking the High Court to declare the FAB and the CAB unconstitutional and void.
The manifesto caught PNoy completely by surprise. He reportedly complained that the generals and flag officers could have talked to him first, or to the junior officers who, according to him, were fully supportive of the FAB, the CAB, and the BBL. But the signatories saw no need to talk to Aquino first because, according to them, he “never listens;” as far as the talking to the junior officers is concerned, the retired generals and flag officers are in constant touch with them, and Aquino was being delusional when he said they were in favor of any law that would balkanize Mindanao.
PNoy instructed Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin to dialog with the signatories and verify if they had indeed signed the manifesto and why. But only a few managed to show up for the proposed dialogue with Gazmin, whose reputation appears to have suffered within the military and defense establishment because of unconfirmed yet unrefuted allegations about infected defense contracts related to the AFP modernization program.
Beyond the FAB/CAB/BBL, it is safe to assume that the security sector has developed a clear position on some election-related issues, such as the ongoing effort of the Commission on Elections to install the Venezuelan firm Smartmatic once again at the heart of the 2016 elections, and the determined effort of the oligarchy—-with tacit support from Malacañang— to impose a non-Filipino presidential candidate on the Filipino voters, in contemptuous disregard of the Constitution. I would not suggest that the security sector is prepared, as it was in 1986, to take direct political action against the administration, but it is as clear as daylight that as the constitutional protector of the people and the State, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) will not allow itself to be used by the Aquino administration or the oligarchy for its own ends.
It could on the other hand support popular action by the people fighting for their rights and liberties against a malevolent regime. This is what many seem to be praying for.