AQUINO TO CRITICS: I DID NOT STEAL / 'PNoy INSISTS: I AM NOT A THIEF



MANILA, NOVEMBER 4, 2013 (MANILA TIMES) by CATHERINE S. VALENTE REPORTER - President Benigno Aquino 3rd again defended the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) on Wednesday and reiterated that he did not steal from public coffers through this fund scheme.

In his 10-minute speech, the President took a swipe at some personalities involved in the alleged multi-billion peso pork barrel scam and said that they were the ones behind the attacks against the DAP.

He said that his critics intend to distract the public on the issue of the P10-billion pork barrel scam allegedly perpetrated by Janet Lim-Napoles and several lawmakers.

“ I repeat: The issue here is theft. I did not steal. Those who have been accused of stealing are those who are sowing confusion; they want to dismantle all that we have worked so hard to achieve on the straight path,” he said.

”We were stolen from, we were deceived—and now we are the ones being asked to explain? I have pursued truth and justice, and have been dismantling the systems that breed the abuse of power—and yet I am the one now being called the “Pork Barrel King?” he asked.

Aquino was apparently referring to Senators Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada, Juan Ponce Enrile and Ramon “Bong” Revilla, who along with 35 other respondents, were charged with plunder for their alleged involvement in the misuse of their pork barrel funds.

The President maintained that DAP has a legal basis.

“Spending through DAP is clearly allowed by the Constitution and by other laws. DAP is only a name for a process in which government can spend both savings and new and additional revenues,” he said.

He noted that the DAP releases were sourced from the overall savings of the national government, which includes unprogrammed funds generated from windfall revenue collections, unreleased appropriations from slow-moving projects, and terminated programs, among others.

”Where did these funds come from? They came from our efforts to stop the connivance of some in bidding for contracts, in padding costs, overpricing, and kickbacks,” he added

The President said that DAP should not be likened to the much maligned Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).
“The Disbursement Allocation Program is not pork barrel. The DAP is not theft. Theft is illegal,” he noted.

He said that funds under the DAP went to projects that benefitted the people such as the building of roads, health and education programs for the poor, the program to relocate informal settlers, scholars and sitio electrification program, among others.

“You can decide for yourselves: Is this wrong? When has it ever been wrong to look for a constitutional way to serve our countrymen more effectively?” he asked.

“The benefits of these projects reached our countrymen faster and earlier, and we were able to spend the money allocated yearly in our National Budget more prudently and efficiently,” he added

Aquino said that DAP contributed 1.3 percentage points to the gross domestic product growth of the country in the fourth quarter of 2011.

The program also helped the Philippines acquire investment grade status from the three most reputable credit ratings agencies in the world.

“This economic growth—and its positive effects, which have redounded to our countrymen, especially those in the margins of society—this is the product of principled spending, and not of stealing. Money once pocketed by the corrupt is now being used to help our people, particularly the poor,” he said.

FROM THE INQUIRER

Aquino insists: I am not a thief By Christian V. Esguerra, Michael Lim Ubac Philippine Daily Inquirer 12:52 am | Thursday, October 31st, 2013

Hits ‘thieves’ sowing confusion on DAP


REMEMBERING NINOY, CORY President Aquino and sisters Pinky Abellada and Ballsy Cruz hear Mass at the tomb of their parents—former Sen. Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr. and former President Corazon Aquino—at Manila Memorial Park in Parañaque City. NIÑO JESUS ORBETA

President Aquino on Wednesday night made a rare public address on prime time TV in defense—yet again—of the controversial Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) and to assail certain politicians for allegedly seeking to muddle the issue and bedevil his administration.

“The issue here is theft. I am not a thief,” he declared in a fiery 12-minute speech that purportedly sought to set the record straight on the controversial economic stimulus program whose constitutionality has been questioned in the Supreme Court and the special funds that critics describe as the President’s pork barrel.

“Those who have been accused of stealing are those who are sowing confusion; they want to dismantle all that we have worked so hard to achieve on the straight path,” he said.

“We were stolen from, we were deceived—and now we are the ones being asked to explain? I have pursued truth and justice, and have been dismantling the systems that breed the abuse of power—and yet I am the one now being called the ‘Pork Barrel King?’”

Aquino then vowed to go after those who pocketed millions in pork barrel funds.

“If you think that this will stop me from going after you, if you think that you can divert the public’s attention, if you think you can get away with stealing from our countrymen—you have sorely underestimated me and the Filipino people,” he said.

“If there still remains some vestige of kindness in your hearts, I hope that you stop acting in self-interest, and instead act to help your fellowmen.”

