SANTIAGO: WHERE IS 'DAANG MATUWID? EVEN GPS CAN'T LOCATE IT
Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago
MANILA, OCTOBER 29, 2013 (INQUIRER) By Julliane Love De Jesus - Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago said Monday that it is difficult to find the Aquino administration’s “daang matuwid” and hinted that even a “Global Positioning Service (GPS)” cannot locate it.
“I was full of hope that at least he (Aquino) will lead us to the daang matuwid but where we are now, we are far from that. How can you GPS daang matuwid from here?” Santiago said in an interview with Radyo Inquirer 990AM when asked about the pork barrel scam controversy rocking the government.
Santiago expressed her disappointment with Aquino and challenged the President to clear his name and resolve the pork controversy that has also linked the office of his Budget Secretary Florencio “Butch” Abad.
“Before, he (Aquino) was a Teflon president. All the mud stuck to everybody else except him. Now, can the President of the Philippines tell the public that my Budget secretary does things behind my back?” Santiago said.
Santiago said she is hoping that Aquino has no participation in the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) scam and the P1.107 billion Disbursement Allocation Program given to legislators who voted to convict Chief Justice Renato Corona last year.
On Sunday, Abad released a list of lawmakers who were given P50 million each as DAP. The Budget chief was prompted to release the list after Senator Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada disclosed in his privilege speech the financial “incentive” given to his fellow senators who convicted Corona.
The Department of Budget and Management (DBM), headed by Abad, is the agency responsible for distributing and approving the budget allocated to the PDAF of senators and congressmen.
In the interview, Santiago reiterated that Cabinet members are “mere alter egos of the President” and they only serve as the extension of the physical body of the President “who can’t be everywhere at the same time.”
“They cannot just act without the President’s order,” she said.
FROM THE PHILSTAR:
Here’s the point: Kung walang DAP/PDAF, walang mahirap GOTCHA By Jarius Bondoc (The Philippine Star) | Updated October 28, 2013 - 12:00am
By Jarius Bondoc
MANILA - Malacañang is using every justification for its fetid Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).
One presidential spokesman crows that the Supreme Court’s hesitance to stop it “proves its validity”.
Another mocks the public’s criticisms as a “diversionary ploy” from the congressional pork-barrel scandal.
A third calls carping ex-senators names. The same babbles that President Noynoy Aquino’s continuing high public ratings upholds the DAP as well.
Yet no defending can remove the DAP’s stain. For, the Palace has done everything except to face the core of the issue.
And that is: the DAP is discretionary in nature. As such, it is prone to abuse and corruption. It is the Executive’s version of the congressional “pork”, the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF). Thus, both must be abolished.
The P27.5-billion annual PDAF – P200 million per senator and P70 million per congressman – is an open invitation for plunder. Lawmakers have the leeway to spend it as they please. Thus did they filch P10 billion of it in 2007-2009, through facilitator Janet Lim Napoles alone.
There purportedly are more such fixers: Ruby Tuason, new congresswoman Nancy Catamco, et al, with bogus NGOs and projects. Through the years the lawmakers’ “standard” kickbacks rose, from 10 percent to the present 90 percent. The High Tribunal has upheld the congressional “pork’s” legality – lest the lawmakers cut the Judiciary’s salaries. Still, well-meaning citizens unrelentingly oppose it.
The DAP is worse – for its sheer size in the hands of only one man. It consists of all the midyear “unspent funds” of slowpoke Executive agencies, and yearend “savings” of diligent ones.
In 2012 alone it totaled P216.1 billion, 12 percent of the P1.8-trillion national budget, according to former senator Panfilo Lacson. No cabinet appointee dared to question the President’s discretionary juggling around of such money; silence even meant partaking of it.
Aquino plunked part of that 2012 DAP to Congress. Supposedly he had to, since his administration was under fire for “under-spending”. Disbursing P50 million to P100 million per senator and P15 million to selected congressmen, for whatever purpose, allegedly sped up spending for grassroots projects.
There’s no proof of that. DAP allotments to the lawmakers have yet to be audited.
Such audit is needed not only to comply with law, but also because of the timing of the fund releases. They came in mid-2012 right after the congressmen impeached and the senators ousted Chief Justice Renato Corona for corruption.
It was a bribe, maintains Sen. Jinggoy Estrada, who earlier was implicated in the PDAF scam. Even if “diversionary” as Malacañang claims, Estrada’s peanut-butter defense of spreading the guilt around does not exculpate him.
