PHILSTAR OPINION

BY JARIUS BONDOC: PNoy TO 'BOSSES': HELP ME DEFY SC

****** Filipinos are fierce, willing to fight and die, especially for right. Proof: hundreds of island revolts and three national revolutions against colonizers, not to forget a rebellion against military rule, in 500 years of written history. Included are the struggles of the Moros for self-rule; not included are pre-Spanish mercenary expeditions to prop up or bring down Malay and Indochinese monarchs. Filipinos readily rise for justice and against wrong. They quietly observe then erupt into concerted action, as in two People Power Revolts and in countless smaller battles for reforms — in the streets and the media, the courts and offices of government. Against that backdrop of what his “bosses,” the Filipino people are, Noynoy Aquino would be well advised about defending his presidential pork barrel, the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP). The Supreme Court unanimously has illegalized it. Now he asks the “bosses” to help him defy the 14-0 ruling. Will they, given his reasons:

• Supposedly he had to concoct the DAP after inheriting a slew of sleazy projects and practices from the hated Arroyo regime. In reviewing each one, he was criticized as under-spending, and so had to accelerate disbursing state funds to economic stimulants. Since agencies could not spend fast enough, he took away their excess funds in 2011-2013 and put them in other projects — all with good intentions. After all, the Administrative Code purportedly lets him use “savings” that way. Those weren’t the only situations P-Noy was coming from, though. His “bosses” know that he knew how President Arroyo repeatedly had impounded slabs of Congress appropriations to dole back to it and the Judiciary — as bribes against impeachment. That’s why he, as opposition congressman then senator, had co-signed the Anti-Budget Impoundment Bill. Yet thence he went, swinging from one end of the pendulum to the other, first scrutinizing where state money was going, then spending it at will. His interpretation of “savings” he has yet to argue before the SC in a motion for reconsideration. But in the ruling he chooses to defy, the SC already has upheld Congress’ definition: two years of non-use. That makes two government branches against one; the latter must concede.

• But no, P-Noy insists that he needed to fast track. The system allegedly breeds Executive-Legislative gridlock. Now supposedly comes the pesky SC further obstructing economic progress. Whoa! Those lines sound eerily familiar. “Gridlock” was the same justification Dictator Marcos had used in closing down Congress in 1972, and “obstructionist” in bludgeoning the Judiciary. P-Noy’s father had had to suffer and die, as tens of thousand others, for contravening Marcos. • P-Noy would forget all that. Supposedly the World Bank in March 2012 had applauded his DAP for contributing 1.3 percentage points to GDP in the last quarter of 2011. That’s only half the story though. The other half is that the WB corrected itself in July 2012, noting that the DAP was a mere realigning of and not fresh funds after all, representing a mere 0.01 percent of the economy at that. In 2013-onwards, the WB shut up about DAP altogether. Ibon Foundation adds that public spending even slowed down with the DAP. Hardly an economic stimulant, it was but 7.6 percent of government spending in 2011, 4.3 percent in 2012, and 1.0 percent in 2013 (see http://ibon.org/ibon_articles.php?id=415).

That DAP had no meaningful effect on the “bosses” lives shows in the drop in P-Noy’s poll ratings. Speaking of which, one wonders how intense the dissatisfaction with him would be if the surveys include the 11 million overseas workers — “bosses” who have to toil away from families precisely because, DAP or no DAP, there are no jobs at home. There’s an option for P-Noy, whose “bosses” are not about to kick him out anyway: Accept the SC verdict, promise not to do DAP again, then show that he stole nothing through a real audit. * READ FULL COLUMN FROM THE BEGINNING BELOW...

ALSO by Ana Marie Pamintuan: On the offensive 

Like any respondent in a court case, the government has the right to seek a reconsideration of an adverse Supreme Court (SC) ruling. And it’s a free country, so President Aquino can openly question the SC decision on the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP). Being the President, he can use television as his bully pulpit, bringing his case directly to his “bosses” the people. If his approval ratings were still at dizzying heights, anyone who became a target of P-Noy’s ire should see the approach of Apocalypse. But P-Noy made his nationally televised “address to the bosses” on the same day that his latest survey ratings came out, with the two top pollsters reporting a precipitous drop in his numbers.

Against that backdrop, P-Noy came off belligerent and tone-deaf in his defense of the DAP. He is also taking a gamble in warning that he would take his case to the people by urging them to wear yellow in his defense. Wear yellow for DAP? Yesterday P-Noy received a not unexpected shot in the arm from visiting World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, who gave unstinting praise for Aquino, his government and reform agenda. The WB is the principal partner of the government in the conditional cash transfer and several other anti-poverty programs.

The praise was not unfounded. Detractors, however, sniffed that a senior economist of the World Bank in the Philippines is Budget Secretary Florencio Abad’s British son-in-law Andrew Parker, husband of Julia Abad, P-Noy’s assistant from his Senate days who now heads the Presidential Management Staff.

In lashing out at the SC for declaring salient portions of the DAP unconstitutional, P-Noy is also upsetting the balance of power wherein the three branches of government provide checks and balances to each other. P-Noy can suspect personal vendetta in the SC ruling if only appointees of the Arroyo administration led by Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, who was bypassed for chief justice in favor of someone many years his junior, had voted to strike down DAP. But even P-Noy’s appointees – notably Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno and former chief peace negotiator Marvic Leonen – agreed with the rest. Did 13 of the nation’s best legal minds make a mistake? And will the SC overturn a unanimous ruling? ---In taking the offensive on the DAP, he’s risking public support for his reform initiatives. He’s not looking aggrieved or a victim of a personal vendetta; he’s just coming off bullheaded. It may be good for him to consider that in life, you win some, lose some. And a president must avoid behaving like he’s above the law. * READ MORE...

