(MANILA STANDARD) By Christine F. Herrera - 24 Palace internal survey shows rapid decline of support from the poor.

President Benigno Aquino III is rapidly losing support, not just from the middle class but from the poorest of the poor in Metro Manila, an internal and independent survey commissioned by the Palace shows.

The survey, conducted from Oct. 8 to 11 with 800 respondents showed the President’s satisfaction rating among the E class at only 26 percent, a Palace source told the Manila Standard.

2013_nov06_news4The rapid decline, which the Palace has publicly denied, has triggered panic among the President’s men, who are worried that the fallout from the pork barrel scandal is spreading from the middle class to the poor, who resent their depressed conditions amid reports that government officials and politicians are pocketing the people’s money, the source added.

“The rapid decline is indeed no laughing matter and worrisome at the very least because the plunge was so huge in just a matter of two weeks and is attributed to the President’s perceived misuse of his discretionary powers over the off-budget Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) funds, and which the President refuses to acknowledge as presidential pork barrel,” the Palace source said.

“This prompted the Palace men, the Liberal Party leadership, led by Interior and Local Government Secretary Manuel Roxas II to persuade the President to address the nation last Wednesday, in the hope that the speech would provide a quick turnaround,” the Palace source said.

“The speech turned out to be a fiasco and now the President is forced to offer a dialogue with anti-pork groups such as the multi-sectoral militant groups, the opposition, the #ScrapPork Network, and the #AbolishPork that were the products of the Million People March,” the source said.

The source provided the Manila Standard with details of the latest survey commissioned by Malacanang to validate the findings of the Social Weather Stations, which gave the President a 49 percent approval rating, and Pulse Asia, which gave him a much higher 79 percent, in September.

“The Palace thought it would be best to gauge the sentiment of the public by commissioning an independent and internal survey considering that the SWS and Pulse surveys were undertaken at the height of the Priority Development Assistance Fund scandal and before the DAP controversy,” the source said.

The Palace source was referring to the Oct. 8-12 survey by pollster Pedro Laylo Jr., founder of Laylo Research Strategies.

The DAP controversy broke out after Senator Jinggoy Estrada, who is facing a plunder complaint before the Ombudsman, revealed in a privilege speech that senators who voted to convict impeached Chief Justice Renato Corona in 2012 received P50 million in extra pork allocations.

Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, after initially denying the disbursements, later admitted they came from the DAP.

The Laylo survey showed President Aquino’s approval rating in the National Capital Region recorded an all-time low of 35 percent. But among the poorest of the poor, his approval rating plummeted to 26 percent, the source said.

The source added that the E class was the principal recipient of the government’s dole through its conditional cash transfer program.

“The 35 percent is a huge and fast 29 percent drop from the 64 percent recorded in the NCR in the Sept. 14-27 survey done by the Pulse Asia. In the Pulse Asia survey, the President enjoyed a 79 percent approval rating nationwide, two weeks before the Laylo survey,” the Palace source said.

The Palace has all the more reason to worry because Vice President Jejomar Binay was 19 percent more popular than the President at 54 percent, with support from all classes, the source added.

It also did not help that the top government officials—Senate President Franklin Drilon, House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. and Abad—who all belong to the President’s ruling Liberal Party, recorded a huge negative rating, the source said.

Drilon recorded a negative rating of -17 percent in the Laylo survey barely two weeks after he obtained 40 percent in the NCR and 50 percent nationwide under the Pulse survey while Abad obtained -18 percent in the Laylo survey. Belmonte recorded a 5 percent rating in the Laylo survey as against the Pulse’s 42 percent in the NCR and 37 percent nationwide.

“The Laylo survey included all those perceived to have something to do with the pork barrel fund scam. The Laylo survey pointed to the bungling and mishandling of the pork barrel scam scandal,” the source said.

Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno was also included in the Laylo survey since the Supreme Court impounded the remaining half of the lawmakers’ pork barrel for 2013.

Sereno garnered a 15 percent approval rating in the Laylo survey as compared to the Pulse’s 33 percent in the NCR and 42 percent nationwide two weeks before the Laylo survey was undertaken.

“Political strategists and crisis PR managers have been thrown into a frenzy as to how to arrest the phenomenal drop in the President’s approval rating,” the source said.

The Laylo survey had 800 as respondents in the NCR and the Pulse had 1,200 respondents nationwide.

Among the senators, those who were accused of involvement in the scam and are now facing charges of plunder recorded a negative rating. These were Senators Juan Ponce Enrile with -16 percent, Ramon Revilla Jr., with -21 percent and Jinggoy Estrada with -22 percent.

Senator Francis Escudero, who was among the first to call for the complete scrapping of the lawmakers’ pork barrel enjoyed the highest approval rating at 62 percent, followed by Senators Grace Poe with 60 percent, Miriam Defensor Santiago with 41 percent, Alan Peter Cayetano with 23 percent and Loren Legarda with 17 percent.

