BILLIONS OF PUBLIC FUNDS HIDDEN - BRIONES

AUGUST 10 --PHOTO: AQUINO AND Former national treasurer and convener of Social Watch Philippines, Leonor Magtolis Briones . NOT all government expenditures are covered by the annual General Appropriations Act (GAA) because there are hundreds of “hidden” accounts in the government’s budget, which, according to former National Treasurer Leonor Briones, could be as high as 10 percent of the national budget. A study funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) said these off-budget accounts (OBAs) are equivalent to at least five percent to as high as 10 percent of the yearly budget. If Briones’ estimate is applied to the proposed 2015 budget of P2.2 trillion, 10 percent would be equivalent to P220 billion, the use of which could escape public scrutiny.

According to the USAID study, off-budget accounts, which are nowhere to be found in the General Appropriations Act (GAA), include those spent under the Presidential Social Fund of the Office of the President (OP) and National Agri-Business Corp. (Nabcor), one of the agencies tagged in the pork barrel scam. Besides the OP and Nabcor, there are other “major” OBAs whose appropriations do not pass the scrutiny of Congress but are audited by the Commission on Audit (COA). So far, only the USAID-funded Philippines National Budget Monitoring Project in 2009 touched on the sensitive OBA issue. The project was undertaken in cooperation with the Management Systems International (MSI) for the International Center for Innovation, Transformation and Excellence in Governance (INCITEGov).

In a separate study on the Public Expenditure and Financial Accountability (PEFA) of the Philippine public financial management system, the World Bank (WB) determined that OBAs represent less than five percent of the national budget and therefore “not a major accountability concern.” “Nonetheless, these accounts are highly vulnerable to improper, if not illegal, acts on account of the generally non-transparent nature of their operations. To safeguard the integrity of the funds, there is a need to advocate for more transparency, efficiency and effectiveness in the operations of OBAs,” the report said. But Briones strongly disagreed with the WB figures, stressing that the estimates given by the study were very low.

“I vehemently disagree with the observation attributed to the World Bank that the estimated amount of OBAs are only less than five percent of the national program of expenditures, and therefore not worthy of their attention. If we use the appropriations act as base, which is generally only one-half or even less of the total expenditure program, then you get ten percent,” Briones told The Manila Times. “The problem with just focusing on numbers without looking at the political and social consequences is that we are misled. Look at the pork barrel originally intended for 2014. It was ‘only P25.4 billion’ which was much less than the World Bank’s famous five percent, or probably less than one percent but look at how this ‘un-major accountability concern’ has destroyed our public finance system, our administrative culture and our societal values for decades and decades,” she pointed out. * READ MORE...

ALSO: ‘OBAs’ cloud budget transparency efforts  

AUGUST 10 --DESPITE persistent efforts to consolidate all public funds to ensure better transparency in their disbursement, so-called special funds, or mostly “hidden” items such as off-budget accounts (OBAs) keep on “creeping back” into government budgeting. In the past, experts introduced measures such as the “one fund” concept to make all available funds useful to all by putting them together in the general fund. “The one fund concept was introduced during the 1950s at the height of the reorganization of the entire government system. There were too many funds then. These could not be used by the government since these are restricted,” Professor Leonor Briones, former National Treasurer, explained.

She told The Manila Times that the concept was broached at a time when “the government was borrowing heavily.”
“The rationale was to make all these funds available for public benefit by putting them in the general fund. Over the years, the special funds kept creeping back,” Briones said. In 2004, Sen. Ralph Recto filed a measure instituting the “one fund concept” by providing that any and all share or percentage of an income, collection or revenue of a government agency, corporation or activity that is earmarked by law for direct remittance to another agency shall accrue to the national treasury. Ten years later, nothing has been heard of Recto’s Senate Bill 1319. Recto observed that experience had shown, time and again, that earmarking public funds for specified purposes in the form of a special fund “has proven unreliable due to the delay if not non-release of the funds.” Permanent fixture
Based on a 1999 study funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), OBAs have been a permanent fixture of government budgets in the Philippines from the time the budgeting and accounting system was installed in the country. * READ MORE...

ALSO: Malacañang told to review awarding of PPP projects 

AUGUST 11 --To expedite the Aquino administration’s Public-Private Partnership (PPP) projects, the administration should review its policy in awarding multi-billion undertaking, according to a senator. Only “state grants” should be awarded to private sector based on highest bid, Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto said. Recto made the call in the light of the recent announcement by the PPP Center to roll out 18 major infrastructure projects. The figure is part of the inventory of 47 PPP projects, totaling to P603 billion before June next year. Recto criticized the government policy’s of awarding PPP projects to highest bidders saying that such concept would only result to the public eventually carrying the burden through exaction of exorbitant fees.
“If a public infrastructure or basic service is the one being auctioned off, logic dictates that the best lowest bid should win it as it would translate to lower fees to be paid by the public who will use it,” the Senate leader argued.
“The higher the bid, the higher the fees that the public will eventually shoulder. It has a domino effect and the last tile will fall on the people,” he said. Awarding projects and concessions based on proposed concession payments, while providing additional revenues for the government, may shift burden of payment to the people through increased user charges and consumer costs, Recto said. “If it’s land, or a reclamation project, or any mineral extraction contract, then government should insist on the highest fee possible. If it sells a land, then the highest offer should win. But if it is a hospital or a train line, then it shouldn’t be assessed on what’s in it for the government,” the senator said. Recto said if the contract, for example, for a road goes to the highest bidder, then the winning group will recover their investment by imposing higher fees on the public who will use that road. * READ MORE...

