PLUNDER RAPS ON SENATORS PROPS FOR AQUINO SONA

The Office of the Ombudsman’s filing of plunder cases last Friday against three Palace-targeted senators and their imminent arrest were all meant to act as backdrop for the penultimate State of the Nation Address (Sona) of President Aquino next month, one of the accused, Sen. Jinggoy Estrada, said yesterday. Estrada said in a radio interview the filing of the plunder charges against him and his two opposition colleagues, Senators Juan Ponce Enrile and Ramon Revilla Jr., was railroaded at the Office of the Ombudsman to rush their being behind bars as a showcase when Aquino delivers his Sona. Estrada said that as early as last month when Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales was still in New York for a “study tour” she had announced there was enough evidence to prove the guilt of the three legislators that made it “very obvious” Morales rushed the filing of charges upon her recent return to the country. “Morales had said that she still needed to study the motions for reconsideration (filed by the senators). How then can she immediately file the cases with the Sandiganbayan the moment she returned to the country? Isn’t it too obvious that she rushed the cases for filing with the Sandiganbayan,” he said. “It is but obvious that the target is for (the three senators) to be detained before the Sona of President Aquino...to provide a showcase for his anti-corruption drive,” he added. Estrada said he will voluntarily surrender himself to authorities once an arrest warrant is issued against him. He said that he wouldn’t being arrested inside the Senate grounds.READ MORE...

ALSO: ‘Arrests imminent’

THE Aquino administration wants to immediately imprison three senators ahead of President Benigno Aquino III’s State of the Nation Address on July 28 so that the President can highlight the gains of his anti-corruption drive, according to one of the senators indicted over the pork barrel scandal. But Senator Jinggoy Estrada questioned on Saturday why allies of the Aquino administration who have also been implicated in the same scandal have not even been investigated by the authorities. “They want us imprisoned before President Aquino’s SONA,” Estrada said in an interview with radio station dzMM on Saturday. “Naturally, he will say ‘we put in prison one president and three senators’... but up to now, they have never lifted a finger to investigate the allies of the administration who have already been implicated,” Estrada said in Filipino. Estrada was referring to Budget Secretary Florencio Abad and Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala, who were both implicated by whistleblower Benhur Luy and Estrada’s co-accused Janet Lim-Napoles. “That’s what really saddens me,” Estrada said. “Why are these allies of the administration not being investigated?” But Malacañang insisted on Saturday that the filing of charges against Estrada, Juan Ponce Enrile and Ramon Revilla Jr. was a significant step toward the truth. READ MORE...

ALSO: CBCP chief warns vs. selective justice on ‘pork’ scam

While lauding the government's "resolute" efforts to fight graft by filing charges against those involved in the P10-billion pork barrel scam, the head of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines on Sunday warned against "selective" justice. In a statement, CBCP president and Lingayen-Dagupan archbishop Socrates Villegas said dealing resolutely with graft and corrupt practices is the "path of righteousness." "We laud the effort of government to deal resolutely with graft and corrupt practices. This is the path of righteousness. Those who have been charged must be dealt with the full force of the law. "Those who are tasked to prosecute must observe total commitment to the human rights of the accused," the CBCP chief said. But Villegas also stressed all those culpable must be investigated and indicted if needed, regardless of political affiliation. "Everybody culpable, whatever their political affiliations may be, should be investigated and, if so warranted, indicted. When justice is selective, it is not justice at all," he said. On Friday, the Ombudsman filed graft and plunder charges against several personalities linked to the pork scam, including alleged mastermind Janet Napoles and senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jose "Jinggoy" Estrada and Ramon "Bong" Revilla Jr. Revilla's camp had sought to defer the proceedings while Estrada and Enrile had earlier denied the allegations against them. READ MORE...

ALSO: Heartless Government

What kind of government is it that takes pride in near balanced budget in the first trimester of 2014 (budget deficit of P3.3 billion out of cash budget of P2.3 trillion) amid serious joblessness, poverty, and massive deficiencies in public infrastructure? President Aquino’s fiscal managers proudly announced that the budget deficit from January to April was P 3.3 billion, a measly 1.2 percent of the 2014 full year budget deficit target of P267 billion. Thus far, the Aquino administration has been “heartless”. It has put more weight on fiscal optics — small deficits and lower debt-to-GDP ratio — than in addressing the needs of a growing economy and its impoverished people. The Aquino administration has chosen to underprovide essential public services to its people in the quest to have lower-than-appropriate budget deficits. It has failed to invest enough in physical infrastructure and human capital. It has reneged on its responsibility to build better and stronger communities in preparation for future disasters owing to climate change. The underspending in the first trimester of the 2014 is no different from the Aquino administration’s underspending in its previous three years in office. Mr. Aquino and his men continue to underspend when it should be spending more vigorously and purposively to reduce the country’s massive infrastructure deficiency relative to its Asean-5 peers, to speed up the reconstruction of the Yolanda ravaged areas, to fortify calamity-threatened territories, and to address the worsening lack of school facilities. READ MORE...

