'He proclaimed that he was not a “thief,” not like the other politicians (he said) whom he had lined up for “selective” prosecution. But he merely showed all and sundry how poorly he understood the mega scandal that has made his presidency a danger to the nation.'


MANILA, NOVEMBER 11, 2013 (MANILA STANDARD) By Francisco S. Tatad - In a desperate bid to stem the tide of public anger over the corruption that threatens to end his rule, President B. S. Aquino III went on prime time television last week to defend the patent misuse of his multi-billion-peso Disbursement Acceleration Program, whose constitutionality is being questioned before the Supreme Court.

He proclaimed that he was not a “thief,” not like the other politicians (he said) whom he had lined up for “selective” prosecution. But he merely showed all and sundry how poorly he understood the mega scandal that has made his presidency a danger to the nation.

Many turned off their TV sets as soon as they saw Aquino’s face.

Others who stayed on found his speech thoroughly pugnacious, surreal and repellent. Unlike the lawmakers’ Priority Development Assistance Fund, his DAP was not “pork” at all, he said; unlike those who were said to have colluded with Janet Lim Napoles and her bogus foundations to siphon off their PDAF into ghost projects, he had not stolen any money from the State, and he would use all his powers to go after the real “thieves.”

But for all the fire and brimstone, he could not show anyone who had read the Constitution that the DAP was constitutional, and that his use of it to bribe members of Congress to impeach and convict a sitting Supreme Court Chief Justice and to railroad a widely opposed, constitutionally infirm, foreign-dictated Reproductive Health Law was less than criminal.

The bribery, using illegally transferred money, was by far more outrageous than plain theft. But he completely skirted it.

A small militant group thought that although Aquino may not have become an open threat to national security, he had clearly become “a threat to the national treasury.” This, to them, is the country’s most asphyxiating problem, after the thorough bankrupting of its morality.

They find it thoroughly unfair that 10 million or so Overseas Filipino Workers have to bear all the hardships of being separated from their families only to see their hard-earned money (an annual $24 billion and counting) criminally misused by their trusted pols.

Earlier this year, Migrante International had proposed that the OFWs suspend their regular remittances as an expression of protest. The workers thought it would only punish their families, so it failed to take off. But some groups believe people should stop paying their taxes to the government or the government should refund the taxes it had collected from the citizens during all the years of the pork barrel theft. The public has not been appeased by Aquino saying he is no thief.

Aquino’s problem is that since 2010, the conscript media and the paid propaganda surveys, compounded by the absence of a responsible opposition party in Congress, have led the electorate to believe that they had been gifted with an incorrupt president, against whom no such charge of corruption would ever stick.

He made himself the final arbiter of who was corrupt and who was not, and his political “enemies” were the first ones to pay for it while his allies, protégés and hirelings were the first ones to profit from it.

No open-and-shut case was needed to lock up a political target; as soon as the target was identified, he or she was quickly dealt with. On the other hand, all that an Aquino ally had to do was to deny any allegation against him or her, and Aquino rushed in to absolve him or her of the alleged offense. In at least two instances, Aquino used his own funds to bail out two relatively well-off officials whose arrest had been ordered by the court.

Aquino apparently thought he could act as judge in his own case when he took up the DAP scandal in his 13-minute TV address. He spoke like a tough union boss at the docks, but aside from interrupting the favorite TV pasttime of many household helpers, his speech failed to achieve any positive result. It was clearly a mistake.

First of all, the DAP issue is now before the Supreme Court, which has been hearing the oral arguments on it. At the proper time, the Court will rule on it. If there was any need for anyone to talk about the DAP outside the precincts of the Court, Aquino could have directed Budget Secretary Florencio Abad or any of his DAP allies to do it.

After all, hardly anyone believes Aquino is the real author or architect of the DAP. Even his most exacting critics are inclined to believe the idea was hatched by his circle of advisers led by Abad. In fact, many are convinced Aquino might have received a standing ovation if instead of saying, “I am not a thief,” he had said, “I am not the author of the DAP.”

Abad in particular appears to be the real brains behind the DAP.

Some Cabinet colleagues describe him as the real grey eminence behind the President. Not only is he the budget secretary; his daughter Julia Abad Parker, who is married to a foreigner said to be working for the IMF, heads the Presidential Management Staff, while his son Luis Abad is said to be the chief of staff to Cesar Purisima, the secretary of finance, and his wife Congressman Heredina Abad, who represents the province of Batanes in Congress, is now a Deputy Speaker, after serving as vice-chairman of the appropriations committee in the House of Representatives.