Joker Arroyo: PNoy an 'evil genius'  

Composite photos of Sen. Joker Arroyo and Noy Aquino: Arroyo was appointed as Executive Secretary and he was one of the first appointees of Corazon Aquino after she was inaugurated in Club Filipino in San Juan. Arroyo served as Aquino's alter ego in her issuance of Executive Orders (formerly Presidential Decrees). Former senator Joker Arroyo yesterday described President Aquino as an “evil genius” for using the Administrative Code of 1987 as his legal basis for authorizing the utilization of around P147 billion in government savings under the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP). Arroyo is wondering why Aquino used the administrative code signed by his mother, former President Corazon Aquino, in justifying the DAP, which was struck down as unconstitutional by the Supreme Court last week. “Cory signed it in 1987 and yet up to the end of her term in 1992, she never used it. The question now lies, why P-Noy used it 25 years after it was signed?” he said.

Arroyo also likened the President to the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos regarding the manner of disbursing public funds. “It seems that P-Noy and Marcos thought alike. Cory did not use it. I am astounded why that admin code was used,” he told dzBB. Arroyo said Marcos used the 1918 Administrative Code as basis for his control over government funds during his time. “The evil genius tag I mentioned then has now become for real,” he said. “You cannot release money without any authorization.” Arroyo noted how Marcos squandered the people’s money using the administrative code. “Cory did not use it because she knew fully well that her predecessor was the one who initiated the decree,” he said. He said the administrative code was not used during the terms of former Presidents Fidel Ramos, Joseph Estrada and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. * READ MORE...

ALSO: Binay is UNA's bet in 2016 - Erap  

Vice President Jejomar Binay remains the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA)’s standard bearer for 2016, former President and now Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada said yesterday. Estrada said he and Binay will meet next week. “Right now, our candidate (for president in 2016) is Vice President Jojo Binay. He is a very strong candidate, that is why they are running after him,” he said. “We talked on the phone. Our conversation did not reach the point of him giving an assurance that he will stay with UNA,” he added. Estrada said he cannot blame the sisters of President Aquino – especially Kris and Ballsy – if they are supporting Binay’s bid for the presidency. “We cannot also blame him if he is maintaining his close ties with the Aquino family. He is like family to the Aquinos,” the mayor said. “The Vice President helped them during the time that they needed him and they cannot forget that. I admire them for that. It’s like a debt of gratitude of the Aquinos to Binay,” he added. Tandem with Mar, Chiz Binay said he is open to the possibility of having Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II or Sen. Francis Escudero as his running for the 2016 race.

In an interview with GMA-7 on the sidelines of Landbank’s 24th Gawad Para sa Pinakatanging Kooperatiba awarding ceremony, the Vice President said everything is possible in politics. “Like what I have said, there is nothing impossible in politics,” Binay said when asked about his possible tandem with Roxas or Escudero should a coalition between UNA and the ruling Liberal Party take place. Meanwhile, Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said he has no plan to run for president in 2016. He issued the statement amid reports that his mother, Rep. Imelda Romualdez Marcos, has been meeting with political leaders for his candidacy in 2016. The younger Marcos said he is not aiming for higher office at this time. THIS IS THE FULL REPORT.

ALSO: Palace men finally agree: Nothing definite on term extension 

After issuing conflicting statements on the prospect of President Aquino seeking reelection, Malacañang spokespersons now seem to agree on one thing – that there’s nothing definite yet. “On matters of national interest, the President seeks to know and understand the sentiments of his bosses – the Filipino people – to guide him in decision-making,” Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said in a text message to The STAR, when asked about inconsistencies in Malacañang’s statements on proposals to extend the President’s term through Charter change. Coloma had earlier made clear President Aquino would definitely step down after the end of his term in June 2016. On the other hand, presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda and his deputy Abigail Valte said it’s the people who have the last say on the issue. Last Friday, Valte even reminded reporters that Aquino did not intend to run for president in 2010 but eventually gave in to the wishes of the people, implying that he may change his mind in the run up to 2016.

Valte clarified over radio dzRB, however, that she did not say Aquino could change his mind on term extension given his position on Cha-cha. In her statement on Friday, Valte said then senator Aquino agreed in 2009 to run for president in “response to calls from the people.” She said the President “has consistently held the people to be his bosses. That has not changed for the President, and he continues to hold fast to this, to this day.” In an interview over dzRB yesterday, Valte she was only talking about the President’s being consistent in following the wishes of his “bosses” the people. “If you look at my quote, I did not say that the President may change his mind. It was very clear and I was talking merely of the President’s consistency when it comes to saying, ‘you are my bosses’,’’ Valte said. “You’ll have to ask him that, but I think he’s been consistent from the very start,” she said when asked if Aquino could actually change his mind, depending on what the people would call for. The clash of statements gave rise to speculations that the Balay and Samar factions in Malacañang were again at odds over an issue. * READ MORE...