ALSO: ‘Pork’ raps part of Aquino’s Sona, says Malacañang

President Aquino has already started preparing for his fifth State-of-the- Nation Address (Sona), which he will deliver next month, and is expected to include the pork bar-rel scam, a Malacañang official yesterday said. While Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. admitted the Chief Executive has already discussed with his writers the outline of his forthcoming speech, he, however, stressed the filing of graft charges against opposition Senators Ramon Revilla Jr., Jinggoy Estrada and Juan Ponce Enrile and alleged scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles over the multibillion-peso scam was not rushed for the Sona. “It (filing of pork barrel scam cases) will certainly be discussed because the President will report the performance of the administration on its important programs and priorities under the Philippine Development Plan (PDP),” he said in a radio interview. “I would like to clarify that having a speech or the Sona was not the reason (for the filing of plunder cases.”  Coloma added there is an apparent effort to divert attention from the real issue.
The annual Sona is a way to inform the public about the state of the country, the accomplishments and promises by the Chief Executive. READ MORE...
 


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Plunder raps props for Sona — Estrada

OMBUDSMAN RUSHED FILING OF PORK CHARGES

MANILA, JUNE 9, 2014 (TRIBUNE) The Office of the Ombudsman’s filing of plunder cases last Friday against three Palace-targeted senators and their imminent arrest were all meant to act as backdrop for the penultimate State of the Nation Address (Sona) of President Aquino next month, one of the accused, Sen. Jinggoy Estrada, said yesterday.

Estrada said in a radio interview the filing of the plunder charges against him and his two opposition colleagues, Senators Juan Ponce Enrile and Ramon Revilla Jr., was railroaded at the Office of the Ombudsman to rush their being behind bars as a showcase when Aquino delivers his Sona.

Estrada said that as early as last month when Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales was still in New York for a “study tour” she had announced there was enough evidence to prove the guilt of the three legislators that made it “very obvious” Morales rushed the filing of charges upon her recent return to the country.

“Morales had said that she still needed to study the motions for reconsideration (filed by the senators). How then can she immediately file the cases with the Sandiganbayan the moment she returned to the country? Isn’t it too obvious that she rushed the cases for filing with the Sandiganbayan,” he said.

“It is but obvious that the target is for (the three senators) to be detained before the Sona of President Aquino...to provide a showcase for his anti-corruption drive,” he added.

Estrada said he will voluntarily surrender himself to authorities once an arrest warrant is issued against him. He said that he wouldn’t being arrested inside the Senate grounds.

Senate President Franklin Drilon said he would not allow authorities to make the arrest during a Senate session, invoking courtesy among the three branches of government.

“That would be fine with me (an arrest inside the Senate grounds). I will voluntarily surrender. They only have to tell me where I should surrender. I am easy to talk with... I will not escape arrest,” Estrada said

Estrada, nonetheless, maintained his innocence over the charges being leveled against him. “My conscience is clear,” he said.

He, however, asked that authorities spare the senior Enrile from being jailed due to his old age.
“He is 90 years old and it would be a great torment if he is detained. Let me and the others be placed in jail but spare Manong Johnny,” he said.

Estrada again raised the selective justice being administered by the government as it “never lifted a finger to even investigate the allies of the administration.”

“Why only us? That is a hard pill to swallow,” he said.

Cabinet members close to Aquino were also linked to the scandal including Budget Secretary Butch Abad, Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala, and Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) Director General Joel Villanueva.

Abad was even pinpointed by pork barrel scam brains Janet Lim Napoles in her sworn affidavit as being her mentor in the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF )scam.

“In the midst of recent misinformation brought about by dishonesty and politicking, the administration remains firmly committed to unearthing the facts,” Deputy presidential spokesman Abigail Valte said.
Valte said the administration has been prepared for any political repercussions should there be an arrest that would have to be issued by the Sandiganbayan.

