EDITORIALS

PHILSTAR: 100 MILLION AND COUNTING

New life is always cause for rejoicing, so Filipinos should celebrate the birth today that will officially place the nation’s population at 100 million. The challenge is providing a decent quality of life for every bundle of joy that arrives in this country. Tackling that challenge has been an uphill battle. Despite sustained economic growth in recent years, approximately 40 million Filipinos live below the poverty line, accounting for a considerable chunk of the 2.2 billion people worldwide classified as “poor or near poor” by the United Nations Development Program. The UNDP reported that natural disasters, armed conflict and soaring food prices – problems Filipinos are familiar with – are threatening to exacerbate poverty around the world. In its 2014 Human Development Report, the UNDP said the challenge is not only “getting to zero” in eliminating extreme poverty but also staying there. This is an even greater challenge for the Philippines. Official statistics released last year showed that despite being one of Asia’s best economic performers, the Philippines has barely made a dent in eliminating poverty. * READ MORE...

ALSO from the Inquirer: The Sona and the 100-millionth Filipino 

By Rina Jimenez-David --On this day, the 100-millionth Filipino will be born, officially making the Philippines the 12th most populous country in the world and, in the words and contention of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA): “presenting both challenges and opportunities.” Some may even now be foaming at the mouth, alarmed at the implications of feeding, housing, clothing, educating and caring for 100 million people. This is because even before this milestone our families and the country as a whole had proven inadequate in—if not incapable of—looking after our people, more than half of whom are under the age of 25. The 54 percent of young Filipinos make for a huge “dependency” burden—young people still in the process of growing and maturing and in need of support and upbringing, still unable to productively contribute to the building of our nation. But not all is lost, says Klaus Beck, the UNFPA country representative.

The 100-millionth Filipino also “presents an opportunity for all partners and stakeholders to make the right investments in people now so we can prepare the groundwork for thriving, sustainable cities, productive labor forces that fuel equitable growth, youth that contribute to the wellbeing of economies and societies, and a generation of older people who are healthy and actively engaged in the social and economic affairs of their communities.” The key phrase is of course the need “to make the right investments in people now,” today and not tomorrow, long before our children and grandchildren mature into adulthood and begin confronting the various challenges we face. * * * Doubtless the 100-millionth Filipino will be foremost in the mind of P-Noy as he delivers his State of the Nation Address tomorrow. It’s always an event considered a milestone in every administration, but tomorrow’s address will be even more crucial as the President faces a wave of protests over the issue of “pork barrel” funds, and confronts his lowest point yet in public opinion approval—after years of glowing post-honeymoon numbers. * READ MORE...

ALSO from the Manila Dily Bulletin: It’s not just about the president 

By Fr. Rolando V. De La Rosa, OP --The media hype surrounding tomorrow’s SONA gives us the impression that it is all about President Aquino. The SONA is his score card, his record of passing or failing grades. Since it is all about him, therefore “if things are worse than before, it is all his fault. He is responsible.” Why do we think of the SONA this way? Perhaps it is because the President himself had, at one time or another, reinforced that kind of thinking.

For instance, a few years ago when the police force had mishandled the hostage crisis involving some Chinese nationals, the President publicly declared: “I am responsible.” Some admired him for his statemanship but others think that he seemed to be taking the blame for the death of the hostages, the strained relation between China and the Philippines, and the messy incompetence of our police force. His advisers could have advised him to follow President Obama’s famous line concerning the death of civilians when Americans invaded Afghanistan. Obama said: “Let me be very clear about this. When there is a civilian casualty, that is not just a political problem for me. I am ultimately accountable for somebody who is not on the battlefield who got killed.”

Obama prudently refrained from using the word “responsible” because he was referring to collateral damage that is a consequence of war. He was not talking about decisions that had to be made before the war. The word he used was “accountable,” adding the necessary qualification: “ultimately.” President Aquino’s unqualified admission of responsibility for the hostage crisis was interpreted as total accountability. He should have been advised that as Commander in Chief, his authority and responsibility are RELATIVE, inasmuch as the exercise of these is greatly delegated to his subordinates in the police force and the military. To admit responsibility for decisions made by inept subordinates gives the impression that the President is operating within a very self-conscious notion that “it’s all about me.” * READ MORE...