ALSO: Noy unfazed by impeach raps – Palace  

President Aquino is not at all bothered by the three impeachment complaints filed against him at the House of Representatives that are scheduled to be taken up by the House leadership this week, Press Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said yesterday. “Hindi nababahala ang Pangulo doon sa mga proceedings na iyan dahil panatag naman siya na wala siyang nagawang ano mang impeachable offense. Kaya hindi iyan ang prayoridad ng Pangulo (The President is not bothered with those proceedings since he is confident that he has not committed any impeachable offense. So that’s not the President’s priority),” he reiterated. In his regular weekend interview over state-run radio station dzRB, Coloma explained that Aquino has higher priorities to continue the reforms and maintain the country’s road to progress.

Coloma, head of the Presidential Communications Operations Office, said they will just monitor the scheduled hearings of the House committee on justice, whose chairman is Aquino’s close friend and ally Iloilo Niel Tupas Jr. The House justice committee officials and members should decide among themselves on what course of action to take on the three impeachment complaints against Aquino, including two charges connected to the nullified Disbursement Acceleration Program and the last over the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) of the Philippines and the United States. Coloma said that as a co-equal and independent branch of government, they will respect whatever the chamber’s decision on the matter. More than 200 of the 280-member House belong to the administration coalition of the ruling Liberal Party, where Aquino is party chairman. THIS IS THE FULL REPORT.

(ALSO) Palace: Spare Noy from 2016 politics 

Malacañang begged off yesterday from making further comment on the possibility of President Aquino extending his six-year term, urging the public to spare the Chief Executive from premature political wrangling on the 2016 elections. “Let’s not preempt him. The President is busy and has other priorities in doing his job,” Press Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. told state-run radio station dzRB. Aquino has commended but not directly cited Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II, the presumptive standard-bearer of the Liberal Party (LP) in the May 2016 presidential elections, as the official who could help continue the reforms the President started. He said the President continues to listen to his bosses – the people – as one of his guiding principles in good governance.

At the same time, Coloma denied the existence of factions within the Aquino Cabinet where they have apparently taken conflicting positions regarding the possibility of the President seeking another term and amending the 1987 Constitution. Coloma stressed that it has been their policy to refrain from making statements that delve into political issues, and that they are leaving such to the individual spokespersons of the political parties concerned. Over the weekend, deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte denied reports that she said Aquino might still change his mind about running for president again, which contradicted what he declared all these years that he will step down in 2016. “I would like to clarify that I never said that the President may change his mind,” said Valte. But the text message she sent to reporters implied that Aquino might still change his mind, since she reminded the journalists of the late 2009 situation where Aquino was still nowhere in the equation, but nevertheless gave in to calls for him to run. * READ MORE...


READ FULL REPORT HERE:

‘Billions in public funds hidden’


AQUINO AND Former national treasurer and convener of Social Watch Philippines, Leonor Magtolis Briones .

MANILA, AUGUST 11, 2014 (MANILA TIMES) POSTED AUGUST 10, 2014 by JOEL M. SY EGCO SENIOR REPORTER - NOT all government expenditures are covered by the annual General Appropriations Act (GAA) because there are hundreds of “hidden” accounts in the government’s budget, which, according to former National Treasurer Leonor Briones, could be as high as 10 percent of the national budget.

A study funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) said these off-budget accounts (OBAs) are equivalent to at least five percent to as high as 10 percent of the yearly budget.

If Briones’ estimate is applied to the proposed 2015 budget of P2.2 trillion, 10 percent would be equivalent to P220 billion, the use of which could escape public scrutiny.

According to the USAID study, off-budget accounts, which are nowhere to be found in the General Appropriations Act (GAA), include those spent under the Presidential Social Fund of the Office of the President (OP) and National Agri-Business Corp. (Nabcor), one of the agencies tagged in the pork barrel scam.

Besides the OP and Nabcor, there are other “major” OBAs whose appropriations do not pass the scrutiny of Congress but are audited by the Commission on Audit (COA).

So far, only the USAID-funded Philippines National Budget Monitoring Project in 2009 touched on the sensitive OBA issue. The project was undertaken in cooperation with the Management Systems International (MSI) for the International Center for Innovation, Transformation and Excellence in Governance (INCITEGov).

In a separate study on the Public Expenditure and Financial Accountability (PEFA) of the Philippine public financial management system, the World Bank (WB) determined that OBAs represent less than five percent of the national budget and therefore “not a major accountability concern.”

“Nonetheless, these accounts are highly vulnerable to improper, if not illegal, acts on account of the generally non-transparent nature of their operations. To safeguard the integrity of the funds, there is a need to advocate for more transparency, efficiency and effectiveness in the operations of OBAs,” the report said.

