When I speculated on what might follow after the Supreme Court rules that the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) is illegal and unconstitutional, I weighed various scenarios, such as another EDSA Revolt, the impeachment of President Benigno Aquino 3rd, the mass resignation of his Cabinet, even another superstorm (given our rotten luck), and Aquino’s voluntary resignation.
But I never imagined that some compatriots would be paralyzed into thinking that leaving the status quo in place is preferable to action to impeach President Aquino. It never occurred to me that some of our so-called political leaders would have the temerity to declare that President Aquino has nothing to answer for, because he authored and authorized the DAP “in good faith.”
Here we are, gifted with a magnificent and comprehensive High Court decision on an issue of surpassing import to the nation, with far-reaching impact on the future, and yet many of us are confused about their loyalties, and are too blind to see that we face here acts of fundamental immorality, a regime of systematic looting of the treasury, and that, but for the squealing of one senator and the agitation of watchdogs, our country might have been reduced to total bankruptcy.
Worse, some can’t appreciate the fact that we have here the opportunity of a lifetime for our people to purge the system and banish government by plunder and hypocrisy.
Escalating arguments on what to do
This July 2014, we have come to the hour when we must decide how we are going to accomplish this purgation of the system.
It is profoundly dismaying to witness the escalating arguments on what we should do next, over whether:
We should immediately launch the impeachment of President Aquino in the House of Representatives, and whether the process will just be a fruitless and divisive exercise;
Whether Secretary Abad should be forced to resign and hauled to court immediately to answer charges of bribery and malversation of public funds.
Whether the bribes received by senators and representatives for the impeachment of former Chief Justice Renato Corona should be returned to the treasury;
Whether Commission on Audit chair Grace Pulido-Tan should be impeached and charged for not auditing DAP funds; and
Whether the Court’s decision on the DAP has unwittingly provided an escape hatch for Aquino and Abad by citing the doctrine of operative facts and musing about “good faith.”
The smug statement of Malacañang mouthpieces that the administration “has done nothing wrong” has driven many citizens up the wall.
The blithe suggestion that the people should wait for the end of Aquino’s term in 2016 to make him face his crimes has led to angry exchanges in public and online.
No one probably is more dismayed about all this than the honorable justices of the Supreme Court who labored to craft a good and unassailable ruling and thought it would help end this national nightmare.
Well, the hour has come to start the exorcism, or catharsis as I described it in an earlier column.
There is today, right now, an absolute imperative to action following the SC decision. If the nation fails to act, government would lose the people’s support, and all moral authority to make its decisions effective.
Let me outline some of the steps that I believe are necessary for the purgation of the system.
First, I totally agree with the call from all over that as a first and necessary step, there should be a comprehensive audit of the DAP and all its funds, how many billions were put at hazard, where every peso went, to what projects and to whom.
The staggering amount of P149 billion of taxpayers money makes the audit a compelling necessity. Grace Tan’s policy of selective auditing has no place in this task. She should resign at once, fold up her bid for a seat in the Supreme Court, and take her kahindik-hindik act home. There are many professional people of integrity at the Commission on Audit who can do the job.
Second, implementing the ruling is a key task of the executive, and should not be a partisan issue. A tourniquet must be applied immediately to stop the flow of money into the DAP program and projects. This will help drain the swamps of corruption.
But to delay the inevitable, the Palace says it may appeal the ruling. This is pure rubbish. Ignoring the judicial order and lying about the situation will have grave consequences. Even the president has no power to resist the ruling. it has the force of law.
Third, Impeachment is the constitutional remedy. The impeachment of President Aquino must be faced and faced expeditiously.
We must stop wringing our hands over this challenge.
There is a chorus—in the House and the Senate, and even in the media—that impeachment is a risky course for the nation to take at this time. The congressional leadership shrinks from the idea of impeachment because Aquino is their party leader. This is conventional, mercenary and misguided. As the great management theorist-teacher Peter Drucker has observed: “What everyone knows is usually wrong.” When everyone thinks alike, nobody is thinking very much.
Here’s the stark reality: under our presidential system, impeachment is the sole constitutional remedy for terminating a lawless presidency that has committed impeachable offenses. The parliamentary system is more efficient in removing frailed leaders.
The power to impeach belongs to Congress. But rather than a power, it’s really more of a responsibility, and Congress should not shirk it.
As Barbara Tuchman has written, “Political expediency should not take precedence over decency in government.” Otherwise we would be a joke.
If Speaker Belmonte and other House members insist on playing it as just a game of numbers, the people will not forgive the Liberal party. And history will judge them harshly.
Belmonte and Drilon should note that the key reason President Aquino lost so dismally in the DAP fight before the Supreme Court, was because he transgressed the separation of powers between the executive and the legislature, and because he usurped Congress’ “power of the purse.” All the violations flowed from this.
The court decision affirmed this fundamental power of Congress. Congressional leaders should be singing hosannas to the High Court, not protecting Aquino.
What troubles so many people is that something this criminal and massive as the DAP has been happening in our country over the last four years; it has happened with the complicity of Congress.
The fact that something this illegal can be excused by party leaders for the sake of party interest is dangerous.
Partisan politics is not above the rule of law.
When politicians calculate and choose to defend their leader or their party instead of looking after the interest and welfare of the nation, they are gambling with popular will. The people must take notice and must do everything within their power to make sure that they are represented by better leaders.
As a fourth step in my imperative to action, Budget Secretary Butch Abad must be immediately indicted for bribery and malversation of public funds.
The Ombudsman, who has a constitutional office independent of President Aquino, has a constitutional duty to investigate and indict.
And the Sandiganbayan will have the responsibility to try him.
We should approach Abad’s indictment as though Abad were like a Nazi war criminal and author of the final solution. The billions of public money he has squandered is the equivalent of the holocaust.
A great nation, Israel, was born out of the holocaust.
Who knows, a new Filipino nation may be born out of the ashes of the DAP.
Finally, there is an international and generational dimension to the decision we take in cleansing our political system and punishing all guilty parties in the DAP anomaly.
What will it say about our democracy before the world, if in the face of a sound ruling by our Supreme Court, we turn away from holding to account the president of our country? What does it say to future public officials of our government, if we fail to punish all those responsible for these high crimes against the nation?
It would say to other countries that we are not a nation worthy of their friendship and respect. It would say to future officials that it’s all right to steal from the national treasury.