ALSO from GMA News Network: The 5th SONA and peace in Mindanao

By Fr. JUN MERCADO, OMI --The peoples of Mindanao are awaiting what PNoy will include or exclude in his 5th State of the Nation Address or SONA come the 28th of July 2014. In the previous SONA, Mindanao appeared simply as "footnote" in an overall national agenda. While there are major strides achieved in the peace process in Southern Philippines during the last three years, there are basic questions whether PNoy’s peace advisers and negotiators have been forthright with the MILF, the MNLF, and the various stakeholders in the Southern Philippines.

There are six major agreements during PNoy’s watch. These are the following: the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) signed in October 2012; the Agreement on Transitional Arrangements and Modalities signed in February 2013; the Agreement on Revenue Generation and Wealth Sharing signed in July 2013; the Agreement on Power Sharing signed in December 2013; the Agreement on Normalization and the Bangsamoro Waters and Zones of Joint Concerns in January 2014; and the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro signed on March 27, 2014.

These major strides in the peace process between the GPH and the MILF were achieved without reference to the 1987 Philippine Constitution. Yet even a cursory look at these major agreements would point that these agreements were beyond the "flexibilities" of the Constitution. This would lead to the crucial question whether the PNoy government is open to constitutional amendments to "accommodate" the legitimate aspirations of the Bangsamoro for (1) their unique identity, (2) their ancestral domain and (3) the exclusive powers not only to govern themselves but also to have control and supervision over the resources within their domain. Without Constitutional amendment on the table, the PNoy government remains, simply, on Cloud 9. By any imagination (creative, flexible or otherwise), sans constitutional amendments, government would be SHORT in the delivery of its commitments. * READ MORE...

ALSO from the Manila Times: What coup rumors indeed  

FOR the first time since she assumed her Deputy Spokesman job in Malacañang, we found ourselves in total agreement with Ms. Abigail Valte on Friday when she said, “We have not heard of any coup rumors” referring to alleged reports of a possible coup attempt being organized, triggered by the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) scandal. We found her next statement, however, after saying the Palace had not heard any coup rumors at all—“Rumors will remain rumors until such time that there is any [indication] that they have become facts”—unbelievably inane. That is, however, not the point of this editorial.

We in The Times have not heard any rumor of a coup d’etat being hatched–or even whispered about—in the military worth reporting about. That is why we totally agree with the Palace’s stand on this issue. What worries us is why the new Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces, Lt. Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr., seems to be obsessed with the idea that the troops are getting restive and must be told to “stay the course and to keep to their mandates” because there are coup rumors.
We understand that he repeated the same message to the AFP rank and file while he was visiting Clark.Insulate the military from politics In her words to reporters on Friday, Ms. Valte asked “the public” to leave the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) out of politics.

She said, “Let us insulate the military from politics because the military works for the country and the people. We should not engage in any effort to politicize the military. They already have enough [problems] on their hands.” Her message, which is supposed to reflect the thinking of the President and the men in his office who run the government with him, seemed to echo the exhortations made by AFP Chief Catapang to his men. The General seems to have heard the rumors of a coup sparked by the DAP scandal.
He is quoted to have told media people who asked him why he was talking about a coup, “What’s important is that they [the soldiers] know the essence of the news surrounding the DAP, we explain to them how the government and its three branches work.” * READ MORE...


ALSO from the Manila Standard: A gala event  

Every fourth Monday of July, the president of the nation goes to the plenary hall of the House of Representatives and delivers the State of the Nation Address. It’s the most important speech of the year where the chief executive details the performance of his or her administration and gives the people a preview of what is yet to come. The calendar event basically follows the same format, and over the years has occasioned the same kind of coverage. A usual side story has been the display of finery by government officials and their spouses. The men go for the more conventional barong Tagalog, while the women display various looks and twists of Filipiniana.

But if such display was entertaining in previous years, it would simply be painful to watch them walk some fancy carpet in the wake of the PDAF and DAP scandals that have shaken our belief in our leaders and in the system in which they thrive. What we have known so far is that many of those who claim to champion the people’s interest look primarily to serve their own, personally or politically. And then they have the gall to call themselves servants of the people. Three lawmakers are now in jail awaiting trial for their supposed involvement in the scam. How do we know that there are dozens more who will be putting on their fancy clothing tomorrow, escaping prosecution just because they happen to be on the right side of the political fence? * READ MORE...