But Briones strongly disagreed with the WB figures, stressing that the estimates given by the study were very low.

“I vehemently disagree with the observation attributed to the World Bank that the estimated amount of OBAs are only less than five percent of the national program of expenditures, and therefore not worthy of their attention. If we use the appropriations act as base, which is generally only one-half or even less of the total expenditure program, then you get ten percent,” Briones told The Manila Times.

“The problem with just focusing on numbers without looking at the political and social consequences is that we are misled. Look at the pork barrel originally intended for 2014. It was ‘only P25.4 billion’ which was much less than the World Bank’s famous five percent, or probably less than one percent but look at how this ‘un-major accountability concern’ has destroyed our public finance system, our administrative culture and our societal values for decades and decades,” she pointed out.

* The “best way” to fully account for all the OBAs, Briones said, is to “examine the budget documents in close detail.”
“For example, the remittances of Pagcor [Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp.] to the Office of the President are in the volume on budget of expenditures and sources of financing,” Briones added.

According to her, identifying all OBAs would be a tedious task.

Pagcor and the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) are the principal sources of OBA for the President’s Social Fund (PSF) which, based on the USAID study, was among the four main OBA generators, the three others being Nabcor, the Municipal Development Fund and the Manila Economic and Cultural Office (MECO).

Scrutiny

Former Budget Secretary and University of the Philippines professor Benjamin Diokno believes that there should be a more thorough scrutiny of off-budget funds that are spent without much public attention.

Diokno said OBAs also include the controversial Judiciary Development Fund (JDF) and Road Users Fund or Motor Vehicles Users Charge (MVUC).

“All public funds should be subject to audit, be it the JDF, the entire budget including PDAF [priority development assistance fund] and DAP [Disbursement Acceleration Program], and even off-budget funds like Pagcor, Malampaya, PCSO, Road Users Fund and others,” he told The Times.

“These other funds are subject to audit and they are many times bigger than the JDF,” he noted.

Briones agreed with the former Budget chief.

Diokno “is correct. These funds are audited, even the JDF as the Supreme Court emphasizes. Those who watch the budget only see what is in the [GAA]. It is also partly due to media, which report only the agency budgets,” she said.
The former national treasurer also noted that the “expensive study” by the USAID failed to look into the role of OBA as a “source of pork.”

“Take the MVUC. Congressmen who sit in the committee which determines the allocation of MVUC expenditures get at least P10 million in additional pork,” Briones pointed out. “It has a multiplier effect on the proliferation of pork.”

The Road Tax, under Republic Act 8794 that was promulgated in 2000, is purportedly the government’s third largest source of tax revenue, after the Bureau of Internal Revenue and the Bureau of Customs.

The Road Tax fund, which reaches nearly P10 billion annually, comes from annual registration fees paid by vehicle owners to the Land Transportation Office, which remits the fund to the Bureau of Treasury.

Like a real OBA, the Road Users fund is not mixed with other funds. Instead, it is deposited under four different Special Accounts — the Special Support Fund, with 80 percent share; Special Local Road Fund, with five percent share; Special Road Safety Fund, 7.5 percent share; and Special Vehicle Pollution Control Fund, 7.5 percent share.

From 2001 to present, the Road Fund already amounted to around P100 billion.

The fund is reported annually in the President’s Budget of Expenditures and Sources of Financing (BESF) under “Earmarked Revenue.” Since it is automatically appropriated, it does not need the year-by-year appropriation from Congress.

When Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago raised a howl against the “anomalous” use of the Road Fund, she said, ”With or without the GAA, the total revenue collected by the LTO is remitted and deposited to the four accounts, according to the percentages prescribed by law, and are then spent by the Road Board.”

‘OBAs’ cloud budget transparency efforts August 10, 2014 11:14 pm
by JOEL M. SY EGCO MANILA TIMES SENIOR REPORTER

DESPITE persistent efforts to consolidate all public funds to ensure better transparency in their disbursement, so-called special funds, or mostly “hidden” items such as off-budget accounts (OBAs) keep on “creeping back” into government budgeting.

In the past, experts introduced measures such as the “one fund” concept to make all available funds useful to all by putting them together in the general fund.

“The one fund concept was introduced during the 1950s at the height of the reorganization of the entire government system. There were too many funds then. These could not be used by the government since these are restricted,” Professor Leonor Briones, former National Treasurer, explained.

She told The Manila Times that the concept was broached at a time when “the government was borrowing heavily.”
“The rationale was to make all these funds available for public benefit by putting them in the general fund. Over the years, the special funds kept creeping back,” Briones said.

In 2004, Sen. Ralph Recto filed a measure instituting the “one fund concept” by providing that any and all share or percentage of an income, collection or revenue of a government agency, corporation or activity that is earmarked by law for direct remittance to another agency shall accrue to the national treasury.

Ten years later, nothing has been heard of Recto’s Senate Bill 1319.

Recto observed that experience had shown, time and again, that earmarking public funds for specified purposes in the form of a special fund “has proven unreliable due to the delay if not non-release of the funds.”