“Of course, in this case, the court will issue an order of the arrest. The executive will be the one to be tasked to carry it out. So in that case, as in any high profile case that involves high profile personalities, we will do what is necessary as ordered by the court,” Valte said.

Valte said the execution of arrest would not be done in the Senate hall as Drilon has already made his appeal to the arresting officers.

Valte shrugged off Estrada’s allegations that the filing of the plunder charges was meant as a Sona backdrop.

“I think the Ombudsman has given enough time to review and to consider all the pieces of evidence that was submitted by the DOJ (Department of Justice). It took months before the Ombudsman has issued a resolution on this case,” Valte said.

Valte stressed that the Office of the Ombudsman is an independent constitutional commission or creation apart from the executive. “The office of the Ombudsman is not controlled by the executive,” Valte said.

Valte said the proposal of the Ombudsman to the Sandiganbayan to create a special division that should try and hear the plunder case can only be decided by sitting justices of the anti-graft court.

“That is a matter that will be left up to the decision of the Supreme Court and hopefully, whatever their decision may be, it will help in making sure that the trial or the proceedings are conducted in a timely manner without any delay,” Valte said.

In a letter submitted by Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales to SC Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, the Chief Ombudsman asked the High Court to create “at least two special divisions in the Sandiganbayan to exclusively try and conduct continuous trial” of the recently filed plunder cases in connection with the alleged illegal channeling of the lawmakers’ Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) to the bogus non-government organizations (NGOs) of businesswomen Janet Lim-Napoles.

“National magnitude of these cases, the complexities of the issues involved, the number of accused and the far-reaching consequences of these cases,” Morales said in his letter.

Invoking the Constitution and the Revised Internal Rules of the Sandiganbayan, the letter cited as precedent the SC’s January 21, 2002 Resolution in A.M. No. 02-1-07-SC where the SC created a Special Division of the Sandiganbayan to hear, try and decide, with dispatch, the plunder case and all related cases filed against former President Joseph Ejercito Estrada and his co-accused.

“Section 5, par. 5, Article VIII of the Constitution states that the Supreme Court has the power to “promulgate rules concerning x x x pleading, practice, and procedure in all courts,” the letter stated.

Morales also cited Section 3, Rule III, Part I of the Revised Internal Rules of the Sandiganbayan that provides for the creation of a special division “where compelling reasons and the interest of justice so require.”

Last Friday, the Office of the Ombudsman filed before the Sandiganbayan three separate plunder raps against Napoles, Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr., Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada and their respective co-accused for allegedly channelling hundreds of millions of pesos of their PDAF allocations to fake NGOs created and controlled by Napoles for the implementation of ghost projects.
The lawmakers allegedly pocketed public funds through kickbacks and or commissions in the amounts of more than P172-million, P242-million and P183-million, respectively.

The other charges for violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act are set to be filed against the same personalities next week.

On the part of the Ombudsman, Morales bared she had formed a special prosecution panel composed of three teams to handle the first set of criminal cases filed in connection with the PDAF controversy.

The Prosecution Panel is co-chaired by Deputy Special Prosecutor John Turalba and Acting Deputy Special Prosecutor Manuel Soriano Jr.

The panel’s first team is composed of Acting Director Janina Hidalgo as team leader with Assistant Special Prosecutors Edwin Gomez, Jennifer Agustin-Se and Annielyn Medes-Cabellis as members.

The second team is composed of Acting Director Danilo Lopez as team leader with Assistant Special Prosecutors Christina Marallag-Batacan, Anna Isabel Aurellano and Peter Jedd Boco as members while the third team consist of Acting Director Joefferson Toribio as team leader with Assistant Special Prosecutors Jacinto Dela Cruz, Lyn Dimayuga and Emerita Francia as members.

The Anti-Graft court is reportedly will conduct a special raffle of the case this Tuesday.

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, whose investigators prepared the case against the opposition senators, said she was confident they had enough evidence.

“We are confident that there is enough evidence to support conviction and we continue to strengthen the evidence,” she told AFP.

The evidence included testimony from whistleblowers involved in the alleged corruption and documents from government agencies showing that funds were syphoned off, she added.

If convicted, the three could face life in prison.

Enrile, 90, has outlasted four previous presidents and was chief enforcer of martial law under Marcos in the 1970s.