ALSO from the Daily Tribune: The P237-billion question 

In three years, from 2011 to 2013, the administration of Noynoy was able to cobble up P80 billion a year or P237 billion in their claimed savings, P144 billion of which became funds for the unconstitutional Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) while the rest are still floating around in the huge limbo of Palace discretionary funds or pork barrel. The spending of the whole amount seems to depend on the “good faith” of Noynoy and Budget Secretary Butch Abad. A particularly perplexing set up in the Palace on the disposal of these funds was presented by Abad, in which there seems to be no particular purpose in impounding funds to generate the savings through the three years. Sen. Nancy Binay asked during the Senate finance committee hearing that since the DAP was nipped in the bud after the controversy erupted over it and P90 billion remained in the Palace pool of savings, what happens to the already pooled amount?

The reply of Abad: He doesn’t know and it could have been used as relief funds to cover the multiple calamities last year or that it can be applied to the budget deficit. He is the Budget secretary, and he doesn’t know what happened to the P90 billion, yet he claims honesty, transparency and good faith? The word savings per se was the subject of debate since simply it means in layman’s term that the amount is the remainder of earnings less expenses when the government never had a surplus in the budget. The savings as defined by the Palace were the result of juggling and impounding of funds in the budget. What amounted to savings was denying one agency with funds allotted to a “slow-moving” project to become the express pork barrel of Noynoy. If the DAP can’t be categorized as pork as the line of Palace defense has it, then the whole P237 billion from which the funds for the DAP was exacted can be considered pure unalloyed pork barrel of Noynoy. * READ MORE...

ALSO from Malaya: WHAT TO SAY IN THE SONA? 

A SALVO of impeachment complaints – three as of last count – have been filed at the House of Representatives against the occupant of Malacañan Palace.The first impeachment complaint accused President Aquino of turning the General Appropriations Act, through the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) into his own presidential pork barrel. The complaint also said that by authorizing the DAP, Aquino “usurped Congress’ power of the purse, undermined the principle of separation of powers and system of checks and balances. The second impeachment complaint accused Aquino of betraying public trust and violating the 1987 Constitution for implementing the DAP. The complaint also said that Aquino allegedly committed “attempted corruption of public officials” by allotting funds from the DAP to legislators after the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona in 2012.

The third complaint filed on Thursday made no mention of the DAP. It said the President should be removed from office for selling out the country’s sovereignty to the United States through the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA).” “President Aquino surrendered national sovereignty, compromised our territorial integrity, and prejudiced the national interest.”  “The EDCA is essentially a basing agreement. No amount of euphemism by President Aquino, his representatives and other officials will cure the constitutional violation caused by this agreement,” the complaint said. The filing of the impeachment complaints in just one week could not have come at a better time. * READ MORE...


READ FULL REPORTS HERE:

100 million and counting

MANILA, JULY 28, 2014 (PHILSTAR) New life is always cause for rejoicing, so Filipinos should celebrate the birth today that will officially place the nation’s population at 100 million. The challenge is providing a decent quality of life for every bundle of joy that arrives in this country.

Tackling that challenge has been an uphill battle. Despite sustained economic growth in recent years, approximately 40 million Filipinos live below the poverty line, accounting for a considerable chunk of the 2.2 billion people worldwide classified as “poor or near poor” by the United Nations Development Program.

The UNDP reported that natural disasters, armed conflict and soaring food prices – problems Filipinos are familiar with – are threatening to exacerbate poverty around the world.

In its 2014 Human Development Report, the UNDP said the challenge is not only “getting to zero” in eliminating extreme poverty but also staying there. This is an even greater challenge for the Philippines. Official statistics released last year showed that despite being one of Asia’s best economic performers, the Philippines has barely made a dent in eliminating poverty.

* Equitable growth also remains elusive, as even the government has acknowledged. President Aquino is expected to confront this problem as he enters his fifth year in office. As the UNDP report has indicated, his job is made harder by the numerous natural calamities that hit the country every year and long-running armed conflicts.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has said that tackling growth inequality is the “defining challenge” of the times. The UN also reports that while the world is on track in achieving most of the Millennium Development Goals, it is slipping in the achievement of certain targets such as reducing maternal and infant mortality.

In achieving this goal President Aquino now has the Reproductive Health Law. With the green light from the Supreme Court, all that the RH law needs is effective implementation. As important as providing universal access to reproductive health care, however, is creating an environment that will improve the quality of life of all 100 million Filipinos.