Permanent fixture

Based on a 1999 study funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), OBAs have been a permanent fixture of government budgets in the Philippines from the time the budgeting and accounting system was installed in the country.

* Early accounts of OBAs talked of separate books kept for separate purposes in many agencies, mostly to account for receipts from authorized collections retained by the collecting unit as well as war reparation payments after 1946.

“Many attempts have been made by various administrations in power to consolidate said accounts for more effective resource allocation. However, such attempts were basically negated by subsequent legislations authorizing new OBAs,” the study said.

In 1977, the Martial Law regime succeeded in consolidating a substantial number of independent accounts under the General Fund of the government. Some 320 accounts were closed and the fund balances transferred to the General Fund by virtue of Presidential Decree 1177.

“For a while, the policy held up, but by the early 1980’s, OBAs reared their ugly heads again as new directives effectively reversed the avowed fund consolidation policy. In 1987, the newly-installed Aquino administration moved to clean government books and purged several accounts considered to have outlived their usefulness. Included in this account-cleaning effort was the strict implementation of the ‘one-fund concept’ in budgeting initially promulgated in 1977,” the study said.

A similar directive was issued by the Ramos administration in 1996 to reiterate the one-fund policy and discourage attempts to create new OBAs. Furthermore, to strengthen government resolve, the Ramos administration mandated and required all agencies to provide adequate disclosures of retained OBAs in the agency financial reports.

“Because OBAs are an integral part of public financial management, there is a need to promote the integrity of OBA financial management. Arguably, some OBAs are better managed than others although this argument will have to be sustained by independent analysis. In the absence of publicly available and understandable information on their operations, however, doubts on their proper use will linger in the perception of the general public,” the paper said.
Despite many efforts in the past to consolidate government accounts, OBAs continue to proliferate.

“At the end of the day, public officials are ultimately responsible for the funds entrusted to them. As such, a more transparent and responsive financial management system for OBAs needs to be instituted as soon as possible,” the report said.

FROM THE TRIBUNE

Malacañang told to review awarding of PPP projects Written by Angie M. Rosales Monday, 11 August 2014 00:00 font size decrease font size increase font size Email Be the first to comment!

To expedite the Aquino administration’s Public-Private Partnership (PPP) projects, the administration should review its policy in awarding multi-billion undertaking, according to a senator.

Only “state grants” should be awarded to private sector based on highest bid, Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto said.

Recto made the call in the light of the recent announcement by the PPP Center to roll out 18 major infrastructure projects.
The figure is part of the inventory of 47 PPP projects, totaling to P603 billion before June next year.

Recto criticized the government policy’s of awarding PPP projects to highest bidders saying that such concept would only result to the public eventually carrying the burden through exaction of exorbitant fees.

“If a public infrastructure or basic service is the one being auctioned off, logic dictates that the best lowest bid should win it as it would translate to lower fees to be paid by the public who will use it,” the Senate leader argued.

“The higher the bid, the higher the fees that the public will eventually shoulder. It has a domino effect and the last tile will fall on the people,” he said.

Awarding projects and concessions based on proposed concession payments, while providing additional revenues for the government, may shift burden of payment to the people through increased user charges and consumer costs, Recto said.

“If it’s land, or a reclamation project, or any mineral extraction contract, then government should insist on the highest fee possible. If it sells a land, then the highest offer should win.

But if it is a hospital or a train line, then it shouldn’t be assessed on what’s in it for the government,” the senator said.

Recto said if the contract, for example, for a road goes to the highest bidder, then the winning group will recover their investment by imposing higher fees on the public who will use that road.

* He said if PPP projects are pay-per-use enterprises, then the operative principle that should drive government in awarding these is to keep “what the public will pay to the minimum.”

“What drives up the cost is that the government gets an advance payment or a prepaid tax for a structure that has yet to be built,” Recto said.

“Government’s dividends are frontloaded. By adding what is basically a franchise fee on a service like the use of a road, which ordinarily is rendered free by a government, what the government is doing is collecting in advance its share from a basic public service it has privatized,” he said.

“The rights paid is a kind of institutional add-on which ratchets up the project cost which is then passed on to the people. The people pay not just the cost of the project but for the government share which has been advanced,” Recto said.

In filing Senate Resolution 810, Recto said government should see PPP concessions not only from the point of view of raising revenues but also the protection of the public from excessive charges and costs.

Two of the biggest projects under the PPP scheme include the North-South commuter rail worth P265.3 billion to be launched in November and the proposed subway system Mass Transit loop worth P132 billion to be launched in December.

FROM PHILSTAR

Joker: PNoy an 'evil genius' By Christina Mendez, The Philippine Star Posted at 07/07/2014 8:51 AM | Updated as of 07/07/2014 8:51 AM


Composite photos of Sen. Joker Arroyo and Noy Aquino: Arroyo was appointed as Executive Secretary and he was one of the first appointees of Corazon Aquino after she was inaugurated in Club Filipino in San Juan. Arroyo served as Aquino's alter ego in her issuance of Executive Orders (formerly Presidential Decrees).