ALSO by Marichu Villanueva: A bad message  

Instead of clearing the air on his administration’s questioned Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), President Benigno “Noy” Aquino III made stinging attacks against the Supreme Court (SC). After the SC declared unconstitutional certain executive actions taken invoking DAP, President Aquino minced no words in cutting down the High Court for its unanimous ruling on the case. In his televised message to the Filipino nation last Monday night, the Chief Executive vowed the government will appeal the SC ruling on DAP. President Aquino’s message came across as a veiled threat to the 15-man High Court — chaired by his own appointee, Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno — to reconsider it. This came after President Aquino earlier rejected the resignation of Department of Budget and Management (DBM) Secretary Florencio “Butch” Abad who offered to take the fall for the SC ruling on DAP.

With some leaders of Congress in audience at Malacañang, President Aquino directly challenged the SC ruling as faulty. To prevent what he warned would be a scenario where the two other branches of government got together to correct the situation, P-Noy asked the High Court to take a second look at DAP and how they have dispensed and used these funds. Among other examples of how DAP funds were spent, P-Noy cited the need for speeding up release of savings from other agencies to finance projects of the National Irrigation Administration (NIA). Farmers who comprised almost one third of our country’s population live and rely on agriculture that depend much on water irrigation supply. President Aquino’s staunch defense of DAP could not, however, help ease the continuing spiral in the prices of rice, garlic, and other basic food and agricultural products. Unfortunately, P-Noy opted to confront DAP bashers, with undertones of impeachment against the SC justices. Whoever wrote that speech last Monday night in defense of DAP did a great disservice to P-Noy. It sent a very bad message. * READ MORE

ALS0 by Cito Beltran: Turning a decision into defeat 

Cito Beltran (The Philippine Star) | Updated July 16, 2014 - 12:00am 3 38 googleplus0 1 The world of sports often teaches people expensive lessons about playing by the rules and respecting the referees or judges’ decision. There are countless occasions when players or coaches lose it all in the heat of the game and end up doing something stupid like a player hitting a referee, a boxer biting an ear, a soccer player behaving like Dracula, or a coach doing a “walkout” that costs P2 million. Those infractions can cost you money or a career. Because there are enough examples and a lot of very harsh and expensive punishments, people in sports and spectators actually know and expect it. The beauty of the world of sports is that it also recognizes the possibility that competitors can be equal in all ways so that games do end up in a tie and judges of certain sports have the right to declare a tie. Unfortunately politics and politicians don’t work that way and the #1 politician in the country has failed to realize a tie and insists on a rematch, so what he could end up with is a defeat. I refer of course to President Noynoy Aquino who spent a little over 26 minutes on prime time to defend the Disbursement Acceleration Program fiasco and then moved on to an open attack against the Supreme Court.

Last Monday evening’s speech for me was one of the saddest days of the P-Noy presidency because it was the day when he stooped so low and so out of character from the low-key, humble man I had come to know on occasion. Last Monday’s tirade also revealed that on this occasion P-Noy may not have done his trade mark due diligence not just on the content of the Supreme Court decision, but as to how it was packaged and presented to the public from day 1. Finally, Monday’s tirade confirms previous accusations that public demolition and bullying in the P-Noy administration is their trademark tools of dealing with any opposition. It actually reminded me of the statement: “It is dangerous to be right when the government is wrong — Voltaire”

I used the sports angle as my intro because to my mind, the Supreme Court may have ended the matter on a 13-0 score, but that was just on “points.” In terms of deliberations and final outcome, the Supreme Court gave the Executive Department so much leeway and in fact made it come out like a draw by stating that 3 sections, not all aspects of the DAP was unconstitutional. For many people, that statement in itself earned the label for the decision as “hilaw” or half baked early on. When the SC decision further mentioned “Good Faith,” the court had in fact put up an “EXIT” sign for the President and Malacañang to leave the building of controversy. What P-Noy should have done was to move on and come up with a new game plan and that should have been the end of that. Instead P-Noy has practically copied the style of a ranting coach on the sidelines, no longer caring if he and the team get ejected or earn a technical foul. When 13 Justices decided unanimously, it was a decision on the issues raised against the DAP. It was not a judgment on the leadership or integrity of Benigno Simeon Aquino III. That was never at issue. Your speech made it that. It is now yours to decide if a mere decision will be the cause of your greatest defeat. * READ MORE...

ALSO by Babe Romualdez: Looking at the wider perspective 

One of our readers sent us a highly emotional e-mail graphically conveying her outrage over the “billions of pesos that have gone up in smoke” because of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) scam and now, the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) that has been thumbed down as unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. I told the reader to calm down and not get hysterical and consider looking at the situation not through myopic eyes but in a wider perspective. No doubt the current situation leaves much to be desired, but there are developments that keep Filipinos optimistic. For one, the recent credit rating upgrade from Japan-based R&I that raised the Philippines’ investment grade of BBB- to BBB with a stable outlook. The rating agency took note of the country’s sound macroeconomic fundamentals and the legislative and administrative reforms that helped enhance the country’s investment climate. The R&I upgrade came on the heels of the credit rating upgrade by Standard and Poor’s last month which gave the Philippines a BBB rating with a stable outlook — believing that the ongoing reforms will endure until the next administration.