FROM THE INQUIRER

The Sona and the 100-millionth Filipino By Rina Jimenez-David |Philippine Daily Inquirer12:04 am | Sunday, July 27th, 2014



On this day, the 100-millionth Filipino will be born, officially making the Philippines the 12th most populous country in the world and, in the words and contention of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA): “presenting both challenges and opportunities.”

Some may even now be foaming at the mouth, alarmed at the implications of feeding, housing, clothing, educating and caring for 100 million people. This is because even before this milestone our families and the country as a whole had proven inadequate in—if not incapable of—looking after our people, more than half of whom are under the age of 25.

The 54 percent of young Filipinos make for a huge “dependency” burden—young people still in the process of growing and maturing and in need of support and upbringing, still unable to productively contribute to the building of our nation.

But not all is lost, says Klaus Beck, the UNFPA country representative. The 100-millionth Filipino also “presents an opportunity for all partners and stakeholders to make the right investments in people now so we can prepare the groundwork for thriving, sustainable cities, productive labor forces that fuel equitable growth, youth that contribute to the wellbeing of economies and societies, and a generation of older people who are healthy and actively engaged in the social and economic affairs of their communities.”

The key phrase is of course the need “to make the right investments in people now,” today and not tomorrow, long before our children and grandchildren mature into adulthood and begin confronting the various challenges we face.

* * *

Doubtless the 100-millionth Filipino will be foremost in the mind of P-Noy as he delivers his State of the Nation Address tomorrow. It’s always an event considered a milestone in every administration, but tomorrow’s address will be even more crucial as the President faces a wave of protests over the issue of “pork barrel” funds, and confronts his lowest point yet in public opinion approval—after years of glowing post-honeymoon numbers.

* How does he propose to look after 100 million Filipinos? What conditions can he lay down to make sure that even with 100 million—or more—Filipinos, the country in the future will thrive and prosper, with all our young people growing into the life they deserve, creating the conditions for a better Philippines?

Of course, much of any Sona consists of a report card on the achievements of an administration, with the president making an accounting of his (or her) policies and programs. But any Sona also needs to be about the future, and about a president’s plans on how to arrive at that envisioned future. And with elections looming in 2016, tomorrow’s Sona will also form part of the coda to history’s final evaluation of the P-Noy administration.

* * *

Meanwhile, there is the present crisis to face. I know I expressed the wish earlier that the President should shut up already about his justifications and defense of the DAP or the Disbursement Acceleration Program.

Often called the executive’s own version of the “pork barrel,” the DAP is an offshoot of the revelations made by whistle-blowers—later confirmed by the Commission on Audit and the anticorruption Ombudsman—that senators and House representatives, colluding with some department officials and dummies of fake NGOs, had stolen billions from government coffers in the guise of allocations for the legislators’ PDAF or Priority Development Assistance Fund.

Among the senators implicated in the scandal is Jinggoy Estrada who “kicked the hornet’s nest” when, while defending himself from charges of misusing the PDAF, accused the executive department of misusing public funds with the DAP.

The DAP, he said, was used to “bribe” senators to vote as the P-Noy administration wished in favor of an impeachment against former chief justice Renato Corona. In one master stroke, Estrada turned the tide of the PDAF scandal, not only roping in the P-Noy administration to the circle of the guilty, but changing the focus of public ire.

Of course, the senator, along with two colleagues and a host of supporting characters, is now in detention. But it’s the Aquino administration finding itself against the ropes, parrying blows. And of course P-Noy will use the opportunity presented by the Sona—as he has with every public event in recent memory—to air once more his reasons for approving the DAP.

Many of those in the audience will be legislators who doubtless knew about—and benefited from—the DAP long before Estrada lobbed his grenade. Others will be Cabinet members who participated in the divvying up of DAP funds. But the entire country (presumably) will be listening as well, waiting to see if they could be convinced with finality that there is an innocent story behind the scandal.

* * *

To go by Justice Marvic Leonen’s concurring opinion in the Supreme Court decision finding the DAP unconstitutional in parts, the DAP was a response to the need to make money available to government agencies to “effectively and efficiently use their funds within the soonest possible time so that they become relevant to the purposes for which they had been allotted.”