Estrada, 51, is the son of former president and movie star Joseph Estrada while Revilla, 47, is a showbiz star as well as the son of another movie star-turned-senator.

De Lima said the executive branch was awaiting word from the court on when to arrest the three, adding that this could come within two weeks.

She denied there were political overtones in the case, saying the evidence simply pointed to the trio.

Five of their staffers and a businesswoman, Janet Lim-Napoles, who allegedly masterminded the scam were also indicted.

The three senators with the help of their aides and Napoles are alleged to have allocated millions of dollars from their official “pork barrel” funds to bogus non-government organisations which then gave them huge kickbacks.

Aquino’s spokeswoman Abigail Valte said the indictments were just the start and that more people would eventually be named in the massive corruption scandal that has riveted the nation for months.

The accusations, which surfaced last year, triggered a firestorm of outrage over the “pork barrel” system whereby legislators get huge amounts of money which they can use on pet projects.

Thousands marched in protested against the practice, which the Supreme Court outlawed in November.

Other officials have also been named as involved in the scandal including allies of Aquino.

Spokesmen for the three senators could not be contacted for comment but Estrada and Revilla were quoted by radio station DZMM as saying the charges were unfair.

“They want (Aquino) to be able to say that he jailed three senators as part of his anti-corruption drive,” said Estrada.

Valte told reporters that the executive branch, which would be in charge of arresting the three, would respect the Senate and would not have the senators arrested in the Senate building.

Meanwhile, sources in the national police headquarters said that space was being cleared at a special “custodial centre” for high-profile inmates to make way for several big-name arrivals.

The centre currently hosts 72 inmates including top communist insurgents, suspected drug traffickers and police officials linked to graft and major human rights abuses.

However it should ideally hold only 60 inmates, the sources said. By Charlie V. Manalo, Paul Atienza and AFP

FROM GMA NEWS NETWORK

CBCP chief warns vs. selective justice on ‘pork’ scam June 8, 2014 8:21am 186 20 0 213 Tags: Bantay Kaban

While lauding the government's "resolute" efforts to fight graft by filing charges against those involved in the P10-billion pork barrel scam, the head of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines on Sunday warned against "selective" justice.

In a statement, CBCP president and Lingayen-Dagupan archbishop Socrates Villegas said dealing resolutely with graft and corrupt practices is the "path of righteousness."

"We laud the effort of government to deal resolutely with graft and corrupt practices. This is the path of righteousness. Those who have been charged must be dealt with the full force of the law.

"Those who are tasked to prosecute must observe total commitment to the human rights of the accused," the CBCP chief said.

But Villegas also stressed all those culpable must be investigated and indicted if needed, regardless of political affiliation.

"Everybody culpable, whatever their political affiliations may be, should be investigated and, if so warranted, indicted. When justice is selective, it is not justice at all," he said.

On Friday, the Ombudsman filed graft and plunder charges against several personalities linked to the pork scam, including alleged mastermind Janet Napoles and senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jose "Jinggoy" Estrada and Ramon "Bong" Revilla Jr.

Revilla's camp had sought to defer the proceedings while Estrada and Enrile had earlier denied the allegations against them.

Too early to celebrate

Earlier, militant groups such as the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan said it is too early to be "celebrating," urging the Office of the Ombudsman not to stop its probe of the pork barrel scam at three senators.

"What we’d like to know is if the Ombudsman will stop at the three senators and several other officials. The pork scam involves many officials, congressmen and members of (Benigno Aquino III's) Cabinet. It is too early to be celebrating..,,” said Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes Jr.

Reyes also said the filing of cases before the Sandiganbayan was "no longer a surprise" as the Aquino administration "focused all its efforts on going" after Enrile, Estrada and Revilla.

Bayan also said it is also readying actions for the Supreme Court's decision on the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP). Bayan's officials and those of the #abolishpork Movement are petitioners against the DAP.

“On June (12), we have to make a stand: that all those involved in the misuse and plunder of public funds, from Congress all the way to Malacanang, should be answerable to the people,” Reyes said.

CBCP vs. hatred, vengeance

Meanwhile, Villegas also warned against actions born out of hatred or a desire for vengeance.

"Let no action--official, personal or otherwise-- be ever born out of hatred or a desire for vengeance. A vengeful action cannot be from God.

"Let everything we do be born out of sincere love for each other and concern for the common good for only then will we be recognized as disciples of the Divine Master who searches out and rescues the lost and the weak," he said.

