Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma: Lacson is a friend (Photo from

MANILA, OCTOBER 29, 2013 (INQUIRER) By Christian V. Esguerra - Malacañang on Sunday shrugged off former Sen. Panfilo Lacson’s concern about a “fiscal dictatorship” allegedly being exercised by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).

But Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma “noted” Lacson’s warning that “too much fiscal discretion by any branch of the government will not only be not supportive of the principle of check and balance but will also affect the fiscal management efficiency of the national government.”

“Pursuant to its commitment to good governance, this administration is open to appropriate legislation and other reform initiatives that will address this concern,” Coloma said in a statement.

Lacson earlier delivered a speech before the Philippine Constitution Association assailing the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) and the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), which he described as “evil siblings.”

He outlined his long-standing opposition to the pork barrel system and warned against the enormous power wielded by the DBM over the national budget, particularly government savings.

He zeroed in on National Budget Circulars Nos. 541 and 543, which he said allowed the DBM to pool savings and realign them to programs or projects of its choosing. He said the circulars were “indicative of a fiscal dictatorship by the DBM.”
Despite the former senator’s attacks against the DAP and the pork barrel system, the Palace ostensibly refused to fire back, insisting that Lacson was a “personal friend” and “political ally” of President Aquino.

“The bases of his speech were objective and balanced,” Coloma told the Inquirer by phone. “It’s clear in the speech who he was referring to.”

Coloma acknowledged that “certain practices have evolved” and there had been a “tendency toward abuse” by some politicians in the use of pork barrel funds.

“This might have moved away from the original intent of the law,” he said, noting that the administration was now working to address the problem.

But Coloma insisted that the DAP was legal amid petitions asking the Supreme Court to declare it unconstitutional.
“We maintain our position on the legal basis for the adoption of economic stimulus measures that have contributed to GDP growth,” he said in the statement.

“Under our existing laws, both the executive and the legislative branches have specific roles to perform and in so doing, the [DBM] and other national government agencies are guided by the principles of democratic governance.”

The Inquirer earlier reported on how the DBM managed to withdraw “unobligated allotments of agencies with low levels of obligations as of June 20, 2012, both for continuing and current allotments”—all because of budget circular 541, which was released on July 12 of the same year.

Unused appropriations the previous year amounted to P238.85 billion, while the amount was P216.18 billion the following year—meaning the DBM had as much at its disposal.

In October 2011, the department announced a stimulus program called the DAP, which was to make use of pooled savings, initially amounting to P71.11 billion, for “additional projects.”

The Inquirer later learned that DAP savings allowed the Aquino administration to jack up congressional pork barrel by about half (or P12.8 billion) in 2011 and 2012, the first two years covered by the stimulus program. The PDAF totaled P24.8 billion then.


Press Briefing by PCOO Sec. Sonny Coloma Jr.,
Press Briefing Room, New Executive Bldg.,
Malacañang, 24 Oct. 2013


Aquino and his spokesman October 27, 2013 9:29 pm MANILA TIMES by RIGOBERTO TIGLAO


Just two weeks ago, it was Palace spokesman Edwin Lacierda who was called a liar. And not just by any Chinese official but by Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chung-yin.

The official angrily called for a press conference on October 11 after Lacierda reported that in the meeting between President Aquino and the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region chief executive during APEC meeting in Bali on October 7, both “had agreed to put the (Luneta hostage) issue behind them.”

Leung however retorted: “It was not like my meeting with him was to talk about how to put the issue behind us. This is absolutely not the case.”

And then two days ago, it was the spokesman of China’s foreign ministry Hua Chunying, who called Aquino a liar, an embarrassing allegation posted in their website for the world to read.

I don’t remember reading such an allegation ever made by any foreign ministry against the head of state of another country.

Here’s the foreign ministry spokesman’s words, verbatim, as it appears on their website.

“Q: Philippine President Aquino reportedly said on October 23 that he did not talk about the Hong Kong hostage incident with Premier Li Keqiang during their brief meeting on the sidelines of the meetings of East Asia Leaders. What is China’s comment? (Aquino’s statement was made during the open forum after his speech at the Foreign Correspondents Club of the Philippines, or Focap.)