What the Supreme Court found unconstitutional were three acts and practices under the DAP which involved the use of funds declared as savings before the end of the fiscal year, as well as “cross-border transfers” of savings from the executive (Malacañang) to other branches (Congress and also the judiciary), and the use of funds not covered by the General Appropriations Act.

But neither the DAP nor the National Budget Circular 541 (creating the DAP) was declared unconstitutional.
Still, I suppose we’re going to hear more from the President about this tomorrow (Monday).

FROM THE MANILA DAILY BULLETIN

It’s not just about the president by Fr. Rolando V. De La Rosa, OP July 26, 2014


PHNO: IMAGE COURTESY OF THE EQUALIZER POST.

The media hype surrounding tomorrow’s SONA gives us the impression that it is all about President Aquino.

The SONA is his score card, his record of passing or failing grades. Since it is all about him, therefore “if things are worse than before, it is all his fault. He is responsible.” Why do we think of the SONA this way?

Perhaps it is because the President himself had, at one time or another, reinforced that kind of thinking.

For instance, a few years ago when the police force had mishandled the hostage crisis involving some Chinese nationals, the President publicly declared: “I am responsible.”

Some admired him for his statemanship but others think that he seemed to be taking the blame for the death of the hostages, the strained relation between China and the Philippines, and the messy incompetence of our police force.

His advisers could have advised him to follow President Obama’s famous line concerning the death of civilians when Americans invaded Afghanistan. Obama said: “Let me be very clear about this. When there is a civilian casualty, that is not just a political problem for me. I am ultimately accountable for somebody who is not on the battlefield who got killed.”

Obama prudently refrained from using the word “responsible” because he was referring to collateral damage that is a consequence of war. He was not talking about decisions that had to be made before the war. The word he used was “accountable,” adding the necessary qualification: “ultimately.”

President Aquino’s unqualified admission of responsibility for the hostage crisis was interpreted as total accountability. He should have been advised that as Commander in Chief, his authority and responsibility are RELATIVE, inasmuch as the exercise of these is greatly delegated to his subordinates in the police force and the military. To admit responsibility for decisions made by inept subordinates gives the impresssion that the President is operating within a very self-conscious notion that “it’s all about me.”

* This fuels the Filipinos’ tendency to blame everything on him.

One might object, in his previous SONAs, the President seldom used “I”. He said “WE”. So it seems he was not saying, “It’s all about me.”

This word, called the majestic plural, is often used by Presidents and royalties to refer to them as the duly designated representatives of the people.

But when people feel alienated by their leader who insists on defending the crackpot policies, bad decisions, or inaction of his closest aids and advisers, the word “We” ceases to signify the leader’s intimate link with the people. It becomes a most insensitive form of legitimation.

I remember, after the first EDSA uprising, when the people’s President took to the podium and said “WE”, the word resounded with a collective will to realize the dream for a better Philippines.

After many failed dreams and presidents later, we now listen to the SONA soaked in fatigue and malaise.

Let’s hope that tomorrow’s SONA will be different.

FROM GMA NEWS NETWORK

The 5th SONA and peace in Mindanao By Fr. JUN MERCADO, OMIJuly 25, 2014 12:09pm 24 14 1 105 Tags: Bangsamoro Basic Law


PHNO: IMAGE COURTESY OF THE CEBU DAILY NEWS

The peoples of Mindanao are awaiting what PNoy will include or exclude in his 5th State of the Nation Address or SONA come the 28th of July 2014.

In the previous SONA, Mindanao appeared simply as "footnote" in an overall national agenda.

While there are major strides achieved in the peace process in Southern Philippines during the last three years, there are basic questions whether PNoy’s peace advisers and negotiators have been forthright with the MILF, the MNLF, and the various stakeholders in the Southern Philippines.

There are six major agreements during PNoy’s watch. These are the following: the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) signed in October 2012; the Agreement on Transitional Arrangements and Modalities signed in February 2013; the Agreement on Revenue Generation and Wealth Sharing signed in July 2013; the Agreement on Power Sharing signed in December 2013; the Agreement on Normalization and the Bangsamoro Waters and Zones of Joint Concerns in January 2014; and the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro signed on March 27, 2014.

These major strides in the peace process between the GPH and the MILF were achieved without reference to the 1987 Philippine Constitution. Yet even a cursory look at these major agreements would point that these agreements were beyond the "flexibilities" of the Constitution.

