Third of four parts
Myth No. 3: President Aquino’s boss is the Filipino people.
Every politician, of course, styles himself as the nation’s servant, like President Aquino’s oft-repeated references to the people as his bosses. But the reality is often anything but—most especially with Benigno Aquino 3rd.
His trebling and misuse of pork barrel, augmented by the illegal Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), best demonstrates how the President has done the very opposite of his “Kayo ang Boss Ko” mantra.
The National Transformation Council (NTC), grouping religious, civil society, government, and other sectoral stalwarts, cited Malacañang’s pork bribery of lawmakers as the first reason to urge his resignation. This morally and constitutionally destructive act is so widely acknowledged, even by those in the ruling coalition, that denying it would only erode Palace credibility.
The bribery of Congress using both the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) and DAP, violates three tenets of serving the people and treating them as your master.
First, it breaks the law — the collective will of the nation as formulated by its representatives and, in the case of the Constitution, directly ratified by the electorate. Pork bribery undermines the separation of powers and the independence of Congress, and uses funds in a nefarious manner never mandated by law.
Second, pork bribery undermines democracy — the rule of the people. It induces lawmakers, the citizenry’s chosen representatives, to set aside their sworn duty to speak, vote, and legislate as their constituents require.
Having tripled PDAF from past levels to over P20 billion a year since 2011, and adding DAP to the expanded pork, Aquino has, as the Filipino adage puts it, fried the people in their own lard — using taxpayer funds to corrupt and control the legislature.
Malacañang’s subjugation of Congress has since gone from bribery to blackmail. Budget Secretary Florencio Abad holds over every kickbacking senator and congressman their PDAF records. These can be released to probers, public and press if bribed lawmakers turn against Aquino.
Third, PDAF and DAP bribery harms the people. Already suffering immense privations, the poor and needy — the intended beneficiaries of government programs — are further deprived of the full benefits of budget allocations, as the pork scandal has amply shown.
The many billions of pesos siphoned off looks set to swell further. Despite Supreme Court decisions voiding PDAF and DAP, the 2015 budget has over P20 billion in disguised pork. And grafters in the Aquino camp go scot free, spared by the “selective prosecution” lamented by the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines.
Is this the way to treat the bosses?
Sadly, this pernicious trio of disregarding law, undermining democracy, and hurting people has marked major Aquino actions and initiatives.
DAP violated the Constitution by usurping the Legislative branch’s power of the purse, by which the people’s chosen representatives directly decide how state funds are spent. And by shifting resources, certain sorely needed benefits like the bonuses of hundreds of thousands of schoolteachers were diverted to pet Palace projects and pork barrel.
In the Mamasapano assault against Malaysian and Filipino bomb experts, which cost the lives of 44 Philippine National Police Special Action Force commandos, the Commander-in-Chief broke the chain of command by letting suspended PNP Chief Alan Purisima run the operation and conceal it from top security officials.
Then, when the SAF came under massive attack, Aquino held back reinforcements, according to a reliable source cited by The Manila Times. Most egregious fault of all, Aquino authorized an assault into rebel territory, triggering renewed conflict and endangering peace efforts crucial to harmony and development in Mindanao.
When Yolanda devastated Tacloban and government relief took ages to show up, beaten to disaster areas even by a CNN anchor coming from across the globe, Aquino blamed flooding-decimated local authorities and even taunted a shell-shocked businessman worried about armed looters, “You’re still alive, aren’t you?”
His own ally, Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas, warned that Aquino-Romualdez family animosity could get in the way of national agencies doing their duty to aid Tacloban victims. And even the dead were violated when those found after the 6,000 body count was reached, were no longer counted. (One calamity data expert estimated about 17,000 dead.)
Indeed, the dead and the devastated are at times denied presidential sympathy sorely needed to show that the nation and the government care. When coffins of the SAF’s Fallen 44 arrived at Villamor Air Base, Aquino skipped arrival honors.
He also did not pay respects to murdered transgender Jennifer Laude, saying he did not go to wakes of strangers. And when he toured Yolanda-hit areas a year after the catastrophe, he did not visit Tacloban.
Even long-suffering daily commuters of the capital region’s Metro Rail Transit can only get a presidential argument justifying the doubling of fares, with no word of sympathy or urgent action on the anomalous MRT maintenance deal that created the mess.
Is that what one does when one’s bosses suffer distress, death and destruction?
Public relations, not public service
Aquino did devote many hours talking with orphaned, widowed and bereaved families of the Fallen 44. But that looks more like a self-serving attempt to counter mounting disdain and anger against him among both the people and the security forces.
Indeed, far more than public service, it is public relations and prestige that Aquino is most focused on.
In issue after issue, the Palace would rather look for scapegoats and solutions. As Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle remarked during the papal visit media briefing, the administration tends to blame problems on the past government.
This Aquino obsession with pride and prestige not only hurts his bosses. It has also endangered national security, as the last part of this article will explain.
(Parts 1 and 2 were published on Feb. 24 and 26; the last part will run on Thursday.)