MANILA, NOVEMBER 11, 2013 (MANILA STANDARD) By Christian V. Esguerra - Pork barrel issue: Palace not clear on dialogue’s objective.

What does the planned Palace dialogue hope to achieve when President Aquino has vigorously defended the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) and indicated his preference for keeping the graft-ridden pork barrel?

“What we need here are clarification and understanding that the Aquino administration is doing everything that needs to be done to deliver public service in the most effective way,” said Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma, who announced the nationwide dialogue in the face of public clamor to abolish the corruption-tainted pork barrel system.

Coloma said the dialogue, which would involve Cabinet officials, would help “ensure an adequate understanding of the issues,” particularly on the DAP and the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).

But as senators remained divided on what to do with the PDAF, Coloma expressed Malacañang’s preference for the course taken by the House of Representatives: Keep the congressional pork barrel fund—notwithstanding the fact that it has been a source of hefty kickbacks for lawmakers.

This means that P25.4 billion in PDAF would remain in next year’s national budget but distributed among six departments. As in the old PDAF system, legislators would still have a say on which public works projects would be implemented, but with the amount limited to P9.654 billion.

The move was the congressmen’s response to Aquino’s Aug. 23 vow to “create a new mechanism to address the needs of your constituents and sectors, in a manner that is transparent, methodical and rational, and not susceptible to abuse or corruption.”

“What we want to happen is to ensure that the allocation of funds will be done in a way that there will be clear accountability and transparency on where it will be spent, and the proposal at the House, to me, addresses that concern,” Coloma on Monday told reporters in Filipino.

On Oct. 23, Aquino defended his move allowing legislators to pick projects for some P12.8 billion in DAP savings, quoting an “older politician” who purportedly once asked: “Who will remember you come election time?”

On the eve of Halloween, the President delivered a rare televised public address in defense of the DAP, claiming that those implicated in the P10-billion pork barrel scam were out to muddle the issue up and put his administration on the defensive.

Coloma said the pork barrel issue was “high on the national agenda” and that “the people have the right to fully understand everything that needs to be understood” on the matter.

Asked if the President would just end up making the public accept his position on the DAP and the pork barrel, he said: “If you say acceptance is part of it, then, definitely, the President would like our people to be able to understand and accept the programs of government … particularly on good governance.”

Pressed on, Coloma later said the President was keeping an “open mind” in the face of the public outrage over the pork barrel system.

“The President is always willing to listen, and the President is willing to communicate,” he said. “The President has always been open to feedback from our people and to knowing their real sentiments.”

Despite the differences in opinion on the pork barrel and the DAP between the President and his critics, Coloma said the Palace was not viewing the issue “in terms of dead ends and deadlines.”

“It’s a continuing process and for as long as people are learning new things or for as long as people are willing to learn, then there is always an opportunity to reexamine positions, to reexamine perspectives, and perhaps to adopt new points of view,” he said.

In a statement issued on Monday, Miguel B. Varela, president of Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said Aquino should continue using the DAP until the Supreme Court settled questions on its constitutionality.

“The first three years of the Aquino presidency saw the prudent use of the DAP for social and economic services. The disbursements were slow in the first year. But once the government straightened spending procedures, good governance delivered basic and urgent services to intended beneficiaries,” Varela said.

The Aquino administration’s “daang matuwid” program has been an inspiration for the business community, he said, and has paved the way for investor confidence to return and further improve as companies doing business in the Philippines have experienced a decline in incidences of corruption in public contracts and have seen funds assisting communities prevent natural disasters and quickly recover.

“There is still a long way to go to enlarging the economic pie for more to benefit from the wealth created in the economy, but we are going there if the government is consistent with taking the straight and narrow path,” Varela added.

The Confederation for Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees (Courage) on Monday became the eighth petitioner to question in the Supreme Court the DAP, saying it violated the equal protection clause in the 1987 Constitution.

The court has scheduled oral arguments on the issue on Nov. 11.

In its 25-page petition for certiorari and mandamus, Courage said National Budget Circular No. 541 issued by the Department of Budget and Management to create the DAP violated Section 1, Article III of the Constitution.

“Equal protection of laws means that laws must be applied equally and it is erroneous to give preference to one person or class of persons over another,” the group said.

This was not applied in the DAP allocations to senators, it said, with some getting as high as P100 million while others, as low as P5 million. Sixteen senators were given DAP allocations while five others did not get them.

“As to why the senators were treated differently [with] regard [to] the amount of DAP that they received, with some receiving this much and some receiving nothing at all, respondents failed to give a credible explanation,” Courage said.—With reports from Amy R. Remo and Christine O. Avendano

Survey spurs roadshow By Christine F. Herrera | Posted 17 hours ago | 1,786 views

‘Plan B’ adopted after Aquino’s speech fiasco

President Benigno Aquino III’s decision to mount a provincial roadshow to explain his Disbursement Acceleration Program was the direct result of panic over a confidential survey that showed the President’s approval rating plunging to 35 percent in Metro Manila last October, a Palace source said Wednesday.

The roadshow is also aimed at countering a people’s initiative launched by former Chief Justice Reynato Puno seeking to abolish all forms of pork barrel, the source added.

The Palace insider insisted that the poll was conducted by Pedro Laylo Jr., despite the pollster’s statement Wednesday attacking the Manila Standard story.

Laylo’s statement denied that he was commissioned by the Palace, but did not deny that he conducted such a survey.

“Our commissioned survey projects are private and confidential; results of which are not meant to be published,” Laylo said. “We do not comment on survey results leaked through rumors and hearsay.”

But the findings of the survey were leaked to the Manila Standard by the Palace source over the weekend.