This would lead to the crucial question whether the PNoy government is open to constitutional amendments to "accommodate" the legitimate aspirations of the Bangsamoro for (1) their unique identity, (2) their ancestral domain and (3) the exclusive powers not only to govern themselves but also to have control and supervision over the resources within their domain. Without Constitutional amendment on the table, the PNoy government remains, simply, on Cloud 9. By any imagination (creative, flexible or otherwise), sans constitutional amendments, government would be SHORT in the delivery of its commitments.

* PNoy and his peace advisers need to descend from Cloud 9 and admit with clarity and all honesty that the previously articulated "flexibilities" of the Constitution would NOT stretch enough to institutionalize the CAB both in letter and spirit. There are no ifs and buts: The CAB requires amendments to the 1987 Constitution. Without this in the government’s agenda, all what PNoy says and claims are all for the sound bytes!

The real test in the peace process is NOT whether this government can sign a peace agreement with the MILF. Signing an agreement is an easy enough task. The real hurdle for any government is the implementation of the peace agreement both in letter and spirit without resorting to lies and disguises that would only be good for the sound bytes.

The 5th SONA is fast approaching and this would be the time to articulate the clear direction and the real Daang Matuwid in dealing with the Bangsamoro issues. The 5th SONA will be the balance that will weigh PNoy’s legacy in the peace process whether he is BOLD enough to pursue in words and actions amendments to the Constitution that would pave the way for genuine implementation of the CAB.

PNoy, in his 4th SONA (2013), said: “What is clear to me: Every word we utter must result in an action that would benefit all. Every line that we craft in the agreement we are forging must be set in stone and not merely written on water, only to be forgotten by history.” He equally had committed the “strength of the entire nation to lift the provinces of Muslim Mindanao, who are among our poorest.”

These are, indeed, bold statements! The MILF and the great majority of the Bangsamoro now task the President to make true this commitment by endorsing to Congress a draft Basic Law that is faithful to the articulated dreams and aspirations as contained in the CAB. But this would NOT be possible without committing, too, to constitutional change!

The big test for PNoy is WHICH draft BBL would he endorse to Congress. The difficulty lies in the ongoing "conversation" between the Office of the President (OP) and the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) that was tasked to come up with a draft BBL for submission to Congress. The BTC’s draft seems to collide with some provisions of the 1987 Constitution. While the OP draft BBL is constitutionally compliant, it is NOT faithful to the CAB in letter and spirit. If PNoy departs from the four corners of the Constitution, he faces yet another specter of SC’s rebuff.

On the other hand, the MILF appears resolved not to accept the limitations of the Constitution and it refuses to "re-negotiate" the terms in the CAB already settled and signed! Whichever process PNoy adopts in his 4th SONA, Congress has to enact an "acceptable" Bangsamoro Basic Law before the yearend (2014).

Without the acceptable BBL, we are back to the same scenario that produced RA 9054 (the Organic Act of ARMM) that "legislated" the 1996 Final Peace Agreement between the GPH and the MNLF. The MNLF rejected RA 9054 as the implementation of the 1996 Final Peace Agreement. There, never, has been any closure of the 1996 Peace Agreement and this is precisely the subject of the on-going Tripartite (GPH-OIC-MNLF) Review.

A diluted BBL, notwithstanding all the rhetoric, would simply repeat previous legal arrangement akin to the creation of the ARMM but with NO real substance being added to the package except for the new brand—Bangsamoro.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of this website.

FROM THE MANILA TIMES

What coup rumors indeed MANILA TIMES July 26, 2014 9:33 pm

FOR the first time since she assumed her Deputy Spokesman job in Malacañang, we found ourselves in total agreement with Ms. Abigail Valte on Friday when she said,

“We have not heard of any coup rumors” referring to alleged reports of a possible coup attempt being organized, triggered by the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) scandal.

We found her next statement, however, after saying the Palace had not heard any coup rumors at all—“Rumors will remain rumors until such time that there is any [indication] that they have become facts”—unbelievably inane. That is, however, not the point of this editorial.

We in The Times have not heard any rumor of a coup d’etat being hatched–or even whispered about—in the military worth reporting about. That is why we totally agree with the Palace’s stand on this issue.

What worries us is why the new Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces, Lt. Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr., seems to be obsessed with the idea that the troops are getting restive and must be told to “stay the course and to keep to their mandates” because there are coup rumors.