The pork scam was exposed and the current situation is an indication that democracy is at work. It is mind boggling to see one of the most powerful men in the country today — Senator Juan Ponce Enrile — surrendering to the Philippine National Police after a warrant of arrest was issued by the Sandiganbayan. Senators Jinggoy Estrada and Bong Revilla are also in detention facing graft and plunder charges. Like Enrile, they are submitting themselves to the rule of law, letting due process take its course. Enrile for his part says he believes that justice will prevail — which is certainly the right perspective to take under the circumstances. Not that anyone wants to gloat or wishes anyone ill but, despite the appeal for compassion, former Enrile chief of staff Gigi Reyes could not believe what she was experiencing when she was brought to the Bicutan detention center, with conditions that many ordinary Filipinos go through everyday not only in jail but even in their own homes — no air conditioning, cramped quarters, crawling insects and vermin and one small bathroom that has to be shared with a dozen others. Gigi Reyes was once so powerful — she was known as the “25th senator.” 

The DAP and PDAF issues are displaying the kind of power that social media can play in shaping perceptions and public opinion. Nowadays, all it takes is a tweet, a post or a meme for an issue to take a life of its own like what happened to the pork barrel scandals – putting those in government under notice that they can no longer hide what’s going on. The Internet has given the people a voice of their own, at times resonating even louder than the mainstream media. Some even assert that social media is now the fifth estate that has become even more influential than the fourth estate. There are now significant signs that the Judiciary is more independent — dispelling fears that the Supreme Court has become subordinated to Malacañang – when the magistrates unanimously ruled that the DAP is unconstitutional. After all, the Chief Justice and a number of associate justices were appointed by President Aquino, and the long standing perception is that appointees are usually beholden to the one who appointed them. They say that every dark cloud has a silver lining. The unfolding events of late only prove that transparency in government and social media can work hand-in-hand — telling us that everyone, regardless of political power — will ultimately fall under the rule of law. READ MORE...

ALSO by By Federico D. Pascual Jr.: They saw power crisis coming, but didn’t act  

BLACKOUT: Things that we taxpayers have to endure because pig heads in government presume to rule other people’s lives despite their incompetence…. Here I am in my parked car, on the fourth day of the Big Blackout, tapping out this Postscript on my mobile phone. My PC and all devices in the house have been rendered useless when typhoon Glenda slammed the nation’s capital Tuesday with 150-kph cyclonic winds. Hence, the need to repair to this car. To keep the air-con blowing and my phone charging, I have to keep the engine running. Imagine the strain and drain on the motor and my pocket. Try organizing your thoughts into a 1,000-word column and then using the same phone to email it to the office, and you get an idea of how I manage as a one-man operation. Btw, I worked under the same no-electricity constraints using only my mobile phone when I produced last Thursday’s piece titled “Noy’s other problem: Delayed Bangsamoro.” * READ MORE...


READ FULL REPORTS HERE:

P-Noy to ‘bosses’: Help me defy SC


By Jarius Bondoc

MANILA, JULY 21, 2014 (PHILSTAR) GOTCHA By Jarius Bondoc (The Philippine Star) | Updated July 16, 2014 - 12:00am 1 58 googleplus0 2 Football

World Cup 2014 final results, Catholic version: Benedict XVI trounces Francis I.

* * *

The Land Transportation Office is warning all vehicle owners to not cover their license plates with plastic sheets, whether transparent or shaded. Or else, these will be confiscated, and their vehicles blacklisted.

The notice comes as the LTO issues new-generation security-protected plates. But it covers the old ones too, since plate numbers need to be in plain sight, unobstructed by light-reflecting or -dimming covers.

So why is this LTO official vehicle, a Mitsubishi Adventure van, roaming around town with its plate number “SHS 288” sheeted?

On the van’s sides and rear is painted the LTO tag: R5-03. Likely this denotes it as the regional (Bicol) branch-5’s third vehicle.

It was photographed along busy Epifanio delos Santos Avenue last Friday, July 11, around 9 a.m., inching through traffic, proclaiming to all that the LTO does not follow its own rules.

This seemingly small thing tells lots about our government. For us, laws are mere suggestions, and makers are exempted.

* * * ***

Filipinos are fierce, willing to fight and die, especially for right. Proof: hundreds of island revolts and three national revolutions against colonizers, not to forget a rebellion against military rule, in 500 years of written history. Included are the struggles of the Moros for self-rule; not included are pre-Spanish mercenary expeditions to prop up or bring down Malay and Indochinese monarchs.

Filipinos readily rise for justice and against wrong. They quietly observe then erupt into concerted action, as in two People Power Revolts and in countless smaller battles for reforms — in the streets and the media, the courts and offices of government.

Against that backdrop of what his “bosses,” the Filipino people are, Noynoy Aquino would be well advised about defending his presidential pork barrel, the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).

The Supreme Court unanimously has illegalized it. Now he asks the “bosses” to help him defy the 14-0 ruling. Will they, given his reasons:

• Supposedly he had to concoct the DAP after inheriting a slew of sleazy projects and practices from the hated Arroyo regime. In reviewing each one, he was criticized as under-spending, and so had to accelerate disbursing state funds to economic stimulants. Since agencies could not spend fast enough, he took away their excess funds in 2011-2013 and put them in other projects — all with good intentions. After all, the Administrative Code purportedly lets him use “savings” that way.

