NOT a few are disappointed that President B. S. Aquino has remained untouched despite Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales’ recent move to have the hitherto untouchable Budget Secretary Florencio “Butch” Abad investigated and prosecuted, if warranted, for his role in the massive manipulation and misuse of the constitutionally outlawed P150-billion Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP). Morales’ move followed the reported shouting match inside Malacañang’s Yellow Room between Aquino and Abad, whom the former had earlier described in a speech in Cebu City as the “brains” behind his much touted “daang matuwid” (straight path). Abad’s defense could prove lethal to the President.
Like the Nazis accused of war crimes at Nuremberg, Abad is now trying to say he was merely following superior orders when he instituted the DAP. He obviously anticipated the day of reckoning and made sure it would be Aquino’s neck, not just his own, on the chopping block. He even made sure that every DAP document which required his approval was signed instead by his faithful undersecretary, Mario Relampagos, on his behalf. None of this could completely acquit him, but because of this, PNoy could find himself in a much larger, crocodile-infested swamp.
By pinning on Aquino the ultimate responsibility for his unconstitutional brainchild, Abad has made it clear he saves himself instead of sacrificing himself for his political and intellectual ward. The name of the game now is political survival, and he might survive only by abandoning Aquino to his own fate.
Sources at the Department of Budget and Management claim that Abad has in his possession a document signed by Aquino, authorizing the various uses of the unconstitutional DAP. Abad could use this now to tell the nation the whole story of how Malacañang used the DAP to bribe Congress in order, among other things, to railroad the impeachment and conviction of then Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona, on the basis of eight unverified Articles of Impeachment, which were ultimately reduced to one unimpeachable offense—his inaccurate Statements of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth, which under the law he was allowed to correct.
Related sources claim that when Abad first asked PNoy to sign the purported DAP document, the latter referred the same for study to Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa, who recommended that he not sign it. Despite this, Abad managed to outsmart Ochoa and get PNoy to sign it, the sources said. This is now the lethal weapon in Abad’s hands. Abad knows he has the advantage and has apparently decided to exploit it; some analysts already see dangerous signs in his body language.
One eyewitness has revealed that in PNoy’s recent Malacañang meeting with 20 retired generals, led by former Defense Secretary and AFP Chief of Staff Renato de Villa, Abad made a spectacle of himself by having his arms akimbo (he had his arms bent at the elbows and his hands at his hips) when he spoke to the President. The generals took this as a sign of disrespect for the President and his guests.
In that meeting, PNoy wanted to find out why 31 retired senior officers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the Philippine National Police, the Philippine Coast Guard, the Bureau of Fire Protection, the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology, reservists and veterans had put out a full-page “Manifesto” in the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Sept. 14, 2015) expressing “apprehension and alarm” over the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro and the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro forged between Aquino’s negotiators and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, and “opposition to the passage of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law, in its original form,” as a byproduct of the FAB and the CAB.
The PDI was also reportedly asked why it did not suppress the anti-Aquino ad.
The Manifesto said the implementation of these “crafty agreements” would be “an express trip to the dismemberment of this country’s territory and the creation of a Moro state in Mindanao” as well as the “renewal of organized violence and horrendous destruction of life and property.” It expressed “unsullied support” for the Philconsa petition before the Supreme Court, asking the Court to declare the FAB and the CAB unconstitutional and prevent their hasty implementation. This petition was signed by Philconsa president, Rep. Martin Romualdez, together with Archbishop Ramon Arguelles of Lipa, Archbishop Romulo de la Cruz of Zamboanga and Archbishop Emeritus Fernando Capalla of Davao, former national security adviser Norberto Gonzales and this writer.
According to our eyewitness, PNoy tried to suggest that Sen. Ferdinand (Bongbong) Marcos Jr., who has conducted extensive hearings on the proposed BBL, and authored an alternative Senate version of measure to the draft, was responsible for the full-page ad. He was quickly corrected by retired Commodore Liberato Lazo, president of the Kapisanan ng mga Kawal sa Mindanao, who said the ad was an independent, patriotic initiative of the retired flag officers, and that Bongbong Marcos had nothing at all to do with it.