Conversion, renewal

Villegas also called for prayers for those who he said may have wronged society, and for their "conversion and renewal."

"As Christians we are exhorted to love at all times, even those who sin and err, for none of us is above human frailty. We embrace all who have wronged society as our brothers and sisters and continue to pray, that as God's people, we may ALL walk the path of conversion and renewal," he said.

"For those among us who are not accused, let us remember that the offenses with which those who now stand accused are charged could very well be the offense of any of us as well. Who are we to condemn? Let the one who has no sin be the first to cast a stone," he added. — Joel Locsin /LBG, GMA News

FROM THE MANILA STANDARD

‘Arrests imminent’ By Maricel Cruz | Jun. 08, 2014 at 12:01am

Estrada blasts Palace for the haste to jail plunder suspects


THE PNP Custodial Center in Camp Crame spruced up to serve as detention cell for three senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada and Ramon “Bong” Revilla—all accused of plunder. In Cavite, a Revilla-supporter questions the timing of the plunder case. MANNY PALMERO, DANNY PATA

THE Aquino administration wants to immediately imprison three senators ahead of President Benigno Aquino III’s State of the Nation Address on July 28 so that the President can highlight the gains of his anti-corruption drive, according to one of the senators indicted over the pork barrel scandal.

But Senator Jinggoy Estrada questioned on Saturday why allies of the Aquino administration who have also been implicated in the same scandal have not even been investigated by the authorities.

“They want us imprisoned before President Aquino’s SONA,” Estrada said in an interview with radio station dzMM on Saturday.

“Naturally, he will say ‘we put in prison one president and three senators’... but up to now, they have never lifted a finger to investigate the allies of the administration who have already been implicated,” Estrada said in Filipino.

Estrada was referring to Budget Secretary Florencio Abad and Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala, who were both implicated by whistleblower Benhur Luy and Estrada’s co-accused Janet Lim-Napoles.

“That’s what really saddens me,” Estrada said. “Why are these allies of the administration not being investigated?”

But Malacañang insisted on Saturday that the filing of charges against Estrada, Juan Ponce Enrile and Ramon Revilla Jr. was a significant step toward the truth.

“This constitutes a major step forward in our mission to find out the truth about these anomalies,” said Deputy Presidential Spokeswoman Abigail Valte in an interview on state-owned dzRB.

Valte also dismissed Estrada’s claim that the charges were rushed in time for the State of the Nation Address.

She said the Ombudsman, which is an independent constitutional body, was given enough time to review and consider all the evidence that was submitted by the Department of Justice.

But several lawmakers also questioned the apparent bias in the investigation and demanded that Abad resign, or at least go on leave of absence, pending an investigation.

“Aquino has raised fire and hell against senators and congressmen involved in the scam, but now, here he is, defending Abad and other Cabinet members who are standing knee-deep in this scandal,” said Kabataan Rep. Terry Ridon.

“The officials involved, especially DBM Sec. Florencio Abad, are the ones who approve and release government funds at present. It is simply not right that they’re still sitting smugly in their offices, acting as if nothing transpired,” Ridon said.

House Deputy Minority Leader and Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares also warned Aquino to stop lawyering and defending Abad and his allies to dispel suspicions that he is using the powers of the presidency to obstruct justice.

“The people will definitely not like it if they see that the investigation of the pork barrel scandal is tainted with bias against the opposition and in favor of the allies, and that this is nothing more than an attempt to cripple the opponents of the President in 2016,” Colmenares said.

But Estrada, who has already gone to jail for two years before he was acquitted of plunder, insisted that his conscience was clear and he was prepared to face the charges against him even if he had to go to jail again.

“I will surrender willingly. Just tell me where you want to pick me up and I will go. If the police or the Sandiganbayan sheriff tells me to go to the Sandigan or Camp Crame, I will go. I will not evade arrest.”

But Estrada asked for some leniency to his co-accused, Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile.

“The man is already 90 years old. I hope they don’t imprison him anymore. Let’s let it be if we have to go to jail, but not Manong Johnny,” he said.

But another accused Senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. and his former aide Richard Cambe was more in a fighting mood and asked the Sandiganbayan on Saturday to judicially determine the probable cause of the plunder charges that were filed against the three senators and six others on Friday.

Revilla’s lawyer Joel Bodegon said they also asked the Sandiganbayan for the complete records of the preliminary investigations, suspend its hearings on the plunder cases and not to issue arrest warrants against the accused.