“There was a survey done and the field work was undertaken on Oct. 8 to 11 among 800 respondents and Laylo was the survey company,” the Palace source insisted. “The Palace, the President and the inner circle of the President are aware of the results of the survey. And then the Palace started to panic.”

The provincial roadshow to explain DAP was “Plan B” after the President’s nationally televised speech turned out to be a PR disaster, the source said.

Plan B also includes dialogues with anti-pork groups, which have given the President a Dec. 6 deadline to abolish all pork barrel, including his own discretionary funds.

The #AbolishPork group, headed by retired Lingayen Archbishop Oscar Cruz, the militant Bagong Alyansang Makabayan and Makabayan announced a series of massive protest rallies to demand the scrapping of all forms of pork barrel, including funds of the Presidents

Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes said anti-pork rallies will be held today, Nov. 7, Nov. 11, Nov. 13 and culminate on Nov. 30, Bonifacio Day.

Today, Reyes said, the anti-pork rallies will be held at the Senate where the alleged mastermind of the pork barrel scam, Janet Lim Napoles, is set to testify.

On Nov. 11, the group will be at the Supreme Court, where oral arguments on the legality of the DAP are slated.

The #ScrapPork Network, which wants the President to give up his own discretionary funds, on Wednesday welcomed the Palace offer for a dialogue, saying it was a step in the right direction.

The Palace source said the provincial blitz on DAP was the President’s idea.

“The President believes he did no wrong in the dispersal of the DAP funds. He insists that the disbursement was done judiciously and so he wanted to bring the issue directly to the people by wanting to do that provincial roadshow,” the Palace source said.

The president’s spokesman, Secretary Herminio Coloma on Wednesday also denied commissioning the survey.

“Our position remains unchanged: We did not commission any study. Hence, we have no basis for commenting on issues arising from any study about which we are not aware,” Coloma told the Manila Standard on Wednesday in a text message

He also said he was not aware of any such survey.

“Majority of the allegations came from that survey, how can I give a fair comment if the premise was not there?” Coloma added.

The survey findings, leaked to the Manila Standard, showed that the President’s satisfaction rating among the E class at only 26 percent in October.

Coloma also brushed aside the idea that the administration was worried about a decline in Mr. Aquino’s popualrity rating, saying the Palace was focused on “their job to help uplift the lives of the Filipino people.”

In the House of Representatives, the President’s allies, including Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. and Assistant Majority Leader Karlo Alexei Nograles, pooh-poohed the results of the internal survey, but his critics said they reflected the growing discontent with the Aquino administration.

“It clearly shows that Malacanang has already unraveled itself,” said Kabataan party-list Rep. Terry Ridon. “It coddles crooks allied to itself and unconstitutionally usurps constitutional powers, as in the DAP.”

Reps. Carlos Zarate of Bayan Muna and Luz Ilagan of warned the President his popularity would continue to decline if he refused to heed the public’s call to abolish the pork barrel system.

“The writing on the wall is already clear: The Filipinos are already angry with corruption and patronage politics,” Zarate said.

“The President should listen to the Filipino people,” Ilagan said.

But Belmonte said he doubted the veracity of the survey.

“I never heard of that survey, and I am trying to verify if t exists at all,” the Speaker said.

Nograles and AKO-Bicol party-list Rep. Rodel Batocabe also doubted the survey results.

“From the ground, I can sense that the President’s popularity has remained high,” Nograles said.

He said that the controversy over DAP that is hounding the Aquino government is already

with the Supreme Court; and that the people should give the President the benefit of the doubt.

Batocabe said that the President’s popularity may have dropped but not as drastically as reported.

He said a decline in popularity is only natural “because you cannot please everybody.”

House Deputy Majority Leader Sherwin Tugna said whether the survey results are true, the President needed to work harder to restore the people’s trust in his “straight path” agenda.

He added that a decline in his ratings was expected, since he is in the second half of his term.

Senate President Franklin Drilon, whose approval rating declined dramatically after the pork barrel scandal broke, said Wednesday he was confident that President Aquino and the Senate would regain the lost trust and confidence of the people, once those who stole from the nation’s coffers are punished. – With Maricel V. Cruz and Macon Ramos-Araneta


PNoy sets prov’l blitz to counter anti-DAP
By Sara Susanne D. Fabunan | Posted 6 hours ago | 171 views

President Benigno Aquino plans to hold a nationwide dialogue among the groups that are still contesting the administration’s Disbursement Acceleration Program, Malacañang said Monday.

Aquino plans to visit different provinces nationwide to hold a public dialogue to make the public further understand the DAP issue, Presidential Communication Operations Office secretary Herminio Coloma said.

“The dialogue will be conducted regularly and we will try to hold this extensively,” Coloma told reporters in in Filipino.

He could not say how many dialogues would be held but said those would be conducted in Malacañang, Metro Manila and the provinces.

Some Cabinet members would help the President hold the dialogues and implement the Aquino administration’s program of reform, Coloma said.

“The Cabinet members will help our President to implement his [Aquino’s] program on good governance and to help hold the said dialogues… They are of course with his [Aquino’s] advocacy against graft and corruption,” Coloma said.

Coloma underscored the importance of communication in informing the public about the reforms and campaign of the Aquino administration among those people in the community level.

He said Aquino’s plan for dialogues was not new since they had been reaching out to the people before on any issue, but this time the administration would focus on the DAP and priority development assistance fund.

“We just want to continue what we had started before to reach out and hold a dialogue with our people as part of the program of the Aquino administration,” Coloma said.

“It is known that the President regularly goes to various regions and provinces not just in times of crisis and calamity but to have a chance to have discussions with the people.

He is the President of all Filipinos and he is ready to speak to our countrymen of all regions and all provinces. His visits will be based on the schedule of his Presidential events.”

Coloma said his office was now coordinating the planned dialogues with several government public information offices.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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