Believe it or not, the Aquino administration has surpassed its predecessor in corruption.
Between pork barrel trebling under President Benigno Aquino 3rd to about P25 billion a year, his unaudited, unlegislated and unprecedented releases under the so-called Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP, P137 billion as of October 1), and smuggling hitting nearly $20 billion or some P860 billion a year, plus undiminished jueteng, these ‘Aquinomalies’ may already swell to over P200 billion a year.
Those figures easily dwarf the P7.8 billion average annual Priority Development Assistance Fund allocations in the last three years of then-President Gloria Arroyo, the $3 billion-plus in suspected smuggling every year under her and her predecessor Joseph Estrada, and even the P700-million fertilizer scam and the canceled P15-billion ZTE national broadband project.
Let’s look at these numbers one by one.
First, pork barrel. Arroyo allotted P6.2 billion a year in 2008 and 2009, then P10.9 billion in 2010. That’s P7.8 billion a year average. Despite widely known PDAF anomalies, Aquino tripled his predecessor’s average to P24.8 billion a year from 2011 to 2013. Next year P27 billion was budgeted until the pork barrel controversy forced the House to zero the fund and redistribute it to state agencies (all under Aquino’s control, of course).
With no major PDAF reform instituted by Aquino until last month, and the activities of alleged pork barrel operator Janet Lim-Napoles and her ilk unrestrained till her recent troubles, it’s fair to conclude that congressional kickbacks continued well into 2013—and jumped after pork tripled since 2011. How much more? From P22.5 million per congressional district in 2010, PDAF allocations averaged P62.6 million in 2011 and P72.1 million last year.
Malacañang can debunk that argument by having Budget Secretary Florencio Abad open to the Commission on Audit and public scrutiny all documents for pork barrel since 2010. While he’s at it, his Department of Budget and Management should also make available the papers for two-thirds of the P29 billion in pork releases in 2007-09, mainly for lawmakers in Aquino’s camp, which DBM withheld despite repeated COA requests.
But let’s not hold our breath for Abad to come clean. The fact is, if 2010-13 PDAF papers were graft-free, they would have been released for audit long ago to show things changed under Aquino. Ditto for the still-hidden 2007-09 PDAF papers, including his own as senator. If his pork weren’t corrupted, his papers would be out. Instead, they remain under wraps. No prizes for guessing why.
Next, smuggling. Like DBM pork data, contraband figures come from official statistics analyzed by fellow columnist Rigoberto Tiglao, formerly with leading business journal Far Eastern Economic Review. He reported in another paper last December: “Smuggling in the Philippines is at its worst under President Aquino’s administration, with the smuggled value averaging $19.6 billion annually, an explosion from the comparable figures of $3.1 billion and $3.8 billion yearly during the terms of Presidents Joseph Estrada and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, respectively.”
Smuggling is estimated by comparing total exports to a country as reported by its trading partners, against its own tally of imports, both found in the International Monetary Fund Direction of Trade Statistics. If the amount missing from the importing nation’s data is bigger than negligible figures due to errors, that’s smuggling. It means shipments duly reported by exporting countries were not properly tallied at the destination.
Instead, they slipped in without proper papers. In a word, smuggled.
Under Estrada and Arroyo, the total value of exports to the Philippines reported by other countries to the IMF, exceeded the government’s tabulation of imports by over $3 billion a year. But from July 2010 to June 2012, that discrepancy totaled $39.2 billion or $19.6 billion a year—six times the annual average from 1998 to 2010.
Based on 12 percent value added tax and average tariffs of 7 percent, the revenue losses from the $39.6 billion or P1.66 trillion in estimated contraband in Aquino’s first two years, far exceed P300 billion, about one-eighth of total revenue targeted for the period. His last State of the Nation Address affirmed the losses: “ . . . more than 200 billion pesos in revenue slips through our borders without going into public coffers.”
No wonder the Arangkada group of foreign chambers has raised smuggling as a priority issue. Farmers’ groups are also reeling from smuggled foodstuffs, including many billions of pesos in contraband rice. Even the vaunted claim of sufficiency in the staple looks dubious, since falling official grain imports are offset by unreported shipments.
Lambasting customs agents, the SONA cited an even greater damage from contraband: “they are heedlessly permitting the smuggling of goods, and even drugs, arms, and other items of a similar nature . . .”
Yet for all his recent rage, Aquino has never ordered the kind of multi-agency probe into smuggling which he belatedly did with pork barrel, even if contraband losses dwarf PDAF. Not even when more than 2,000 containers vanished in transit between Manila and Batangas ports in 2011. Although customs records clearly pinpoint who released shipments despite hundreds of disappearances, no one was probed, let alone punished for the country’s worst spate of smuggling ever.
Third point of Aquino-Arroyo comparison would have been monies allocated by the President, like the tens of billions of pesos in contigency funds, gaming and lottery revenues, Malampaya royalties, and Aquino’s legally dubious DAP. But this matchup must wait for COA audits of both regimes, not its selective reports on his opponents.
So far, however, based on DBM budget and IMF trade data, the score is: Arroyo, P7.8 billion PDAF a year average, $3.8 billion estimated annual smuggling; and Aquino, P24.8 billion PDAF, $19.6 billion smuggling. At this game level, Aquinomalies win.