Those weren’t the only situations P-Noy was coming from, though. His “bosses” know that he knew how President Arroyo repeatedly had impounded slabs of Congress appropriations to dole back to it and the Judiciary — as bribes against impeachment. That’s why he, as opposition congressman then senator, had co-signed the Anti-Budget Impoundment Bill.

Yet thence he went, swinging from one end of the pendulum to the other, first scrutinizing where state money was going, then spending it at will. His interpretation of “savings” he has yet to argue before the SC in a motion for reconsideration. But in the ruling he chooses to defy, the SC already has upheld Congress’ definition: two years of non-use. That makes two government branches against one; the latter must concede.

• But no, P-Noy insists that he needed to fast track. The system allegedly breeds Executive-Legislative gridlock. Now supposedly comes the pesky SC further obstructing economic progress.

Whoa! Those lines sound eerily familiar. “Gridlock” was the same justification Dictator Marcos had used in closing down Congress in 1972, and “obstructionist” in bludgeoning the Judiciary. P-Noy’s father had had to suffer and die, as tens of thousand others, for contravening Marcos.

• P-Noy would forget all that. Supposedly the World Bank in March 2012 had applauded his DAP for contributing 1.3 percentage points to GDP in the last quarter of 2011.

That’s only half the story though. The other half is that the WB corrected itself in July 2012, noting that the DAP was a mere realigning of and not fresh funds after all, representing a mere 0.01 percent of the economy at that.

In 2013-onwards, the WB shut up about DAP altogether. Ibon Foundation adds that public spending even slowed down with the DAP. Hardly an economic stimulant, it was but 7.6 percent of government spending in 2011, 4.3 percent in 2012, and 1.0 percent in 2013 (see http://ibon.org/ibon_articles.php?id=415).

That DAP had no meaningful effect on the “bosses” lives shows in the drop in P-Noy’s poll ratings. Speaking of which, one wonders how intense the dissatisfaction with him would be if the surveys include the 11 million overseas workers — “bosses” who have to toil away from families precisely because, DAP or no DAP, there are no jobs at home.

*  There’s an option for P-Noy, whose “bosses” are not about to kick him out anyway: Accept the SC verdict, promise not to do DAP again, then show that he stole nothing through a real audit.

* * *

Why do little children get adult diseases? Why do they at such tender age have to suffer untold pain during long hospitalization despite the care of oncologists and endless specialists, then when in “normal” society bear with meanness and insensitivity, and so often retreat into their lonesome world to contemplate that life puzzle called mortality? Most of all, why is cancer?

Director Toff de Venecia takes on the thought-provoking theme of juvenile cancer in Anna Santamaria’s debut production for The Sandbox Collective. The off-Broadway smash “Dani Girl” tells of a young girl’s return bouts with leukemia and her longing for answers to many life’s basic questions, foremost of which is the heart-rending, “Why me?” But it is presented in a heart-warming musical — a child’s perspective of sickness, suffering, and sudden farewells. The performance is so superb that the audience invariably would ask one more question: “Why are those 16-year-old leads so good?”

Featuring: Rebecca Coates, Luigi Quesada, Reb Atadero, Sheila Valderrama, alternating with Mitzie Lao, Lorenz Martinez, and Pamela Imperial.

At the Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium, RCBC Plaza, Makati, all Fridays to Sundays of July at 8 p.m., with 3:30 p.m. matinees on Saturdays and Sundays.

On the offensive SKETCHES By Ana Marie Pamintuan (The Philippine Star) | Updated July 16, 2014 - 12:00am 2 51 googleplus0 4


By Ana Marie Pamintuan

Like any respondent in a court case, the government has the right to seek a reconsideration of an adverse Supreme Court (SC) ruling.

And it’s a free country, so President Aquino can openly question the SC decision on the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP). Being the President, he can use television as his bully pulpit, bringing his case directly to his “bosses” the people.

If his approval ratings were still at dizzying heights, anyone who became a target of P-Noy’s ire should see the approach of Apocalypse.

But P-Noy made his nationally televised “address to the bosses” on the same day that his latest survey ratings came out, with the two top pollsters reporting a precipitous drop in his numbers. Against that backdrop, P-Noy came off belligerent and tone-deaf in his defense of the DAP.

He is also taking a gamble in warning that he would take his case to the people by urging them to wear yellow in his defense. Wear yellow for DAP?

Yesterday P-Noy received a not unexpected shot in the arm from visiting World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, who gave unstinting praise for Aquino, his government and reform agenda. The WB is the principal partner of the government in the conditional cash transfer and several other anti-poverty programs.

The praise was not unfounded. Detractors, however, sniffed that a senior economist of the World Bank in the Philippines is Budget Secretary Florencio Abad’s British son-in-law Andrew Parker, husband of Julia Abad, P-Noy’s assistant from his Senate days who now heads the Presidential Management Staff.

In lashing out at the SC for declaring salient portions of the DAP unconstitutional, P-Noy is also upsetting the balance of power wherein the three branches of government provide checks and balances to each other.

P-Noy can suspect personal vendetta in the SC ruling if only appointees of the Arroyo administration led by Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, who was bypassed for chief justice in favor of someone many years his junior, had voted to strike down DAP.

But even P-Noy’s appointees – notably Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno and former chief peace negotiator Marvic Leonen – agreed with the rest.

Did 13 of the nation’s best legal minds make a mistake? And will the SC overturn a unanimous ruling?

* Maybe it’s P-Noy who should take a closer look at the SC decision. Why did even his own appointees vote against his stimulus program?