It is not inaccurate to say that Aquino is completely surrounded by the Abads, as far as economic, financial and budgetary matters are concerned. “They have become the most powerful political dynasty in the country,” says one Malacanang source.

No DAP or PDAF releases are ever made without Abad’s go-ahead, but he has protected his back better than Machiavelli by designating Budget Undersecretary Mario L. Relampagos to sign all fund releases. That is to say, until Malacañang accused Relampagos before the Ombudsman of involvement in the alleged misuse of the Malampaya Special Fund during the Arroyo administration. An assistant secretary had since taken over Relampagos’s former signing duties, according to the source.

The sequence of events tends to support this thesis. Nobody had heard about the DAP until Sen. Jinggoy Estrada revealed on the Senate floor on Sept. 25, 2013 that Malacañang had released P50 million or more in “incentives” to each of the 20 senators (less one) who had voted to convict Corona at his 2012 Senate impeachment trial. Senate President Franklin Drilon confirmed the money, but like Estrada, he also called it an “incentive”, without saying what it was an “incentive” for.

It was Abad who finally disclosed that the money had come from the DAP, reportedly created by executive fiat in October 2011 to stimulate public spending and accelerate GDP growth. At that time, Drilon was chairman of the Senate finance committee, and yet he knew nothing about the DAP. He did not deny having received P100 million after he had convicted Corona, but he could not say that it had come—as Abad said—from the DAP.

Did Abad try to advise Aquino against making that TV broadcast, or did he in fact encourage it? Abad was in the best position to advise Aquino not to do it and to leave it to his boys instead. After all, Abad knew so much more about the DAP than anybody else. In his last statement, he said the DAP releases totaled P132.7 billion, and the P1.1 billion released to 19 of the 20 senators who had convicted Corona represented only 9 percent of it. He could have offered to do it on behalf of the President, if only to give the public a more accurate presentation of the facts.

To begin with, P1.1 billion is not 9 percent, but only 0.9 percent of the reported total releases. This leaves 99.1 percent. Where is that 99.1 percent? What constitutes it? Whatever happened to it? Abad could have provided the public the listing, if he had offered to do it. But he simply allowed Aquino to go on live without providing him with the facts that could have helped mitigate the fury of the attack on the DAP.

In the end, Aquino must assume full responsibility for everything that happens under his watch.

But those who have the President’s ear have a duty to save him from unnecessary embarrassment. Was it at all necessary, or unavoidable, that Aquino should lecture the nation on the “constitutionality” of the DAP while the Supreme Court is in the process of hearing the various petitions on it?

If the President has not heard of the principle of separation of powers, or the sub judice rule, is there no one in his “inner circle” with enough brains or courage to tell him about it?

Did Abad or anyone at all try to read or explain to the President what Sec. 25 (5) Article VI of the Constitution is saying?

Sec. 25 (5), Article VI of the Constitution provides: “No law shall be passed authorizing any transfer of appropriations; however, the President, the President of the Senate, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, and the heads of Constitutional Commissions may, by law, be authorized to augment any item in the general appropriations law for their respective offices from savings in other items of their respective appropriations.”

The letter and spirit of the law are clear. There is no room for interpretation. The President who has sworn to faithfully and conscientiously fulfill his duties, preserve and defend the Constitution, execute the laws, do justice to every man, and consecrate himself to the service of the nation, had no valid excuse to not understand the law. But he clearly refused to understand it.

The Constitution does not merely prohibit the transfer of appropriations from one department to another. More than that, the Constitution prohibits the passing of a law that would authorize such transfer. Thus, the act of impounding the appropriations of one department, declaring them as “savings,” and finally transferring them to another department is illegal, not only because no law authorizes it, but above all because no law can ever be passed authorizing it.

The Supreme Court tells us what the law is. But when the language is absolutely clear, there is only one way the Court and the average citizen can read it. This appears to be our situation with respect to the DAP. The DAP is on its face null and void ab initio, however you slice it. Aquino need not be a thief to have violated the Constitution.

