It is unclear now which gave portents of things to come: the President’s speech challenging the Supreme Court’s decision on the (un)constitutionality of the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) or news of Typhoon Rammasun making landfall in the Bicol Region and the Visayas.
It is telling of course that this same President thought it wise to go on nationwide television to address the nation and defend his administration’s system of allocating public funds for various projects, a day before a typhoon was to make itself felt.
This is the same President whose administration went on system failure the moment Typhoon Haiyan hit, not so much because it was unprepared for a storm of that magnitude, but because it decided that the wisest way to deal with the hungry and thirsty, the traumatized survivors, was to refuse to give them relief goods right away, because that would mean not following the system government thought ideal.
Never mind that people were in urgent need of food and water, and were closest to the national government’s headquarters in Tacloban; they had to go back to their barangays and towns, and wait for relief goods to be delivered there. Never mind that people were aimlessly walking and in shock—as one would expect of survivors of the strongest storm to ever make landfall in the world.
And lest we forget, this is the same President who was faced with traumatized Tacloban businessmen who implored him to do something about the peace and order in the city a couple of days after Typhoon Haiyan hit. And this President, instead of listening to the tired and pleading voices of these victims, seemed to take offense, delivering a retort that is difficult to forget:
“But you did not die, right?”
Now that would seem to be portents of things to come really, for this President and his administration.
This President and his administration read Typhoon Haiyan wrong. And anyone who has visited Leyte and Samar since would know that none of the grand promises of permanent housing and building better are actually being fulfilled. What is in the post-Haiyan context is a sinking feeling that the impoverished who survived the storm, are now suffering government neglect, depending more on international humanitarian organizations and local private sector initiatives so that they might live better.
We all know how those bunkhouses look, yes? That is telling of how Haiyan survivors are being treated with regards their other basic needs and rights: food, clothing, health and hygiene, employment.
Now, as rains from Typhoon Rammasun fall, it doesn’t speak well of this government that what we know concerned the President a day before it was to make landfall, was his own administration’s survival given the SC decision on the DAP. And as if to add insult to injury, this morning, the President had the temerity to ask the people to wear a yellow ribbon to show their support for him.
This is what concerns him on the morning Typhoon Rammasun was expected to make landfall: the people’s support for him.
It is unthinking and insensitive. It is also exactly the kind of pettiness that we’ve come to expect from this President, putting this yellow ribbon campaign on the same level as a storm that is to displace thousands of Filipinos.
It is also proof of this President’s inability to let things slide, let his insecurities go, especially since the nation faces something far larger, far more important, and infinitely more urgent. That early Tuesday what was on his mind, enough to articulate it to the media, was the need to prove he had the people’s support is utterly offensive.
It is also like watching a Class President demanding a show of hands from his Student Council because he needs to know who’s on his side.
It is simplistic for sure, but that is also how this President and his government seem to have started to view this crisis we are in. Where the DAP has been declared unconstitutional, and this President and his advisers have decided to put the SC into question by insisting that the DAP was okay, that the President and his men had used the DAP system within the confines of the law, not necessarily the Constitution but an Administrative Code they now invoke.
Now this is not about the SC infallibility as far as I’m concerned, as it is about this President’s. The latter is saying that the SC is wrong on the DAP, because look at all the projects it has funded! Look at the good it has done!
And no, this is not just about the horrible false analogy about him parking in a no-parking-zone to save the life of someone in an emergency. It is about the fact that all this talk about the good DAP has done, the projects that it has funded, only remind us what is fundamentally wrong with this government’s DAP.
Two words: no accountability.
The death of the yellow ribbon
If there is anything we’ve learned studying documents and understanding this government’s disbursements of public funds, it’s that it happens in huge lump sums. The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) takes pride in its releasing these PDAF – and now DAP – allocations, but these are nothing but huge amounts that do not tell us exactly where the money went.
Giving us a list of projects and telling us that it is now the responsibility of that department or that public official to provide the people with a proper accounting of those funds, is to forget that it is the responsibility as well of the Executive to make sure that this money goes where it should, that it fulfills the project it promises. Without proof of where these lump sum disbursements actually went—to the last thousand at the very least—how can this President even invoke “all the good the DAP has done”?
With no proof that every thousand of these DAP billions actually went to that river rehabilitation, that informal settler relocation, that school building, that batch of scholars, how can this government even prove that the DAP has done the good they say it has?
What this President is asking us to do is to believe that these funds went where they should, and that it was felt by the people it was supposed to affect. Never mind that there is no proper accounting of these funds, no documents that prove these projects even exist.
Meanwhile it takes so little for this President to build his self-confidence and believe that he has the people’s support: wear a yellow ribbon. Where that ribbon used to mean support for a national hero who defiantly went back home knowing full well he might be killed; where that used to mean some love and respect for the widow who dared face the dictator.
Now that just means support for a President who, facing a Supreme Court that has declared his system of disbursing funds unconstitutional, is in dire need of nothing but an ego boost.
That’s not just petty. It’s also pathetic.