* * *

Even the SC acknowledged in its ruling that the DAP was behind several useful development projects. P-Noy’s case for the end justifying the means, however, was weakened by the long wait for the release of the list of DAP-funded projects. The list, when finally released after his address to the bosses the other night, contained several vague entries.

Anyone who champions the straight path must also tread carefully when applying Machiavellian principles. Imelda Marcos can also point to the many useful projects that were built during her husband’s 20-year watch, a number of which were known to be her pet projects such as the Light Rail Transit and the Cultural Center of the Philippines. Special government health centers – for heart, lung and kidney ailments – were also built during the Marcos regime.

Imeldific as first lady was lampooned for her “edifice complex.” But to this day many of her pet projects remain useful. Do these justify the way public funds were handled by the conjugal dictatorship?

P-Noy has also skirted the issue that led to a scandal blowing up in the face of daang matuwid: the apparent use of the DAP as a reward to several senators after Renato Corona was ousted as chief justice.

Sen. Jinggoy Estrada, now detained without bail for plunder for the second time in his life, has gleefully offered to turn state witness in the DAP case.

Yesterday the lead prosecutor in Corona’s impeachment trial, Iloilo Rep. Niel Tupas Jr., filed a bill to scrap the Judiciary Development Fund. Lawmakers are also preparing to conduct a probe on over P1 billion in special allowances reportedly received by justices and judges, which the administration reportedly plans to present as the judicial pork barrel. But even if judicial dirt is uncovered, will the reasoning that everyone is doing it anyway legitimize the DAP?

Those who have encountered magistrates famously described by Joseph Estrada as “hoodlums in robes” will understand P-Noy’s frustration over the DAP ruling. But his open disdain – usually reserved for his former congressional colleagues who are pushing for Charter change – is now directed at the entire Supreme Court, including certain members who do not deserve to have their independence and integrity subjected to presidential suspicion.

P-Noy reassured those worried about DAP-funded projects that are now in limbo due to the SC ruling that he would simply ask Congress for a supplemental budget. So the nation can survive without the DAP?

When a president refuses to bow to a unanimous ruling of the nation’s court of last resort, it comes off as arrogance. In the case of a relatively young president, whose inner circle is described by detractors as the student council, it can come off as bratty behavior.

Arrogance usually afflicts those who have been in power for too long. But P-Noy is only entering his fifth year.

In taking the offensive on the DAP, he’s risking public support for his reform initiatives. He’s not looking aggrieved or a victim of a personal vendetta; he’s just coming off bullheaded.

It may be good for him to consider that in life, you win some, lose some. And a president must avoid behaving like he’s above the law.

A bad message COMMONSENSE By Marichu A. Villanueva (The Philippine Star) | Updated July 16, 2014 - 12:00am 1 18 googleplus1 1


By Marichu A. Villanueva

Instead of clearing the air on his administration’s questioned Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), President Benigno “Noy” Aquino III made stinging attacks against the Supreme Court (SC). After the SC declared unconstitutional certain executive actions taken invoking DAP, President Aquino minced no words in cutting down the High Court for its unanimous ruling on the case.

In his televised message to the Filipino nation last Monday night, the Chief Executive vowed the government will appeal the SC ruling on DAP.

President Aquino’s message came across as a veiled threat to the 15-man High Court — chaired by his own appointee, Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno — to reconsider it. This came after President Aquino earlier rejected the resignation of Department of Budget and Management (DBM) Secretary Florencio “Butch” Abad who offered to take the fall for the SC ruling on DAP.

With some leaders of Congress in audience at Malacañang, President Aquino directly challenged the SC ruling as faulty. To prevent what he warned would be a scenario where the two other branches of government got together to correct the situation, P-Noy asked the High Court to take a second look at DAP and how they have dispensed and used these funds.

Among other examples of how DAP funds were spent, P-Noy cited the need for speeding up release of savings from other agencies to finance projects of the National Irrigation Administration (NIA). Farmers who comprised almost one third of our country’s population live and rely on agriculture that depend much on water irrigation supply.

President Aquino’s staunch defense of DAP could not, however, help ease the continuing spiral in the prices of rice, garlic, and other basic food and agricultural products.

* Presidential Adviser on Food Security and Agriculture Modernization (PAFSAM) Secretary Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan may have hit the nail right on the head. In a recent interview over DzRH radio, I heard him trying to trace the root causes of past and present woes hounding the agriculture sector. Through these years, those reasons have disempowered Filipino farmers.

Pangilinan’s prescription: “Make the farmers secure and you achieve food security.” The prescription may have been expressed too simplistically but it was an eye-opener. The Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food chaired by Senator Cynthia Villar that recently looked into spiraling prices of garlic may have arrived at a similar conclusion.

Villar castigated representatives from the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and the Department of Agriculture (DA) for failure of their respective agencies to strictly enforce the Price Control Act to protect consumers from such unmitigated soaring garlic prices up to now.

Under Republic Act 7581 or the Price Act of 1992, as amended, implementing agencies such as the DA, may determine, recommend to the President and enforce price ceiling or control if there are widespread acts of illegal price manipulation, or any event that causes artificial and unreasonable increase in the price of the basic necessity or prime commodity. At the end of the public hearing, the Senate panel concluded skyrocketing prices of garlic have been the product of alleged massive price manipulation, not by our farmers but by traders and middlemen.

Our farmers suffer from serious disempowerment even on the issue of supply and market of a much in-demand commodity as garlic. If the garlic supply is in the hands of a “few” and the “few” are not our farmers, then the latter must really be seriously disempowered.

