SOME people should just shut up. Take Budget Secretary Florencio Abad. After President Benigno Aquino 3rd’s handpicked Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales kept him out of the OMB’s probe into the illegal Disbursement Acceleration Program, Abad put him back in.
“We endorse to the President and the President has the final approval,” DAP architect Abad told media the day after Ombudsman Morales announced a preliminary investigation into the biggest malversation in Philippine history.
Abad made the responsibility for approving the P157-billion DAP doubly clear: “I sign the endorsements, and the approval is approved by the President. Of course, all the projects are approved by the President.”
So in issuing DAP orders, Aquino either knew that, as the Supreme Court found, funds went to programs and projects not in the budget, or was deceived by Abad about it.
Now if both men knew that the DAP funded expenditures not in the budget, then they knowingly violated Article VI, Section 29: “No money shall be paid out of the Treasury except in pursuance of an appropriation made by law.”
Even lowly state employees know that spending on unbudgeted items is illegal, and they would say there’s no budget (“walang badyet”) when people ask why certain unfunded services, activities or facilities are not available.
If like Aquino and Abad, violators of this basic principle of government spending can claim good faith, then anyone charged with malversation can just say he didn’t know that spending funds on items not in the budget was illegal until the court ruled on it.
Now, one wonders how fast the Ombudsman’s investigation would go. After all, Morales stalled for 15 months until a Supreme Court petition demanded that she implement its July 2014 order to investigate and charge authors of the DAP.
To help speed things along, the former High Court justice should list the 30 biggest DAP allocations, and ask Abad to show where in the General Appropriations Act they appear. Any that don’t show up in the GAA are illegal, and Abad should be charged with malversation for each of them.
But let’s not hold our breath waiting for Morales to do that.
Tell that to the Marines
Another for the blooper books is US Marines Brigadier General Paul Kennedy’s assurance that “if anybody would challenge the sovereignty of this country, their best friends within this region [presumably referring to the Americans]would respond within a matter of hours and generally I assure you that that is not a hollow promise.”
Maybe the good general should have checked how many hours it took for US forces to respond when Philippine sovereignty over Mischief Reef and Scarborough Shoal were challenged by China. Answer: zero — they never bothered to respond. Instead, Washington watched while Beijing took over the reef in 1995 and the shoal in 2012 from Philippine control.
Of course, the Americans can quibble that Philippine sovereignty over the two spots in the Spratly Islands was disputed, so technically, there was no challenge to it. So what Kennedy means perhaps is that if the republic’s territorial right is established over certain maritime areas, his troops would respond if it’s violated.
So let’s talk about Pag-asa Island, now under Philippine control, but claimed by other countries like China. Since sovereignty is disputed, if rival claimants blockade, bomb or invade Pag-asa, would the US Seventh Fleet require indisputable proof of sovereignty before sailing to the rescue?
Then there’s Washington’s double standard in its security deal with Tokyo. Under that agreement as well as a 2012 US Senate resolution, American forces would respond if the Japanese-contolled Senkaku Islands, which Beijing claims and calls the Diaoyutais, are threatened.
So when China declared an air defense identification zone over part of the East China Sea encompassing the disputed islands, the US sent two B-52 bombers into the ADIZ to challenge it. Hence, in the Senkakus, the United States would defend Japanese control even if sovereignty is disputed.
But really, why bother with a one-star general’s rah-rah talk about how his country would respond to security threats against the Philippines, when such matters clearly are way above his pay grade or anyone in the US military, for that matter.
Those fine points of Washington security policy are matters for American civilian leaders to decide, and the highest authority on this issue had already spoken, so to speak.
Asked twice by Malacañang press how his country would respond if the Philippines’ maritime frictions with China turned violent, visiting President Barack Obama evaded the question and simply said that territorial disputes should be settled peacefully.
And that, General Kennedy, is how your country responds when our sovereignty is challenged, as America has done in incidents past: calling on all sides to keep quarrels peaceful, and never showing its big stick.
Despite that, Washington pushed for the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement to expand American forces rotating in the Philippines, and get access to the country’s bases. This disguised treaty not only violates the Constitution for skirting the Philippine Senate, but also invites attack on the archipelago in any Asian conflict involving US forces, whether or not the Philippines is involved.
It’s Playgirls time
Let’s end this romp through loose lips last week with the recent target of motorists fuming over city traffic and women’s rights activists bristling over the sexploitation of their gender: outgoing Metro Manila Development Authority Chairman and aspiring senatorial candidate Francis Tolentino.
It’s bad enough that he denied getting the Playgirls troupe who titillated Liberal Party politicos at a Laguna gathering, only to be debunked by online posts showing his past and present patronage of the dancers.
But the LP colleague Tolentino feted with the Playgirls, Laguna Congressman Benjie Agarao, didn’t help by insisting the show was fine, quipping: “Lalaking-lalaki ako. Hindi ako masasagwaan.” (Our loose translation: “I’m very manly. I won’t find it offensive.”)
Why can’t they just say sorry?