The rest of the senators obtained a single-digit approval rating: Senators Antonio Trillanes IV, Aquilino Pimentel III and Nancy Binay had 9 percent; Pia Cayetano, Sonny Angara and Teofisto Guingona III had 8 percent; Bam Aquino, Sergio Osmena III, JV Ejercito and Ralph Recto had 7 percent; Cynthia Villar had 5 percent; Vicente Sotto III had 3 percent; and Ferdinand Marcos Jr., Gregorio Honasan and Lito Lapid had 2 percent.



IBP head says President can be impeached for technical malversation

VICENTE M. JOYAS National President & Chairman of the Board, INTEGRATED BAR OF THE PHILIPPINES (IBP)

President Benigno Aquino 3rd may have had noble intentions when he approved the implementation of the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) but the controversial scheme may yet lead to his downfall, according to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP).

Vicente Joyas, IBP president, on Tuesday said that if the Supreme Court (SC) declares DAP unconstitutional, the President may be held liable for technical malversation, a solid ground for impeachment.

“That [technical malversation] is a ground for impeachment. They may be prosecuted for technical malversation and COA [Commission on Audit] shall require the return of the funds [released through DAP],” Joyas told The Manila Times.

Last month, the IBP filed the fifth petition against DAP and asked the SC to order COA to conduct an immediate audit of the program and disallow all public money spent through it.

Other petitions were separately filed by former Iloilo representative Augusto Syjuco, Manuelito Luna, Jose Malvar Villegas and the Philippine Constitution Association (Philconsa). Militant groups also filed a similar case before the High Court.

Joyas clarified that the IBP is not one of the proponents of the People’s Initiative campaign for the enactment of a budget reform law being pushed by former chief justice Reynato Puno. He said his group is more inclined at present to try out the judicial route to having DAP scrapped and declared illegal.

A magistrate of the High Court confirmed that criminal charges can be filed against Aquino, Budget Secretary Florencio “Butch” Abad, Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa and Senate President Franklin Drilon over DAP.

The Justice, who spoke on condition of anonymity, claimed that due to the strength of the arguments in various petitions against DAP, the government officials may face charges of malversation or even plunder.

However, he said that the ruling of the SC en banc will determine the fate of Aquino and his men and whether or not they should be held criminally liable.

The magistrate said that the transfer of funds from one branch of government to another is illegal “per se.”

“The President is empowered under the 1987 Constitution to realign funds. But the big question is can he transfer it from the Executive Department to the Legislative Department?” the justice asked.

He explained that a government official who is accountable for keeping public funds may be found guilty of technical malversation once he or she transfers the funds from one office or one purpose to another.

”An ordinary government official who shall transfer funds from one hand to another is clearly committing technical malversation,” he told The Times.

The SC is set to deliberate on November 11, 2013, whether or not it will issue a temporary restraining order stopping the implementation of DAP.

Malacañang had admitted that it has released nine percent of the total DAP budget to legislators, but maintained that there was no misuse of funds.

In 1977, the High Court nullified a similar budget program introduced by former President Ferdinand Marcos. The tribunal voided a portion of Presidential Decree 1177 that gave Marcos leeway in realigning government funds because it “allows the president to override the safeguards, form and procedures prescribed by the Constitution in approving appropriations.”

“The nation has not recovered from the shock, and worst, the economic destitution brought about by the plundering of the Treasury by the deposed dictator and his cohorts. A provision which allows even the slightest possibility of a repetition of this sad experience cannot remain written in our statute books,” the Court en banc, then led by the late chief justice Claudio Teehankee Sr., said.

But Joyas said that DAP can be nullified even without a precedent case.

“DAP can be voided for being unconstitutional not on the basis of [any] case . . .” he said.

Former Budget secretary Benjamin Diokno described the petition being pushed by the IBP and other groups before the SC as “the first best hope” to win the battle against DAP.

Anti-DAP petitioners argued that funds used for DAP officially contained in National Budget Circular No. 541 of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) cannot be considered as savings because “there could not be savings in the middle of a fiscal year, especially if the projects or programs for which these funds were allocated by law, have not been completed, discontinued or abandoned.”

“The appropriations law becomes the law of the land, a product of the collective effort of the representatives of the people and the different government agencies. Not even Congress who passed it can alter the same, without undergoing the same tedious process of enacting a law. Such is the wisdom of our Constitution,” the petitioners said.

Records showed that fund releases through DAP also breached the P130 billion mark as of last month.

“These funds that the DAP and the DBM 541 call as ‘savings’—the unreleased appropriations and unobligated allotments—are not actually savings following the strict formulation of the General Appropriation Laws passed by Congress through the years,” the petitioners added.

Besides Aquino, Ochoa and Abad were named as respondents in the petition which also sought a temporary restraining order on the DAP while their petition is being heard.

Malacañang previously said DAP was created in October 2011 to gather “savings” from slow-moving projects and use them for more important ones. Officials said DAP can be likened to the stimulus fund during the previous administrations which were used to spur economic growth.