MANILA - Former senator Joker Arroyo yesterday described President Aquino as an “evil genius” for using the Administrative Code of 1987 as his legal basis for authorizing the utilization of around P147 billion in government savings under the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).

Arroyo is wondering why Aquino used the administrative code signed by his mother, former President Corazon Aquino, in justifying the DAP, which was struck down as unconstitutional by the Supreme Court last week.

“Cory signed it in 1987 and yet up to the end of her term in 1992, she never used it. The question now lies, why P-Noy used it 25 years after it was signed?” he said.

Arroyo also likened the President to the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos regarding the manner of disbursing public funds.

“It seems that P-Noy and Marcos thought alike. Cory did not use it. I am astounded why that admin code was used,” he told dzBB.

Arroyo said Marcos used the 1918 Administrative Code as basis for his control over government funds during his time.

“The evil genius tag I mentioned then has now become for real,” he said.

“You cannot release money without any authorization.”

Arroyo noted how Marcos squandered the people’s money using the administrative code.

“Cory did not use it because she knew fully well that her predecessor was the one who initiated the decree,” he said.

He said the administrative code was not used during the terms of former Presidents Fidel Ramos, Joseph Estrada and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

* Arroyo, who was among those who raised concerns on the legalities of the DAP last year, said he is against calls to impeach President Aquino.

“As for me, I don’t like impeachment, not for his sake (but) for the sake of the country,” he said.

“That is our problem in the presidential system, you cannot remove him unless he is impeached. In a parliamentary system, if there is a move of no confidence, the prime minister is kicked out,” he added.

Because of his authority over government funds, Arroyo said the President had taken full control over the entire government, including the members of the Senate and House of Representatives on the issue of budget insertions.

The former senator sought an audit of how the government spent the DAP funds estimated to be between P147 billion to P250 billion.

He lamented how the DAP eroded the public’s trust in the President’s straight path campaign.

Binay is UNA's bet in 2016 - Erap by Jose Rodel Clapano, The Philippine Star Posted at 08/10/2014 11:41 AM | Updated as of 08/10/2014 3:43 PM


BINAY AND ERAP

MANILA - Vice President Jejomar Binay remains the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA)’s standard bearer for 2016, former President and now Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada said yesterday.

Estrada said he and Binay will meet next week.

“Right now, our candidate (for president in 2016) is Vice President Jojo Binay. He is a very strong candidate, that is why they are running after him,” he said.

“We talked on the phone. Our conversation did not reach the point of him giving an assurance that he will stay with UNA,” he added.

Estrada said he cannot blame the sisters of President Aquino – especially Kris and Ballsy – if they are supporting Binay’s bid for the presidency.

“We cannot also blame him if he is maintaining his close ties with the Aquino family. He is like family to the Aquinos,” the mayor said.

“The Vice President helped them during the time that they needed him and they cannot forget that. I admire them for that. It’s like a debt of gratitude of the Aquinos to Binay,” he added.

Tandem with Mar, Chiz

Binay said he is open to the possibility of having Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II or Sen. Francis Escudero as his running for the 2016 race.

In an interview with GMA-7 on the sidelines of Landbank’s 24th Gawad Para sa Pinakatanging Kooperatiba awarding ceremony, the Vice President said everything is possible in politics.

“Like what I have said, there is nothing impossible in politics,” Binay said when asked about his possible tandem with Roxas or Escudero should a coalition between UNA and the ruling Liberal Party take place.

Meanwhile, Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said he has no plan to run for president in 2016.

He issued the statement amid reports that his mother, Rep. Imelda Romualdez Marcos, has been meeting with political leaders for his candidacy in 2016.

The younger Marcos said he is not aiming for higher office at this time. – With Raffy Viray

Palace men finally agree: Nothing definite on term extension by Aurea Calica, The Philippine Star Posted at 08/10/2014 12:02 PM | Updated as of 08/10/2014 12:03 PM

MANILA - After issuing conflicting statements on the prospect of President Aquino seeking reelection, Malacañang spokespersons now seem to agree on one thing – that there’s nothing definite yet.

“On matters of national interest, the President seeks to know and understand the sentiments of his bosses – the Filipino people – to guide him in decision-making,” Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said in a text message to The STAR, when asked about inconsistencies in Malacañang’s statements on proposals to extend the President’s term through Charter change.

Coloma had earlier made clear President Aquino would definitely step down after the end of his term in June 2016.

On the other hand, presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda and his deputy Abigail Valte said it’s the people who have the last say on the issue.

Last Friday, Valte even reminded reporters that Aquino did not intend to run for president in 2010 but eventually gave in to the wishes of the people, implying that he may change his mind in the run up to 2016.

Valte clarified over radio dzRB, however, that she did not say Aquino could change his mind on term extension given his position on Cha-cha.

In her statement on Friday, Valte said then senator Aquino agreed in 2009 to run for president in “response to calls from the people.”

She said the President “has consistently held the people to be his bosses. That has not changed for the President, and he continues to hold fast to this, to this day.”