We understand that he repeated the same message to the AFP rank and file while he was visiting Clark.

Insulate the military from politics In her words to reporters on Friday, Ms. Valte asked “the public” to leave the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) out of politics. She said, “Let us insulate the military from politics because the military works for the country and the people. We should not engage in any effort to politicize the military. They already have enough [problems] on their hands.”

Her message, which is supposed to reflect the thinking of the President and the men in his office who run the government with him, seemed to echo the exhortations made by AFP Chief Catapang to his men. The General seems to have heard the rumors of a coup sparked by the DAP scandal.

He is quoted to have told media people who asked him why he was talking about a coup, “What’s important is that they [the soldiers] know the essence of the news surrounding the DAP, we explain to them how the government and its three branches work.”

* Perhaps, he is just worried that the soldiers, who have read and heard the news about the DAP scandal and the military allegedly having received some of the money, would feel as angry at and disappointed in President Aquino as many of their civilian fellow citizens.

Gen. Catapang is also quoted to have said, “There would be no coup, we are a professional Armed Forces . . . It would be hard if they get involved, we have experienced that during the 1980s, so we are over it.” He also said there are bigger problems than the DAP scandal the military should focus on.

But why did he address his men about it then?

Bringing up the subject of a coup when no body else is speaking about it would seem to be an attempt to provoke one.
That is precisely what agent provocateurs and intrigue masters do.

Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla has already floated a trial balloon, urging the President to wield emergency powers so he can have the authority to take exceptional steps to solve the power crisis.

We hope and pray General Catapang and the President–or some of his men–are not involved in a sinister scheme to put our country under emergency rule or even martial law.

FROM THE MANILA STANDARD

A gala event  By Manila Standard Today | Jul. 27, 2014 at 12:01am

Every fourth Monday of July, the president of the nation goes to the plenary hall of the House of Representatives and delivers the State of the Nation Address. It’s the most important speech of the year where the chief executive details the performance of his or her administration and gives the people a preview of what is yet to come.

The calendar event basically follows the same format, and over the years has occasioned the same kind of coverage. A usual side story has been the display of finery by government officials and their spouses. The men go for the more conventional barong Tagalog, while the women display various looks and twists of Filipiniana.

But if such display was entertaining in previous years, it would simply be painful to watch them walk some fancy carpet in the wake of the PDAF and DAP scandals that have shaken our belief in our leaders and in the system in which they thrive.

What we have known so far is that many of those who claim to champion the people’s interest look primarily to serve their own, personally or politically. And then they have the gall to call themselves servants of the people.

Three lawmakers are now in jail awaiting trial for their supposed involvement in the scam. How do we know that there are dozens more who will be putting on their fancy clothing tomorrow, escaping prosecution just because they happen to be on the right side of the political fence?

* We claim to be a government ruled by law, but no less than our own President undermines it by creating a fund in violation of the Constitution and then disrespects the high court when it calls him out for it.

A probe into the matter by the Senate yielded only a peek into administration senators’ willingness to set aside their duties as investigators for certain conveniences. The supposed probers, talking to the Budget Secretary, shied away from the tough questions—and nobody was surprised. After all, many senators did receive millions from the fund, and it would be strange for them to question something they received over and above their usual allotments, even if these had been spent on legitimate projects for the people.

So tomorrow, let’s look past the plush carpet, the fine pina and fashionable cuts. Let’s try to see whether our leaders actually know that they are in that exclusive lounge, occupying their privileged seats, because of us.

FROM THE DAILY TRIBUNE

The P237-billion question Written by Tribune Editorial Sunday, 27 July 2014 00:00