Election lawyer Romulo Macalintal also said that DAP is unconstitutional because it is not in the General Appropriations Act, unlike the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).

“Mas illegal ang DAP kasi wala ang DAP sa batas. Kahit na pagbalik-baliktarin mo iyan, wala sa batas iyan. Kaya saan galing ang DAP? Kasi maliwanag naman sa batas na ang distribution ng appropriation from one department to any department ay hindi pwede,” Macalintal said.

“Unlawful ang DAP. What remains questionable is the authorization of the executive branch to transfer the DAP from one branch to another branch.”

Not worried

Malacañang however insisted that DAP is legal and constitutional.

Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said that the use of the DAP is within the bounds of the law and the Constitution.

Coloma said that the government is ready to go to battle and defend the legality of the fund scheme before the Supreme Court.

He added that Aquino is not worried over the growing criticisms and petitions against DAP.

“President Aquino has kept his faith with his sworn duty to be the Chief Executive. He has adhered to the Constitution and the laws of the land in performing his duties,” Coloma said.

“The Office of the Solicitor General is preparing the government’s position pertaining to the petitions that were filed with the Supreme Court on this issue. The ongoing legal review by the OSG takes into account all relevant jurisprudence and pertinent laws,” he added.

Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone, vice chairman of the committee on appropriations, also said that there is nothing wrong with releasing a small portion of the DAP to lawmakers.

“I do not see anything wrong with it because as representatives, we always receive tons of Barangay and Municipal resolutions, asking us to provide funding for water systems, health centers, among others. In fact, a lot of barangay captains who won in the last elections are already sending me text messages, asking if I could fund health centers and the like for their constituents,” Evardone, a former governor of Eastern Samar, said.

“I cannot think of a reason why it should be declared unconstitutional. Why should it be unconstitutional? Under the Constitution, the President can realign the savings of the government agencies under the Executive department in the same vein that the Chief Justice can realign the savings of the Judiciary to the agencies under the Judiciary,” he told reporters during the Ugnayan sa Batasan Forum.

“We [in Liberal Party] are unanimous that DAP is legal, constitutional. DAP is just a brand. It has long been practiced because it is not unconstitutional. During former President [Joseph] Estrada’s time, it was called the stimulus fund,” Evardone pointed out. WITH REPORTS FROM CATHERINE VALENTE AND ROBERTZON RAMIREZ


LP lawmakers mobilized in pro-DAP campaign By Paolo Romero (The Philippine Star) | Updated November 6, 2013 - 12:00am 0 3 googleplus0 1

MANILA, Philippines - Lawmakers belonging to the Liberal Party (LP) have been mobilized to support President Aquino’s campaign to defend the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) directly before the people.

Speaking to reporters, Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone said tapping Aquino’s congressional allies was meant to help reverse public opinion against DAP.

“The LP will go all out in defending the DAP, and our stand is that it is legal and we have a legal opinion, a paper on this,” he said.

“DAP is not bad, it’s not evil. The end goal of this is there should be more transparency, and that justice should be served.”

Evardone said the LP contingent in the House of Representatives could form a pool of speakers to defend DAP.

LP members could take the opportunity to talk about the controversy during flag-raising ceremonies or in other forums with their constituents, he added.

Evardone saw some weakness in the way Malacañang officials had handled the controversy. He was one of those who helped craft Aquino’s speech to defend DAP, he added.

Evardone denied that Aquino’s intended audience in his speech were the SC justices.

“DAP is just a brand, but all presidents have resorted to using savings,” he said.

“It so happened that DAP rhymes with PDAF,” referring to the Priority Development Assistance Fund or pork barrel of lawmakers.

Malacañang will let the Supreme Court (SC) decide the constitutionality of the DAP.

Speaking to reporters yesterday, Press Secretary Herminio Coloma said the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) is preparing the government’s petition to be filed before the SC.

“The ongoing legal review by the OSG takes into account all relevant jurisprudence and pertinent laws,” he said.

Coloma said Aquino’s televised address was not meant to influence the SC.

“We respect the independence of our Supreme Court,” he said. Coloma said Aquino was not preempting the SC or committing indirect contempt because he had only cited the DAP’s benefits.

Aquino was mindful of the fact that cases were pending before the SC, he added.

The Confederation for Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees (Courage) has asked the SC to stop the disbursement of funds through DAP and declare it unconstitutional.

The SC is set to hear arguments on the petitions on Nov. 11.

Speaking on television, Navotas Rep. Toby Tiangco, United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) secretary-general, said Aquino was sending a signal to the SC that he didn’t wish to see the DAP abolished.

Aquino’s speech on television was addressed to a select audience, particularly the justices of the SC, he added.

Tiangco said

Malacañang did not intend to appease the public with Aquino’s speech, or he would have just announced the abolition of the presidential pork barrel and the DAP. – With Aurea Calica

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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