Lessons from the past tell us that once the issue has left the limelight and the government has loosened the noose on alleged price manipulators, the situation is most likely to return to where it is today. At this point, it looks like what is needed goes beyond just “helping” local farmers or prosecuting price manipulators. The government may have to do what Pangilinan described as making farmers “secure,” or empowering them.

“Empowerment” involves giving them the power to make choices and decisions based on sound and timely information. Such information should help put them in control of matters relating to food production and their market. This is why there is a lot of support for our local scientists’ bid to promote the adoption of pesticide-free biotechnology-processed crop varieties in the country. This makes for an expanded range of choices. If such varieties are available, our farmers can opt for pesticide-free biotech crop varieties or stay with traditional pesticide-dependent varieties.

Options like these have far-reaching implications on the costs they incur in production which, in turn, affect their income. These also have implications on health, environment and productivity of the soil. They should be left to make these decisions.This is also why the unrelenting bid of the European pressure group Greenpeace’s bid to stop Filipino agriculture scientists from promoting biotechnology is seen as undermining our farmers’ aspiration for empowerment. If the powerful European pressure group gets its way, our farmers will have no other choice but to stick to the pesticide-dependent variety.

Empowerment means our farmers know that they have a range of available choices — choices they can make based on what they want, what consumers want, and what the latter are willing to pay for their produce. If the consumer market does not want what our farmers have opted to produce, then the latter will adjust to the demand. That is a good interplay of market forces. Empowered farmers will know how to tap those forces to their benefit. Let them decide based on their perception of what market forces are at play.

Farmers could not care less over the shrill debates raging over DAP here in Metro Manila. If the farmers and their families would feel improvement in their lives with bigger earnings from their produce because of the irrigation projects of NIA funded out of DAP, then they can be the best message that President Aquino could deliver.

Unfortunately, P-Noy opted to confront DAP bashers, with undertones of impeachment against the SC justices. Whoever wrote that speech last Monday night in defense of DAP did a great disservice to P-Noy.

It sent a very bad message.

Turning a decision into defeat CTALK By Cito Beltran (The Philippine Star) | Updated July 16, 2014 - 12:00am 3 38 googleplus0 1


By Cito Beltran

The world of sports often teaches people expensive lessons about playing by the rules and respecting the referees or judges’ decision. There are countless occasions when players or coaches lose it all in the heat of the game and end up doing something stupid like a player hitting a referee, a boxer biting an ear, a soccer player behaving like Dracula, or a coach doing a “walkout” that costs P2 million. Those infractions can cost you money or a career. Because there are enough examples and a lot of very harsh and expensive punishments, people in sports and spectators actually know and expect it.

The beauty of the world of sports is that it also recognizes the possibility that competitors can be equal in all ways so that games do end up in a tie and judges of certain sports have the right to declare a tie. Unfortunately politics and politicians don’t work that way and the #1 politician in the country has failed to realize a tie and insists on a rematch, so what he could end up with is a defeat. I refer of course to President Noynoy Aquino who spent a little over 26 minutes on prime time to defend the Disbursement Acceleration Program fiasco and then moved on to an open attack against the Supreme Court.

Last Monday evening’s speech for me was one of the saddest days of the P-Noy presidency because it was the day when he stooped so low and so out of character from the low-key, humble man I had come to know on occasion. Last Monday’s tirade also revealed that on this occasion P-Noy may not have done his trade mark due diligence not just on the content of the Supreme Court decision, but as to how it was packaged and presented to the public from day 1. Finally, Monday’s tirade confirms previous accusations that public demolition and bullying in the P-Noy administration is their trademark tools of dealing with any opposition. It actually reminded me of the statement:

“It is dangerous to be right when the government is wrong — Voltaire”

I used the sports angle as my intro because to my mind, the Supreme Court may have ended the matter on a 13-0 score, but that was just on “points.” In terms of deliberations and final outcome, the Supreme Court gave the Executive Department so much leeway and in fact made it come out like a draw by stating that 3 sections, not all aspects of the DAP was unconstitutional. For many people, that statement in itself earned the label for the decision as “hilaw” or half baked early on. When the SC decision further mentioned “Good Faith,” the court had in fact put up an “EXIT” sign for the President and Malacañang to leave the building of controversy.

What P-Noy should have done was to move on and come up with a new game plan and that should have been the end of that. Instead P-Noy has practically copied the style of a ranting coach on the sidelines, no longer caring if he and the team get ejected or earn a technical foul.

* The President’s speech makes me wonder: what do you hope to get from badmouthing and threatening the Supreme Court? How does veiled threats or blind items change the merits of the case or the validity of your claims? How can your “lawyers” now go before the Justices of the Supreme Court after the tirades you’ve launched? Does the President realize that by taking up the merits of the case on a nationwide tri-media presidential rant, that he has effectively gone forum shopping and has stirred up public sentiment to put public pressure upon the Supreme Court? Did anyone warn the President that his rant would render their motion for reconsideration impossible? Why bother with a motion for reconsideration if you publicly cast doubt on their wisdom? Before Monday’s speech, there was absolutely no grounds to impeach the President for DAP, but now lawyers opine that by taking up the cudgels or taking “ownership” of the DAP on TV and radio, the President has publicly accepted responsibility for an act that the Supreme Court had judged as “Unconstitutional.” Did the President consider that his rant was discrediting and thereby destabilizing his government?

I can sympathize if the President feels he should get 3 points for the beautiful pass off, the cut in the shaded area, the alley-oops and finally his slam dunk. Great score, but you were charging and drew a foul to boot! Accept it, raise your hand if necessary and be a pro.