A: Relevant remarks by the Philippine side is [sic] totally untrue. I have already briefed the journalists on October 11 about Premier Li Keqiang’s short discussion with President Aquino on the Hong Kong hostage incident in Brunei on the sidelines of the meetings of East Asia Leaders in the VIP room of the venue. Weonce again urge the Philippine side to earnestly respect the feelings of the families of the victims, take this issue seriously and offer a fair and reasonable solution as soon as possible.”

Aquino lied about domestic affairs in that Focap speech, that the controversy over his “Disbursement Acceleration Program” was a plot hatched by the three senators whom he wants jailed for plunder.

In that same event, he lied about his meeting with the Chinese premiere. With our President being our face to the world, he’ll be creating an image abroad of Filipinos as congenital liars. Somebody stop him.

* * *
Aquino’s explanation made in the same Focap event, why he refuses to apologize over the Luneta hostage crisis in August 2010 that led to the killing of eight Chinese nationals is so shocking—and to be blunt about it, bone-headed—that at first I couldn’t believe what I was reading.

But his words were posted in the government’s website, its Official Gazette, and I copy verbatim:

“Our position is the act of one individual (who was) probably mentally unstable at that point in time, should not be construed as the act of the entire country, and therefore, we have, again, we reiterated our utmost regret as to what has happened.”

I need not really point out how preposterous and idiotic Aquino’s explanation is, but just to be sure, the Chinese are not claiming that hostage-taker former police captain Rolando Mendoza represents the act of Filipinos, that they are asking him to apologize for that egomaniacal murderer’s crimes.

Rather, and this is clear to everyone except Aquino it seems, the relatives’ victims and now both Hong Kong and China’s leaders are asking him to apologize for his government’s bungling and criminal negligence in responding to the hostage-taking situation. Nobody, but nobody is contesting that Aquino’s officials and police botched their handling of the crisis.
Even the so-called inter-agency “Incident Investigation and Review Committee” Aquino set up, headed by his prime attack dog, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, concluded so.

It even recommended the filing of criminal and administrative charges against 15 officials, including then Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim, the vice mayor then Isko Moreno, and Interior and Local Government Undersecretary for police affairs Rico Puno.

Aquino however disregarded the report’s main recommendations, and charged only five police officials on the ground during the crisis and, solely on the basis of the hostage-taker’s allegations, deputy Ombudsman Emilio Gonzalez 3rd, one of the most respected officials in that anti-graft agency. That official was charged “for gross neglect and administrative misconduct” for taking too long to act on the plea filed by the hostage-taker at his office to clear him of extortion charges he was found guilty of in 2010, and that criminal’s claim that Gonzalez was extorting P150,000 from him for a favorable action.

Only the case against one police officer had been resolved so far, that for “negligence” against police general Leocadio Santiago, chief of the National Capital Region Police Office at the time. His penalty? Suspension for 11 days, without salary. Of course he quickly suffered the penalty, went on to become the police’s Special Action Force commander, was cleared in a totally different case (alleged anomalies in a helicopter purchases) filed against him, and then retired with full benefits in March last year.

On the other hand, Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa in April 2011 found Deputy Ombudsman Gonzalez guilty and fired him. However, in what was a slap on Aquino and Ochoa’s faces, the Supreme Court—including Aquino’s “pointlady” there, as it were, Chief Justice Lourdes Sereno—in September 2012 found no basis for the allegations against Gonzalez, and ordered him reinstated, and his back wages be given him.

No wonder the Chinese think that Aquino has done nothing to make those who botched the handling of the crisis accountable. This is why the Chinese premiere told Aquino “to take this issue seriously.”

There would seem though to be a reason for Aquino’s seemingly mad refusal to apologize for the killing of the eight Chinese.

If he does apologize for his officials’ bungling that led to the killings, he in effect would have to charge his civilian officials, as the justice secretary in her report had recommended. These would include former Mayor Alfredo Lim and former undersecretary Puno.

But Lim is one of the closest officials to his mother Cory when she was president, and the former mayor is said to have been some kind of big brother to Aquino. Puno on the other hand is one of Aquino’s best friends since their school days, said to be privy to the president’s deepest personal secrets.

Why, after all, would Aquino sacrifice two people closest to him, just to appease China?

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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