In an interview over dzRB yesterday, Valte she was only talking about the President’s being consistent in following the wishes of his “bosses” the people.

“If you look at my quote, I did not say that the President may change his mind. It was very clear and I was talking merely of the President’s consistency when it comes to saying, ‘you are my bosses’,’’ Valte said. “You’ll have to ask him that, but I think he’s been consistent from the very start,” she said when asked if Aquino could actually change his mind, depending on what the people would call for.

The clash of statements gave rise to speculations that the Balay and Samar factions in Malacañang were again at odds over an issue.

* It was the leader of the Balay group and presumptive Liberal Party presidential candidate, Interior and Local Government Secretary Manuel Roxas II, who first broached the idea of term extension for Aquino after Vice President Jejomar Binay announced that the LP was planning to adopt him as standard bearer or coalesce with the opposition’s umbrella group, United Nationalist Alliance.

Coloma is seen as part of the Samar group led by Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. that supported the campaign of Aquino and Binay in 2010 even if Roxas was the running mate of Aquino. Roxas lost to Binay.

Valte declined to comment on Binay’s statement that Aquino would dishonor the memory of his late mother Corazon Aquino if he decides to run in 2016.

“I’m not quite sure who the Vice President was pertaining to, but I’m quite certain that it’s probably not the ordinary citizens who have been expressing their thoughts on this matter,” Valte said.

She added the President would not be distracted from what he had to do for the country despite talks on term extension.

“The President has been focused on his events and the other matters that continue to need presidential attention. Maybe we as spokespersons, we get asked frequently because that is our job to reply to you, but the rest of the government continues to focus on the issues that concern the Filipino people,” Valte said.

But Valte said it’s ultimately the President who could clear things up on the matter.

“The President gives regular press interviews so we’ll see. If one of you asks him let’s see what he’s going to say. At this point, it’s hard to tell but maybe the best opportunity is during his regular press interview,” Valte said.

One term enough

While the guessing game continues, Senate Majority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano said one term for the president should be enough.

“I have been fully supportive of President Aquino and his administration’s tuwid na daan (straight path) reforms and platform of good governance which have led to an impressive economic growth. Moving forward, the Filipino electorate must choose a leader who will continue what the Aquino administration has started,” Cayetano said. The senator had earlier signified his intention to run for president in 2016.

Cayetano said President Aquino has done more than enough for the country and that he deserves to enjoy some time for himself and his family once he steps down in 2016.

Since declaring his intention to run for president months back, Cayetano has been going around the country and has even come out with a television advertisement highlighting the accomplishments of his hometown Taguig City, where his wife is the incumbent mayor.

“Let us not be blinded by strong ratings and political propaganda. The President would only have peace of mind if he knows that the next president will continue his reforms,” Cayetano said.

“Choosing the next chief executive in the 2016 elections will be crucial. It will determine if we will continue to move forward or go back to a GMA-type of governance where protest and instability were constant because of widespread corruption,” he added, referring to former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Sen. JV Ejercito also believes that in a true democracy, the people should be given a choice of who would lead the nation and not just be stuck with only one option.

“I think that’s the essence of democracy. We cannot have only one candidate or party. As fiscalizers, it will be a good thing to have our own candidate, to present an alternative government to the present administration,” Ejercito said, referring to UNA where Binay is one of the leaders.

Scenario building

UNA secretary general Toby Tiangco, meanwhile, warned LP stalwarts against creating scenarios that could spark a constitutional crisis.

“The recent talks about term extensions, impeachments and removals are distortions purposely meant to trigger a political crisis and pressure Congress to approve the P2.265-trillion proposed 2015 national budget – all for the intents and purposes of the 2016 agenda,” Tiangco said.

Tiangco said the political noise may be meant to divert the public’s attention from the “election war chest” in the proposed 2015 national budget, and to pressure the Supreme Court into acting favorably on the administration’s demands.

“There is a faction within the LP that will do anything to pursue their selfish agenda. There’s a group clamoring for the President to seek another term, and continue with their happy days, and some see these events as a forum to seek fiscal leverage,” Tiangco said.

He also assailed the President’s spokespersons for issuing conflicting statements on Charter change. – Jose Rodel Clapano, Marvin Sy

Noy unfazed by impeach raps – Palace By Delon Porcalla (The Philippine Star) | Updated August 11, 2014 - 12:00am 0 0 googleplus0 0

MANILA, Philippines - President Aquino is not at all bothered by the three impeachment complaints filed against him at the House of Representatives that are scheduled to be taken up by the House leadership this week, Press Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said yesterday.

“Hindi nababahala ang Pangulo doon sa mga proceedings na iyan dahil panatag naman siya na wala siyang nagawang ano mang impeachable offense. Kaya hindi iyan ang prayoridad ng Pangulo (The President is not bothered with those proceedings since he is confident that he has not committed any impeachable offense. So that’s not the President’s priority),” he reiterated.

In his regular weekend interview over state-run radio station dzRB, Coloma explained that Aquino has higher priorities to continue the reforms and maintain the country’s road to progress.