In three years, from 2011 to 2013, the administration of Noynoy was able to cobble up P80 billion a year or P237 billion in their claimed savings, P144 billion of which became funds for the unconstitutional Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) while the rest are still floating around in the huge limbo of Palace discretionary funds or pork barrel.
The spending of the whole amount seems to depend on the “good faith” of Noynoy and Budget Secretary Butch Abad.
A particularly perplexing set up in the Palace on the disposal of these funds was presented by Abad, in which there seems to be no particular purpose in impounding funds to generate the savings through the three years.
Sen. Nancy Binay asked during the Senate finance committee hearing that since the DAP was nipped in the bud after the controversy erupted over it and P90 billion remained in the Palace pool of savings, what happens to the already pooled amount?
The reply of Abad: He doesn’t know and it could have been used as relief funds to cover the multiple calamities last year or that it can be applied to the budget deficit.
He is the Budget secretary, and he doesn’t know what happened to the P90 billion, yet he claims honesty, transparency and good faith?
The word savings per se was the subject of debate since simply it means in layman’s term that the amount is the remainder of earnings less expenses when the government never had a surplus in the budget.
The savings as defined by the Palace were the result of juggling and impounding of funds in the budget.
What amounted to savings was denying one agency with funds allotted to a “slow-moving” project to become the express pork barrel of Noynoy.
If the DAP can’t be categorized as pork as the line of Palace defense has it, then the whole P237 billion from which the funds for the DAP was exacted can be considered pure unalloyed pork barrel of Noynoy.
* The P237 billion in claimed savings of the Palace can even be called pork over pork since these are aside from nearly a third of the total budget each year that falls under the discretion of Noynoy to spend.
The Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), which was the Legislative pork barrel also declared as unconstitutional by the Supreme Court (SC), was merely part of the Special Purpose Funds (SPF) of Noynoy that amounts to more than P300 billion a year.
Noynoy’s argument is pork put into good use can’t be considered bad and only the pocketing of people’s money through the use of the discretionary funds should be publicly condemned.
The public’s response was a demand for the removal of all discretionary funds in government since the equation is that discretion in government is an invitation to corrupt practices.
Noynoy did not disappoint his critics when he started defending the PDAF scheme and later on the DAP. And in both cases his defense was that the lump sum funds were necessary for immediate government response to the demands of public service.
The excuse or “palusot” is that it takes time to seek extra funds from Congress. An independent Congress, perhaps, but a puppet Congress that is controlled by its puppet master can easily pass any budget without cuts, and without even a cursory study of it, in quick time.
The basic premise of the DAP and good faith in its use are the circumstances that brought the existence of the Palace money pool into public consciousness.
In September last year, Sen. Jinggoy Estrada revealed in a privilege speech that P50 million or more was distributed to senator judges who voted to convict former SC Chief Justice Renato Corona in the impeachment court.
Abad first said it was additional PDAF. Later he admitted that the money came from the DAP.
Abad now says that the pool of savings is much more and that these were all earmarked for the DAP that had its dealings not exposed to the public.
It seems to have been the first time for anybody in the Aquino administration to admit that P237 billion was pooled as discretionary funds of Noynoy and only because Abad needed that for his defense of the DAP.
So much for transparency and good faith under this regime.

FROM MALAYA BUSINESS INSIGHTS

WHAT TO SAY IN THE SONA?
July 25, 2014

A SALVO of impeachment complaints – three as of last count – have been filed at the House of Representatives against the occupant of Malacañan Palace.

The first impeachment complaint accused President Aquino of turning the General Appropriations Act, through the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) into his own presidential pork barrel.

The complaint also said that by authorizing the DAP, Aquino “usurped Congress’ power of the purse, undermined the principle of separation of powers and system of checks and balances.

The second impeachment complaint accused Aquino of betraying public trust and violating the 1987 Constitution for implementing the DAP.

The complaint also said that Aquino allegedly committed “attempted corruption of public officials” by allotting funds from the DAP to legislators after the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona in 2012.

The third complaint filed on Thursday made no mention of the DAP.

It said the President should be removed from office for selling out the country’s sovereignty to the United States through the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA).”

“President Aquino surrendered national sovereignty, compromised our territorial integrity, and prejudiced the national interest.”

“The EDCA is essentially a basing agreement. No amount of euphemism by President Aquino, his representatives and other officials will cure the constitutional violation caused by this agreement,” the complaint said.

The filing of the impeachment complaints in just one week could not have come at a better time.

Aquino will deliver the State of the Nation address on Monday.

On that day, Aquino will enumerate his administration’s accomplishments particularly in the area of graft and corruption and programs in the remaining two years of his administration.

What would be interesting to hear from this SONA is his take, if at all, on the impeachment complaints.

In previous SONA speeches, the Palace has kept the public guessing on the contents only saying that it is undergoing revisions from the President himself.

This Monday’s SONA is expected to be no different. But Aquino might well take a cue from a CBCP official: For the real SONA, talk to the people on the ground; they could tell him a thing or two, and what’s more, improve his credibility.
 


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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