ONE way the corrupt try to look clean is to launch a crusade against corruption. The impressionable then think that someone waging war on graft would not engage in it.
That’s how then President Benigno Aquino 3rd could unleash immense sleaze on the nation, and yet still be seen as “corrupt-free,” as his handpicked Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales lauded him last December.
In fact, anomalies under Aquino were huge, even unprecedented in some respects, and are still burdening our people today.
Take the mammoth anomalies in the transport department under Liberal Party stalwarts Mar Roxas and Jose Emilio Abaya. Due to an illegal license plate contract bid out and awarded with no budget allocation, hundreds of thousands of vehicles have no license plates, even if owners already paid P400 each for the illegally contracted plates.
Also bedeviled by incompetence or sleaze are driver’s license cards, also unissued by the millions because the Land Transportation Office under Aquino’s shooting buddy Virginia Torres (God rest her soul) delayed payments on the computerized licensing contractor.
But the real bonanza was at the Bureau of Customs, where smuggling trebled to $26.6 billion in 2014, from less than $8 billion five years before. No wonder the system Aquino left “swallowed” Duterte appointee Col. Nicanor Faeldon, as Sen. Panfilo Lacson put it.
When more than 2,000 cargo containers disappeared in 2011—the biggest spate of smuggling in Philippine history—Aquino never had it investigated. Imagine the racket the yellow camp would have made if that happened under Gloria Arroyo or Rodrigo Duterte.
Still, the most pernicious and anti-democratic sleaze was the use of pork barrel and the illegal Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) to induce legislators to pass Aquino’s pet bills and oust impeachable officials he didn’t like.
The Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), the pork barrel scheme created by Aquino’s mother Corazon, more than doubled under him, from about P8 billion during the Arroyo years, to more than P20 billion from 2011 until the Supreme Court declared PDAF unconstitutional in 2013, and DAP too the following year.
Plus: No less than the Supreme Court in its unanimous decision said that DAP funds were allocated to programs and projects not found in any budgetary appropriations enacted by Congress. Spending public funds in ways not authorized by budget laws constitutes malversation. So, the high court ordered Ombudsman Morales to probe and charge the “authors” of the P157-billion DAP.
The hypocrisy continues
Today, the yellow hypocrisy continues, now decrying moves to hold its stalwarts and appointees accountable for gross anomalies. It has balked at impeachment petitions against Aquino appointees Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, Commission on Elections Chairman Andres Bautista, and Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales.
Is the Liberal Party and its allies in business, legal, and civil society groups saying that the issuance of Supreme Court resolutions without the constitutionally required en banc approval is not serious enough to warrant congressional investigation and prosecution? Plus, the alleged manipulation of the Judicial and Bar Council shortlists of nominees to court vacancies, including the post of Associate Justice, prompting the Supreme Court en banc to overrule the JBC?
Is it now no longer right to impeach officials for not declaring tens or hundreds of millions of pesos in assets, like Sereno’s earnings from the NAIA Terminal 3 case, and most of Comelec Chair Bautista’s nearly P1 billion in bank deposits, as alleged by his estranged wife with passbooks and account statements?
The yellows cheered when the LP-dominated Senate convicted Chief Justice Renato Corona for failing to declare dollar deposits covered by absolute secrecy—an offense that could have been corrected without penalty under the law. So, why are they changing their tune now that their appointees are accused of hiding mountains of cash?
As for Ombudsman Morales, whose predecessor was impeached for allegedly favoring former President Gloria Arroyo, is it now wrong to hold Moales to the same standard of impartiality in dealing with the past administration which appointed her?
Consider what this wrongly awarded paragon of partiality has done. Despite a unanimous Supreme Court ruling that programs and projects not appearing in any pertinent budgetary laws were allocated DAP funds—a textbook case of malversation—she has found no reason to charge Aquino, who signed every DAP disbursement, and merely slapped the wrist of the other DAP author, former Budget Secretary Florencio Abad.
In the disappearance of more than 2,000 cargo containers in 2011, she has exerted zero effort in probing the mammoth smuggling, even if it is so easy to simply grill all those who kept releasing boxes after dozens or hundreds had vanished, so they will point fingers at higher-ups who masterminded the scam.
Are all the foregoing gross and blatant anomalies worthy of the same congressional reckoning which then-President Aquino demanded for CJ Corona and then-Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez?
Or does being named or favored by him exempt officials from accountability, like the LP stalwarts spared from pork barrel cases targeting opposition senators, prompting Catholic bishops to decry “selective prosecution”?
Decrying Duterte ‘despotism’
A further argument raised against impeachment is the power it could give President Duterte over the judiciary, the Comelec, and the Office of the Ombudsman if all their heads were removed. Rights lawyer and former De La Salle University law dean Chel Diokno warned of Duterte despotism.
Well, where were these lemon-tinted objectors when their idol Aquino named his election lawyer Sixto Brillantes as Comelec chairman, his Ateneo classmate Sereno as Chief Justice, and the justice who swore him in as Ombudsman?
Didn’t those three appointments also give the yellow gang immense influence over these independent constitutional bodies?
And more to the point, are they now fighting tooth and nail to keep that clout in the Supreme Court, the Comelec, and the OMB?
Plainly, if Chief Justice Sereno, Comelec Chair Bautista, and Ombudsman Morales, along with their yellow backers, were keen to keep their offices from falling under the sway of Duterte appointees, they should have kept their noses clean. But they didn’t.