The President called attention to the purported strategy being employed by those accused in the alleged misuse of the congressional Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).

“If you can’t explain it, muddle it; if you can’t deodorize it, make everyone else stink; if you can’t look good, make everyone look bad. You have heard what they are saying: That we are all the same,” he said, claiming that his accusers “have taken the advice of an old politician from their camp.” He did not name the politician.

Aquino, whose net satisfaction rating dipped in a September survey, then sought to differentiate himself from the group.
“We are not the same. I have never stolen,” he said. “I am the one who goes after thieves.”

The President, midway through his six-year term, said he had appointed “people of unquestionable integrity who are fulfilling their sworn duties.”

In seeking to clarify the pork barrel controversy himself, the President asked the public to come up with an “understanding and a resolve that aligns with the truth.”

“I laid out the truth of what has been happening in our nation,” he said.

The address, which took place on prime time television, marked the first time that Aquino asked networks for “air time to directly address the Filipino people,” according to a Palace briefer.

“Disappointing,” said Peachy Bretaña, an antipork activist. “He didn’t get it,” she said on her Twitter account. “It’s the system.”

It was also the second time that the President sought to address the public on the pork barrel controversy, since the scandal erupted four months ago following a series of Inquirer exposés which outlined how Janet Lim-Napoles allegedly masterminded a P10-billion scam that diverted lawmakers’ pork barrel allocations into massive kickbacks.

Million People March

The first came on Aug. 23, three days before the Million People March against pork barrel in Manila. That time, he declared in another televised address that it was “time to abolish” the PDAF.

Taking its cue from the President, the House of Representatives then deleted the PDAF item in the 2014 national budget, but distributed a total of P25.4 billion among six agencies. The biggest portion—a total of P9.654 billion for the Department of Public Works and Highways—was to be spent on projects to be “suggested” by each House member in a mechanism reminiscent of the old PDAF system.

Napoles and Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and Ramon Revilla Jr. are among 38 people under investigation by the Office of the Ombudsman for plunder in connection with the scheme that allegedly defrauded the government of funds meant to ease rural poverty.

“Did we not appoint the Commission on Audit (COA) leadership that reviewed the documents leading to the discovery of PDAF abuse? And now, can we not expect a fair and just investigation, because the Ombudsman we appointed walks alongside us along the straight path?” he asked in a televised speech.

“Might I remind those who have forgotten: The real issue here is stealing. This is the topic they have constantly tried to avoid ever since their wrongdoing was exposed. I can’t help but shake my head, since the first thing I expected was for them to at least deny the accusations,” he said.

“After all, is that not the natural reaction of anyone who is accused of anything? And yet, in the midst of all their extended counter-accusations hurled against me, not once have I heard them say: ‘I did not steal.’”

Pump-priming tool

Little was known of the DAP until Estrada in a privilege speech said that “incentives” were given to the senators to convict Chief Justice Renato Corona for dishonesty in his statement of assets, liabilities and net worth.

Budget Secretary Florencio Abad later acknowledged that P50 million to P100 million in additional pork barrel were given to the senators after Corona’s conviction.

But Aquino said that the DAP was in fact used in pump-priming the economy, pointing to rosy reports from the World Bank and the investment upgrades received by the Philippines from credit-rating agencies. He said that his special funds were used to address devastation caused by Tropical Storm “Sendong” in 2011 and the recent assault of the Moro National Liberation Front in Zamboanga province.

“Let me make it clear: The Disbursement Allocation Program is not pork barrel. Of the DAP releases in 2011 and 2012, only 9 percent was disbursed for projects suggested by legislators. The DAP is not theft. Theft is illegal. Spending through DAP is clearly allowed by the Constitution and by other laws,” he said.

Aquino said the DAP was only a name for a process in which government can spend both savings and new and additional revenues to priority projects.

“Where did these funds come from? They came from our efforts to stop the connivance of some in bidding for contracts, in padding costs, overpricing and kickbacks. They came from the proper spending of our budget. They came from the good governance now seen in our GOCCs,” he said, referring to government-owned and -controlled corporations.

He explained that there were some agencies that, for a variety of reasons, were unable to implement their projects right away, but there are those that are very efficient in implementing their projects.

“When projects are stalled, naturally, we will not spend for them. We did not allow these funds to remain dormant. We looked for programs under implementing agencies that had proven themselves to be fast and efficient, and we channeled our savings into these programs—together with the additional revenue of the government,” he said.