Being President of the Philippines and head of one of 3 equal branches of government is comparable to being one of triplets sharing the same family name. Any insult you throw at one or the other ultimately and especially backfires on you because it’s your family name: “Aquino” that’s on the brand. This is your government, at least four of those Justices of the Supreme Court are your impeccable nominees, and regardless of what number the current Congress carries to differentiate it from past congresses, it is associated with you as the head of the majority and the head of the Liberal party. If you as the song goes “ let the dogs out,” their rabid loyalty will be to their individual account but you will stand out as the handler that let them loose. Besides which we still, politically speaking, eat lap dogs in the Philippines.

Lastly, when the Office of the Solicitor General submitted the matter of the DAP for resolution by the Supreme Court, it was mandated by law, in obedience to the law and in recognition of the wisdom and authority of the Supreme Court.

When 13 Justices decided unanimously, it was a decision on the issues raised against the DAP. It was not a judgment on the leadership or integrity of Benigno Simeon Aquino III. That was never at issue.

Your speech made it that. It is now yours to decide if a mere decision will be the cause of your greatest defeat.

Looking at the wider perspective BABE’S EYE VIEW By Babe Romualdez (The Philippine Star) | Updated July 13, 2014 - 12:00am 2 101 googleplus1 2


By Babe Romualdez

One of our readers sent us a highly emotional e-mail graphically conveying her outrage over the “billions of pesos that have gone up in smoke” because of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) scam and now, the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) that has been thumbed down as unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.

I told the reader to calm down and not get hysterical and consider looking at the situation not through myopic eyes but in a wider perspective. No doubt the current situation leaves much to be desired, but there are developments that keep Filipinos optimistic. For one, the recent credit rating upgrade from Japan-based R&I that raised the Philippines’ investment grade of BBB- to BBB with a stable outlook.

The rating agency took note of the country’s sound macroeconomic fundamentals and the legislative and administrative reforms that helped enhance the country’s investment climate. The R&I upgrade came on the heels of the credit rating upgrade by Standard and Poor’s last month which gave the Philippines a BBB rating with a stable outlook — believing that the ongoing reforms will endure until the next administration.

The pork scam was exposed and the current situation is an indication that democracy is at work. It is mind boggling to see one of the most powerful men in the country today — Senator Juan Ponce Enrile — surrendering to the Philippine National Police after a warrant of arrest was issued by the Sandiganbayan. Senators Jinggoy Estrada and Bong Revilla are also in detention facing graft and plunder charges.

Like Enrile, they are submitting themselves to the rule of law, letting due process take its course. Enrile for his part says he believes that justice will prevail — which is certainly the right perspective to take under the circumstances.

Not that anyone wants to gloat or wishes anyone ill but, despite the appeal for compassion, former Enrile chief of staff Gigi Reyes could not believe what she was experiencing when she was brought to the Bicutan detention center, with conditions that many ordinary Filipinos go through everyday not only in jail but even in their own homes — no air conditioning, cramped quarters, crawling insects and vermin and one small bathroom that has to be shared with a dozen others. Gigi Reyes was once so powerful — she was known as the “25th senator.”

The DAP and PDAF issues are displaying the kind of power that social media can play in shaping perceptions and public opinion. Nowadays, all it takes is a tweet, a post or a meme for an issue to take a life of its own like what happened to the pork barrel scandals – putting those in government under notice that they can no longer hide what’s going on. The Internet has given the people a voice of their own, at times resonating even louder than the mainstream media. Some even assert that social media is now the fifth estate that has become even more influential than the fourth estate.

There are now significant signs that the Judiciary is more independent — dispelling fears that the Supreme Court has become subordinated to Malacañang – when the magistrates unanimously ruled that the DAP is unconstitutional. After all, the Chief Justice and a number of associate justices were appointed by President Aquino, and the long standing perception is that appointees are usually beholden to the one who appointed them.

* When Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno was first appointed to the Supreme Court — she thanked the President and as a courtesy asked him if there was anything he specifically wanted her to do. His answer: “Just do what is right.”

Clearly, the DAP ruling should serve as clear proof of what is right.

Indeed, what is happening today should be viewed as a watershed moment that can have a lasting impact on our maturity as a people because it underscores the critical need for checks and balances, making sure that the mechanisms we have in place are working, and that the doctrine of separation of powers between the Executive, the Legislative and the Judicial branches as enshrined in the Constitution is observed.

Such was the case with the United States in 1973 at the height of the Watergate scandal when a constitutional crisis almost occurred because President Richard Nixon — citing executive privilege — refused to turnover audiotapes and documents relating to the June 17, 1972 break-in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters.

Senate Watergate Committee chair Senator Sam Ervin argued that the committee was exercising the constitutional power of the Senate to conduct the investigation and that the doctrine of the separation of powers of government requires Nixon to recognize such. In a separate case, the US Supreme Court also ruled unanimously that Nixon must surrender the tapes.

Nixon complied — and the tapes revealed his participation in the plans to cover up the White House connection with the Watergate break-in.

Just before the House could vote on the articles of impeachment, Nixon resigned the presidency on August 9, 1974.

Although many looked at Watergate as one of the worst of times displaying the excesses of Nixon’s imperial government, eventually Americans saw it as proof that their system worked, and that the rule of law prevailed.

As Gerald Ford (who assumed the presidency after Nixon’s resignation) said, “Our Constitution works; our great Republic is a government of laws and not of men.”