Coloma, head of the Presidential Communications Operations Office, said they will just monitor the scheduled hearings of the House committee on justice, whose chairman is Aquino’s close friend and ally Iloilo Niel Tupas Jr.

The House justice committee officials and members should decide among themselves on what course of action to take on the three impeachment complaints against Aquino, including two charges connected to the nullified Disbursement Acceleration Program and the last over the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) of the Philippines and the United States.

Coloma said that as a co-equal and independent branch of government, they will respect whatever the chamber’s decision on the matter.

More than 200 of the 280-member House belong to the administration coalition of the ruling Liberal Party, where Aquino is party chairman. – With Paolo Romero, Manny Galvez

Palace: Spare Noy from 2016 politics By Delon Porcalla (The Philippine Star) | Updated August 11, 2014 - 12:00am 1 1 googleplus0 0

MANILA, Philippines - Malacañang begged off yesterday from making further comment on the possibility of President Aquino extending his six-year term, urging the public to spare the Chief Executive from premature political wrangling on the 2016 elections.

“Let’s not preempt him. The President is busy and has other priorities in doing his job,” Press Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. told state-run radio station dzRB.

Aquino has commended but not directly cited Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II, the presumptive standard-bearer of the Liberal Party (LP) in the May 2016 presidential elections, as the official who could help continue the reforms the President started.

He said the President continues to listen to his bosses – the people – as one of his guiding principles in good governance.

At the same time, Coloma denied the existence of factions within the Aquino Cabinet where they have apparently taken conflicting positions regarding the possibility of the President seeking another term and amending the 1987 Constitution.

Coloma stressed that it has been their policy to refrain from making statements that delve into political issues, and that they are leaving such to the individual spokespersons of the political parties concerned.

Over the weekend, deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte denied reports that she said Aquino might still change his mind about running for president again, which contradicted what he declared all these years that he will step down in 2016.

“I would like to clarify that I never said that the President may change his mind,” said Valte.

But the text message she sent to reporters implied that Aquino might still change his mind, since she reminded the journalists of the late 2009 situation where Aquino was still nowhere in the equation, but nevertheless gave in to calls for him to run.

* Valte’s statement, which is in sync with her boss Edwin Lacierda, contradicts the statements of Coloma that Aquino has no intention to extend his term beyond June 2016.

The contradicting positions taken by the Communications Group of Aquino highlighted anew the existing factionalism within the cabinet, where there are almost always varying positions on several issues, depending on who is talking.

Lacierda and Valte belong to the Balay group headed by Roxas (named after his family’s residence in Cubao, Quezon City) while Coloma is identified with the Samar group headed by Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr.

Both groups helped in the May 2010 campaign of Aquino, but each carried separate candidates for vice president – the Balay group for Roxas’ failed candidacy while the Samar faction got their candidate Jejomar Binay to emerge a winner.

Presidential Legislative Liaison Office chief Manuel Mamba expressed confidence that Aquino will definitely step down from office in June 2016.

“The President is too decent to entertain such thoughts. He will definitely step down in 2016.” He added.

Congressmen’s appeal

Quezon City Rep. Winston Castelo and Valenzuela City Rep. Sherwin Gatchalian appealed to some of their colleagues to quit pushing for the President’s term extension through Charter change.

Advocates in the House of Representatives for easing the restrictions on foreign ownership in the Constitution to boost investments and generate jobs in the country said calls by some congressmen to extend Aquino’s term are giving the economic Charter change a bad rap.

House Resolution No. 1, which seeks to amend the economic provisions of the Constitution, managed to hurdle public hearings without controversy a few months back and is set for plenary discussions this week. A counterpart measure pending at the Senate is authored by Sen. Ralph Recto.

Gatchalian said Congress should focus on economic Charter change rather than extending Aquino’s term limits, as the latter “can hurt the country’s opportunity for growth.”

“Clearly, if the President’s allies will continue pushing for an extension of his term, it will derail efforts to attract foreign investments and create much-needed jobs, and ultimately damage the country’s economic prospects,” he said.

Castelo said his colleagues should focus on strengthening the economy and upholding rights of the people before insisting on such politically divisive proposals.

He said while he concedes Aquino has created inroads in his campaign for integrity in public office, his legacy against corruption and effective governance could be destroyed if he seeks a term extension.

Earlier, Majority Leader and Mandaluyong City Rep. Neptali Gonzales II asked his colleagues, that include Caloocan City Rep. Edgar Erice and Iloilo Rep. Jerry Treñas, to stop pushing for the removal of term limits.

Marikina City Rep. Romero Quimbo warned such proposals are distracting lawmakers from passing urgent bills, including reducing income taxes for ordinary workers.

Navotas City Rep. Tobias Tiangco, secretary general of the United Nationalist Alliance, urged LP stalwarts to stop creating scenarios that would spark a constitutional crisis.

“The recent talks about term extensions, impeachments and removals are distortions purposely meant to trigger a political crisis and pressure Congress to approve the P2.6-trillion proposed 2015 national budget all for the intents and purposes of the 2016 agenda,” Tiangco said. – With Paolo Romero, Charlie Lagasca


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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