“My bosses, we have fought so many battles. And I am grateful that no matter how foul the slander and the sabotage, you never let go, you never gave up. Together we proved that there are no tyrants if there are no slaves. Now, those who have abused our trust want to cast us off the course towards the fulfillment of our collective aspirations. I do not believe that you will let this pass. And so long as you are with me, I will continue to stand for our principles,” he said.

FROM THE MANILA STANDARD

Digging himself a deeper hole By Alejandro Del Rosario | Posted on October 30, 2013 at 12:01am | 2,197 views

“Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves.”—Confucius

This is wise counsel President B.S Aquino, who has Chinese blood in him, should well heed lest he reap the whirlwind of a perfect political storm.

Aquino has already eroded three years of his presidency by focusing his attention on perceived enemies instead of harnessing all the resources of government to unite a deeply divided nation. At the rate Aquino is going, he’s gaining more enemies and losing friends.

The latest dropout among Aquino’s allies is former Senator Panfilo Lacson who delivered a scathing speech last week before the Philippine Constitution Association unmasking the administration’s “ugly side.” Philconsa is one of the petitioners questioning the constitutionality of the Disbursement Acceleration Program before the Supreme Court

Lacson assailed Aquino’s fiscal dictatorship through the patently illegal use of the Priority Development Assistance Fund and the Disbursement Acceleration Program to bribe senators and congressmen to follow Malacanang’s agenda,

With his Philconsa remarks, Lacson burned whatever bridge he had to Aquino as he dismissed any prospect of a position in PNoy’s government. By doing so, Ping himself slammed the door on Aquino and not the other way around.

Lacson and retired Senator Joker Arroyo never availed of their pork barrel allocation.

Meanhile, Senator and Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile scoffed at a justice department move to have his passport cancelled.

“Where will I go? I haven’t traveled for some time now, except to the Republic of Cagayan,“ jested Enrile as he compared Aquino to a “man in a quagmire sinking deeper and deeper.”

Malacanang’s lightweight legal advisers should check whether the last time they looked a visa is needed to travel to Cagayan, the 89-year old opposition senator’s stronghold and home province.

“It’s absurd to claim we are a threat to national security because the government’s alleged plunder case does not have any element of or fall within the ambit of national security,” said Enrile who certainly knows his law.

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, when she is not being kept out of the Palace loop, asked the Department of Foreign Affairs to cancel the three senators’ passports.

Enrile is not one to take flight; he wants the government to press its case so he can defend himself in court. It would be interesting to see government lawyers taken to school by the venerable senator.

Over at the Palace, the President it seems is not happy with the performance of the talking heads that compose the Communications and Strategic Planning Group of Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda, Deputy Spokesperson Abigail Valte and Press Secretary Ramon Carandang.

The first sign of a crack in the Palace propaganda wall was when Aquino called in the low-key Herminio “Sonny” Coloma whose turf is the Philippine Information Agency to take a more active role in Malacanang’s daily press briefings. Lacierda and Valte downplayed being relegated to lesser roles by claiming it was Coloma who volunteered to help out.

Veteran newspapermen cannot recall when Malacanang’s press secretaries have received as much flak as the present group who tend to lie, muddle issues or sound smart-alecky.

Aquino has only two years and eight months left in his unraveling presidency which is perhaps why he is not inclined to revamp his Cabinet. What if he fires them and then cannot find replacements willing to be part of a floundering regime?

Retired Senator Francisco Pangilinan who earlier expressed interest in a Cabinet position as agriculture secretary has opted out even as some members of the President’s official family could be thinking of leaving the sinking ship.

Kiko’s Big Mama, the megabucks star Sharon Cuneta, probably told him to stay out of dirty politics or else…

Despite the bravado and confrontational attitude, Aquino’s siege mentality leaves him no choice but to keep those who are at least loyal and willing to stay the course. His dilemma is the problem of every lame duck president.

He is only as good long as he can dispense favors and pork barrel funds.

Even Aquino’s appointees to the Supreme Court need not feel beholden to him anymore. Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno and Associate Justice Marvic Leonen are young and their tenure, under the Constitution, go beyond post-Aquino.

With control of both the pork-fed House and the Senate, Aquino for now is able to barricade himself against any attempt to impeach him.

Since a sitting President is immune from suits, a line will have to wait before charges can be filed when he steps down in June 2016.

Aquino will then have his comeuppance which explains the Confucian quotation at the beginning of this column.

Meanwhile, a frail, little lady in hospital detention is biding her time .The clock is ticking—tick tock..tick tock…tick tock…


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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