If Sen. Francis Escudero thinks that his resignation as Senate Finance committee chairman will defuse the controversy over senators’ insertions in the 2015 budget, he should rethink his position and strategy.
His political ploy answers nothing – because it falls way, way short, of what the media and the public are asking: what were the insertions made in the budget; who made the insertions, and how much were the insertions made by each senator in this blatant defiance of the Supreme Court decision on the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).
As committee chairman, Escudero knew the answers to these questions, because he facilitated their inclusion in the budget. That is part of the chairman’s power and responsibility.
Delicadeza a diversion
In his resignation letter, Escudero cited delicadeza or propriety as his reason for resigning, adding that he is seriously thinking about running for a higher post next year.
“It is, Mr. President, what propriety requires; it is, I believe, what our people expect from us all,” he wrote. “I believe that it behooves me to step down at this juncture to ensure that deliberations on the General Appropriations Bill (GAB) are untainted by suspicions or perceptions of partisan politics.”
By yielding the post and citing delicadeza, the senator clearly hopes to divert the controversy away from discussion of the insertions and his responsibility; and towards the deliberations on the 2016 budget.
This is cunning and deceptive, because:
First, the wrongdoing has already been done on the 2015 budget; and some senators probably have already feasted on their budget insertions; and
Second, Escudero as chairman booked the insertions; and
Third, the 2016 budget deliberations are still for the future.
Call me a nag on this, but the substance of former senator Panfilo Lacson’s expose remains; its stench continues to offend.
And knowing as we do how tenacious Lacson can be, he will not let go. He will persist in annoying his former colleagues in the Senate and alarming the public. Specially because he plans to run for office next year.
Sen. Serge Osmeña added fuel to the fire by disclosing that some senators got P1 billion to P2 billion in insertions. Many are now asking, who are the billion-peso senator-inserters?
The Escudero resignation will not erase the questions. As with the Napoles list in the earlier scandal, the scandal-mongering will not stop until the questions are answered.
Drilon’s formula for closure
Former senator Ernie Maceda set the standard for closure when he disclosed the names of 9 senators who succeeded in inserting their P200-million pork barrel in the 2014 budget. He exposed who, how much, and how president Aquino signed off on the transaction.
Senate President Franklin Drilon dubbed Escudero’s resignation as a deft political move, confirming possible candidacy for higher office next year. Other senators probably hope that the controversy stops there. But it won’t.
Drilon, having served himself as finance committee chairman (he shepherded the Corona bribes) before landing in the Senate presidency, knows where this thing is really going, and how it can be defused.
In statements made on the pork barrel in 2013, Drilon said: “There is no turning back as far as the pork barrel system is concerned. We have to institute these reforms in order to regain our people’s trust and confidence.
“We do not need a special law to abolish PDAF as an item in the General Appropriations Act. Aside from a court ruling that will declare the PDAF unconstitutional, the Executive or the Congress may exercise other options to abolish congressional pork barrel to respond to the clamor of the people.”
First, the President may opt not to include the PDAF item in the National Expenditures Program when he submits it to Congress on an annual basis. Second, the Congress may delete the PDAF item in the General Appropriations Act.
But this is precisely the problem. The President has included pork in the 2015 and 2016 budgets. And senators have resorted and will probably resort to insertions to insure that they get their helpings this year and next year.
157 applause rounds, P157 billion of DAP funds
Was the administration taunting the people when it orchestrated 157 rounds of applause during President Aquino’s SONA?
That’s the same number of billions of public funds that the President and Butch Abad sank into the hellhole of the Disbursement Acceleration program (DAP).
One billion for every round of clapping is an outrageous way of allocating public money!
The only government that does this sort of thing is North Korea, where massive rallies and idolization drives are regularly staged for the leader’s personality cult.
The synchronization of the numbers cannot be coincidental. The rounds of applause could have stopped at 44. That way, Aquino would at least have remembered, if indirectly, the massacred SAF 44 commandos – and balanced his profuse thanks for his nanny and his barber.