PNoy tried to say something about the Philconsa position, but before he could do so, former Chief of Staff Gen. Dionisio Santiago cut in to say he was a member of Philconsa, and started discussing the contents of the SC petition.
PNoy was especially warm to De Villa and to retired Major General Jose C. Magno, former Cencom and Southcom commander, who was also close to the late President Cory Aquino, and the generals found the conversation with PNoy pleasant and fruitful. But what stuck out of the meeting, according to our eyewitness, was Abad’s unusual behavior. They could not remember his exact intervention, but they are not likely to forget an image of his superior (supercilious) posture, said our eyewitness.
The apparent danger Abad poses to Aquino is not only legal, but also political. Abad remains one of the leaders of the so-called Hyatt 10, the group of Cabinet and other senior officials who were ousted by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, PNoy’s immediate predecessor, after they had threatened to oust her. Not all of them are still in office, but the bulk of them had become the most powerful members of the Aquino government. They could still stage the same putsch which was aborted under GMA.
What happened then?
Because of the various scandals that began with the alleged rigging of the 2004 presidential election, compounded by the alleged corrupt transactions involving the “First Gentleman” and some of his adult children, GMA had become so unpopular that at one point former president Corazon Aquino led a number of friendly bishops to ask her to resign. The administration was morally and politically hemorrhaging. To staunch the hemorrhage, the Cabinet decided to intervene.
In a meeting led by then Defense Secretary Avelino (Nonong) Cruz, the Cabinet agreed the “First Gentleman” and the Arroyo children should voluntarily exile themselves to some foreign country while the embattled Mrs. Arroyo takes a low public profile and allows the Cabinet to be seen as running the government.
But unbeknownst to Arroyo, and many members of the Cabinet, Abad, who was then Secretary of Education, Nonong Cruz and Sen. Franklin Drilon, their chief ally in the Senate, were said to be hatching a move to remove GMA from the presidency altogether This involved invoking Section 11, Article VII of the Constitution.
This provides: “Whenever a majority of all the members of the Cabinet transmit to the President of the Senate and to the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice-President shall immediately assume the powers of the office as Acting President.
“Thereafter, when the President transmits to the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives his written declaration that no inability exists, he shall reassume the powers and duties of his office. Meanwhile, should a majority of all the Members of the Cabinet transmit within five days to the President of the Senate and to the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Congress shall decide the issue. For that purpose, the Congress shall convene, if it is not in session, within forty-eight hours, in accordance with its rules and without need of call.”
The reported plot failed, largely because GMA’s vice president, the broadcaster Noli de Castro, refused to join. They promised him heaven and earth, but De Castro remained loyal to Arroyo and the Constitution. In the case of PNoy’s vice president, Jejomar C. Binay had earlier left the Cabinet, where he used to be in charge of overseas Filipino workers’ concerns and housing, and declared himself the presidential challenger from the opposition. But he has been the object of a two-fisted demolition campaign by the same elements of the former Hyatt 10. This has caused his public trust rating to fall, behind that of the non-performing and untrustworthy PNoy.
An alliance between the Abad camp and Binay is completely unlikely, but part of the demolition job aganst Binay is a plan to fast-track the five-year-old protest at the Presidential Electoral Tribunal by the defeated vice presidential candidate and now LP presidential nominee Mar Roxas, and to have him declared as the real vice presidential winner in 2010. Roxas would then sit as vice president, and led by Abad, the original Hyatt 10 could then invoke the previously quoted Section 11 Article VII of the Constitution against PNoy.
Abad’s camp is confident, our sources say, that if there is a move to divide the House, PNoy could expect full support only from Ochoa, Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, Science and Technology Mario Montejo, who is related to Ochoa by affinity, but that’s all.
That, they point out, is how the cookie crumbles.
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PERSONAL. I cannot thank everyone enough for all their warm greetings and prayers on my 76th birth anniversary yesterday, on the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi. Please continue praying that nothing I say or do in and outside this space will ever offend the dignity of the family, the trust of my neighbor, the honor of our country, and our Lord’s love and peace.