The Palace might as well cry that every intervening event – the Zamboanga siege, the exposure of Ma’am Arlene Angeles Lerma as the Napoles of the Judiciary, even the Bohol-Cebu killer earthquake – were diversionary too.
The fact remains that the DAP was kept secret from the public, due perhaps to tentativeness of objective, until exposed by Estrada. Even senators close to Aquino, like Lacson, say they were surprised with its existence. The concealment is akin to the previous Arroyo regime, which with favorite lawmakers and governors plundered the P165-billion Malampaya Fund.
At least P12.8 billion in DAP went to the lawmakers in 2011-2012, Budget Sec. Butch Abad admits. That’s nearly half the annual PDAF, notes Lacson. Abad’s candidness about the totals does not make it clean. Lacson in fact links to the public debt the transfer of Executive funds to the Legislature in a disturbing way. If there are billions in budget savings and yet the government continues to borrow money, says he, then it’s all to facilitate plunder.
Aquino’s continuing popularity is due to widespread perception that he, amidst thieving politicos, is clean. Yet that’s no license for abuse, says Joker Arroyo, the ex-senator whom Malacañang routinely badmouths. DAP critics want all discretionary funds subjected to bottom-up, line-item budgeting.
That way, precious government funds truly would be spent to eradicate poverty and ignorance. Consequently it would free the people from political dynasties, farcical elections, and debt. As the slogan circulating in blogs and social media states: Kung walang DAP/PDAF, walang mahirap.
FROM THE INQUIRER
‘Daang matuwid’ made crooked by dirty pork By Ermelo Dusaban Biron Philippine Daily Inquirer 11:35 pm | Wednesday, August 7th, 2013
When P-Noy assumed the presidency three years ago he pledged to his “boss,” the Filipino people, governance on a straight path. To his credit, he has vastly reduced graft and corruption in the government.
Graft no longer germinates in the vortex of power—the presidency. Unlike his predecessor, P-Noy has never been linked to corruption. The grafters in the government, the smugglers and the fixers who still ply their nefarious trade, do so in violation of the strict standards of conduct imposed by P-Noy.
But P-Noy’s “daang matuwid” is made crooked by the dirty pork barrel system. He appears not to possess the political will to stop once and for all this rotten practice that drains the national treasury of billions of pesos in taxpayers’ money every year. P-Noy knows this personally because he was once a congressman and deputy speaker.
The P10-billion pork barrel scam reportedly handcrafted by Janet Lim-Napoles through her phony nongovernment organizations is just the tip of the iceberg. More ugly revelations are expected to unfold, subjecting our country and people to embarrassment and derision in the global community.
There are almost 300 members of the House of Representatives. Multiply this number with the P70 million given to each representative, and the product is a staggering P21 billion. Add to this the P200 million given to each of the 24 senators (or P4.8 billion), and we have close to P26 billion of the people’s money thrown into the pond where many insatiable crocodiles are happily waiting.
If the kickback from the costs of projects and programs funded by the pork barrel is at least 20 percent, a dishonest representative can enrich him/herself by P14 million a year or P42 million in three years—a huge amount that can ensure his/her reelection.
Do you still wonder why political dynasties thrive? The pork oils their electoral machine for maximum efficiency to crush their opponents. I know whereof I speak because I was privileged to serve as chief of staff of an honest lawmaker for nine years—Rep. Ferjenel G. Biron, MD (4th district, Iloilo), who completed his third term last June 30.
There are only a few like him in the House who have not yet been swallowed by the system. If only 90 percent of our lawmakers are as honorable vis-à-vis their Priority Development Assistance Fund, there is no rationale for writing this commentary.
Had P-Noy detonated a bomb during his fourth State of the Nation Address by announcing the demise of the pork barrel system—simply by omitting the PDAF appropriations in the proposed budget for 2014—he could have jolted and angered the members of the 16th Congress. But he would have won the hearts of the Filipino people and, more importantly, secured his lofty place in history.
The danger signs are unsettling. The public outrage against the pork barrel system is gaining momentum and spreading like a brush fire. It may intensify to fan organized street protests.
Is P-Noy a traditional politician or a statesman? More paramount than his personal desire to make Mar Roxas his successor as a return favor for the latter’s giving way to his presidential candidacy in 2010 is the judgment of history.
Will he be remembered as a weak President who yields to the pressure of politicians and the exigencies of partisan politics, or a strong president and statesman who, unmindful of the future of the ruling Liberal Party, makes a bold decision in the best interest of the nation?
Ermelo Dusaban Biron is a retired lawyer from Chicago, Illinois, in the United States, and a volunteer Christian missionary with CARE Philippines.
Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi
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