In fact, no one has accused him of stealing out of greed or for his personal gain. He is simply accused of having wreaked havoc on the Constitution, of having bribed Congress to achieve his personal and political ends.

Some will say he corrupted Congress even as Congress tried to corrupt him.


Of failing empires, nations and P-Noy! SHOOTING STRAIGHT By Bobit S. Avila (photo) (The Philippine Star) | Updated November 5, 2013 - 12:00am 1 8 googleplus0 

'Meanwhile in that speech, P-Noy angrily declared “I’m not a thief!” which brought a loud howl to many pundits as no one has accused P-Noy of stealing public funds. At least not yet!'

Last week while I was in Israel, I had another cellphone (because my phones didn’t roam at all) vacation, but at least it gave me time to focus on the pilgrimage, especially that we were doing a TV travelogue.

At the Dubai International Airport, I purchased a special edition of National Geographic’s the World’s Greatest Empires: A history of power because it gave me a history of man’s need and greed to control peoples and conquer other lands.

While I haven’t read all what is written in this book, you can already have an idea that empires no matter how big they are do rise and fall.

As I got home, I browsed once more on the book of Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson “Why Nations Fail: The origins of power, prosperity and poverty” that I got nearly a year ago.

There is a certain irony reading these two books because they are very similar… except that National Geographic gives you a short and concise history of the rise and fall of these empires, while Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson gives us the basic reasons why nations like the Philippines could never move forward or continue to fail. It also gave me an idea of what really is happening in our country.

After reading all the week old newspapers that I missed while I was in Israel, I realized that I really missed nothing at all! The problem in our country today is very much the same as decades ago because our political elite refuse to change for the better.

This is very much the same reason why empires fall. People when they are in power… believe so wrongly that they are doing the right thing, very much akin to what Pres. Benigno “P-Noy” Aquino III believes he is doing with his Daang Matuwid slogan.

Last week, P-Noy got into primetime TV purportedly to explain the legality of the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) but reading the comments of must pundits, apparently everyone believes that the President failed to explain this to the people.

In the end, these pundits are almost unanimous in saying that DAP is unconstitutional and violates the authority of Congress to disburse public funds… a power that is not vested in the Executive branch. This means, the Supreme Court must decide on its constitutionality as soon as possible. If and when they do…then what??

Meanwhile in that speech, P-Noy angrily declared “I’m not a thief!” which brought a loud howl to many pundits as no one has accused P-Noy of stealing public funds. At least not yet!

Come now, doesn’t the President know that a huge number of people are accusing him of misusing those public funds for his personal vendetta, using those public (at least P13 billion in our last estimate) funds and it doesn’t matter if he calls it DAP or PDAF to bribe Senators and Congressmen to convict former Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona. In bribing those Senators, P-Noy more than “murdered” CJ Corona by destroying his persona in public.

A good majority of the Filipino people now believe that those Senators who convicted CJ Corona very harshly are worse offenders than the former Chief Justice, and no matter how the Aquino regime demonizes CJ Corona or even insist that he deserved his conviction would not change the fact that he was unjustly convicted by Senators who do not even deserve to be called Senator/Judges. At this point, I suggest that former CJ Corona should now file an appeal before the Supreme Court about his unjust conviction.

Meanwhile there’s the proposed People’s Initiative (PI) that former Supreme Court Justice Reynato Puno is proposing out of desperation because the well-entrenched political elite would never make any reforms to change our political system.

While I agree that this constitutional provision is so full of holes to make it work, but then there is no other way when the Aquino regime that represents the political elite won’t budge.

This is the problem with leaders who are so comfortable with their power. They don’t care about the people anymore. This is why they are doomed to fail. They only care about themselves. For nearly 50 years now, Filipinos only know of two political giants, the Marcoses and the Aquinos.

Pres. Marcos was in power for 14 years during Martial Law aside from his 8 years of legitimate presidency. We’ve had two Aquinos in power now for a total of 9 years including Pres. Cory’s reign. Yet the Filipino people have remained poor even if the political elite use the name of the people in vain in order to keep themselves in power.

I dare say that the time for change has come! We must change our system of governance through a constitutional reform so our nation wouldn’t be controlled by political families, who use patronage to put in place their loyal supporters.

But then P-Noy has taken the stand just like Pharaoh and refuses to listen to the cries of his people, whom he fondly calls “The Boss.” If he continues on this path, then God himself will deal with him.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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