They say that every dark cloud has a silver lining.

The unfolding events of late only prove that transparency in government and social media can work hand-in-hand — telling us that everyone, regardless of political power — will ultimately fall under the rule of law.

They saw power crisis coming, but didn’t act POSTSCRIPT By Federico D. Pascual Jr. (The Philippine Star) | Updated July 20, 2014 - 12:00am 2 193 googleplus0 1


By Federico D. Pascual Jr

BLACKOUT: Things that we taxpayers have to endure because pig heads in government presume to rule other people’s lives despite their incompetence….

Here I am in my parked car, on the fourth day of the Big Blackout, tapping out this Postscript on my mobile phone. My PC and all devices in the house have been rendered useless when typhoon Glenda slammed the nation’s capital Tuesday with 150-kph cyclonic winds. Hence, the need to repair to this car.

To keep the air-con blowing and my phone charging, I have to keep the engine running. Imagine the strain and drain on the motor and my pocket. Try organizing your thoughts into a 1,000-word column and then using the same phone to email it to the office, and you get an idea of how I manage as a one-man operation.

Btw, I worked under the same no-electricity constraints using only my mobile phone when I produced last Thursday’s piece titled “Noy’s other problem: Delayed Bangsamoro.”

* * *

* TOLD YOU SO: Now I have found a momentary way out of the dark cave. Under the tag “I told you so,” let me rerun an old Postscript which is still timely and relevant. It came out last Jan. 14, but reads like it will be written tomorrow yet:

“GOV’T FAILURE: Our explanation for the continued power rate upsurge is that the government has failed (1) to build more power plants to keep supply a safe distance ahead of the growing demand, (2) to develop cheaper alternative sources, and (3) to curb the appetite of the power moguls.

“Since five years ago we have been raising the red flag of an impending power crisis marked by rotating blackouts and rising rates, but the Department of Energy has failed to act decisively to stave off the oncoming emergency.

“Why the failure? Either government officials are incompetent and/or lack concern, or they are impotent against the power moguls ruling the industry.

“What can consumers do now? Apparently nothing. Consumers by themselves (since the government does not seem to care) appear to be helpless — probably until their pent-up anger finds violent release.

* * *

“GROWTH NEEDS POWER: The Aquino administration keeps regaling the masses with tales of foreign investors rushing in to put up businesses, thereby opening jobs, banishing hunger and chalking up a magical seven-percent growth rate.

“One reason why we still do not see those reluctant foreign investors is that their businesses require electricity, which in this benighted country is in short supply, very expensive and unpredictable.

“In many assembly lines, a mere power flicker, much more a brownout, means quality control going haywire, costs going up and delivery commitments being missed. That is how crucial cheap and stable electricity is to many investors.

“The yearly increment in power demand is around five percent, but the government targets an economic growth rate of seven percent. There should be a corresponding increase in the power supply to move commerce and industry.

* * *

“THINNING MARGIN: Going by industry statistics, the total energy demand nationwide is around 14,000 megawatts, lumping together household and commercial requirements.

“The total installed capacity is 17,000 mw, leaving a theoretical buffer supply of 3,000 mw. The 20-percent allowance is comfortable enough under normal conditions. In most developing countries, an ideal reserve margin is 20 to 30 percent.

“But what actually flows through the lines is much less than the plants’ combined rated capacity. It is foolhardy to operate a generator at full capacity and risk wrecking it. And then, no plant, especially an old one, is 100-percent efficient.

“Years ago, there were so-called Independent Power Producers, who were being paid for their full rated capacity even if they generated less. When their plants faltered, why would they bother to repair them when they got full payment anyway — charged to captive consumers?

* * *

“COLLUSION: And then, all plants have to periodically suspend operations for preventive maintenance. Other plants, however, have the bad habit of just bogging down without prior notice.

“The three plants in Batangas running on natural gas — the 1,200-mw Ilijan combined cycle plant owned by Kepco Philippines Corp. and the 1,000-mw Sta. Rita and the 500-mw San Lorenzo facilities owned by First Gen Corp. of the Lopez group – shifted to expensive liquid fuel last December when their Malampaya source of natural gas was shut down for maintenance.

“Five other plants also stopped operating, coincidentally (?) with the Batangas gas-fueled plants. The rogue plants were never identified despite accusations that they deliberately joined the stoppage for some sinister motive related to rates.

“If past investigations are any indication, the inquiry into the possible collusion among the plant operators who stopped generating electricity coincident to the Malampaya fuel supply stoppage will end up being forgotten like bad debts.

* * *

“LATE AGAIN: Energy Secretary Carlos Jericho Petilla has said that one solution to demand catching up on supply and to rates continually rising is to have more power capacity installed by 2017.

“Too late saying that now. The Aquino administration should have started talking and pursuing that formula as soon as it took over in 2010. It normally takes at least three years to build and start operating a regular coal-fired power plant.

“The going rate, according to industry sources, is $1.5 million for every megawatt of a plant’s rated capacity. With that kind of money needed, power operators demand many concessions from government — including sky-high electricity rates.

“What has the DoE done to develop cheaper alternative sources? In the bad old Marcos days, the Ministry of Energy had it all planned out for the country’s dependence on imported fossil fuel to continuously decrease each year.

“But when then President Cory Aquino took over after the 1986 Edsa Revolt, she mothballed the Bataan nuclear power plant because it was initiated by her predecessor (sounds familiar?) — without bothering to replace the foregone capacity.”


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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