Aside from Estrada, Enrile and Revilla, the Ombudsman also charged Napoles, Cambe, Enrile’s former chief of staff Jessica Lucille Reyes, Estrada’s aide Pauline Therese Mary Labayen, Napoles aide John Raymond de Asis and Napoles’ brother Ronald Lim.

The case will be raffled off to the Sandiganbayan’s five divisions on June 13 and the assigned court will be given 10 days to establish a probable cause for the issuance of warrants of arrest.

But lawyers of the the Ombudsman said the cases are only the first batch of all the recommendations submitted by the NBI and more charges for violations of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act are set to be filed next week.

On Friday, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales asked the Supreme Court to create at least two sepcial divisions of the Sandiganbayan so that the cases can be heard continuously.

“National magnitude of these cases, the complexities of the issues involved, the number of accused and the far-reaching consequences of these cases,” Morales said in her letter to Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.

Morales formed a special prosecution panel, composed of three teams, to handle the first set of plunder cases against PDAF scam suspects.

The Prosecution Panel is co-chaired by Deputy Special Prosecutor John Turalba and Acting Deputy Special Prosecutor Manuel Soriano Jr.

The panel’s first team is composed of Janina Hidalgo as team leader with Assistant Special Prosecutors Edwin Gomez, Jennifer Agustin-Se and Annielyn Medes-Cabellis as members.

The second team is composed of Danilo Lopez as team leader with Assistant Special Prosecutors Christina Marallag-Batacan, Anna Isabel Aurellano and Peter Jedd Boco as members while the third team is composed of Acting Director Joefferson Toribio as team leader with Assistant Special Prosecutors Jacinto Dela Cruz, Lyn Dimayuga and Emerita Francia as members.

FROM THE TRIBUNE

Heartless Government Written by Tribune Monday, 09 June 2014 00:00

What kind of government is it that takes pride in near balanced budget in the first trimester of 2014 (budget deficit of P3.3 billion out of cash budget of P2.3 trillion) amid serious joblessness, poverty, and massive deficiencies in public infrastructure?

President Aquino’s fiscal managers proudly announced that the budget deficit from January to April was P 3.3 billion, a measly 1.2 percent of the 2014 full year budget deficit target of P267 billion.

Thus far, the Aquino administration has been “heartless”. It has put more weight on fiscal optics — small deficits and lower debt-to-GDP ratio — than in addressing the needs of a growing economy and its impoverished people.

The Aquino administration has chosen to underprovide essential public services to its people in the quest to have lower-than-appropriate budget deficits.

It has failed to invest enough in physical infrastructure and human capital. It has reneged on its responsibility to build better and stronger communities in preparation for future disasters owing to climate change.

The underspending in the first trimester of the 2014 is no different from the Aquino administration’s underspending in its previous three years in office.

Mr. Aquino and his men continue to underspend when it should be spending more vigorously and purposively to reduce the country’s massive infrastructure deficiency relative to its Asean-5 peers, to speed up the reconstruction of the Yolanda ravaged areas, to fortify calamity-threatened territories, and to address the worsening lack of school facilities.

Seven months after the Eastern Visayas area was ravaged by super typhoon Yolanda, very little has been done by the government to reconstruct, build better and sturdier facilities, and uplift the lives of typhoon victims.

With the forthcoming typhoon season, the lives of these victims, an overwhelming majority of whom are still living in tents and makeshift facilities, will be put in jeopardy.

This is not the first time that the Aquino administration has budgeted less for, then underspent in, public infrastructure. In 2011, it allocated P170 billion (1.9 percent of GDP) for public infrastructure but it only spent P152.1 billion (1.6 percent of GDP).

In 2012, it allocated P215.2 billion (2 percent of GDP), but spent only P186.1 billion (1.8 percent of GDP). In 2013, the Aquino administration set aside P265.7 billion (2.2 percent of GDP), but spent on P222.5 billion (1.9 percent of GDP).

In 2014, the Aquino administration is authorized to spend P365 billion for infrastructure and other capital outlays [not exactly comparable to previous numbers] but during the first quarter, it has only spent P77 billion or 21.1 percent of total public infrastructure and other capital outlays.

If spending for public infrastructure were on target, some P91 billion should have been disbursed and 25 percent of total projects should have been completed.

The consensus is that given its massive infrastructure deficiency, the Philippines has to spent the equivalent of at least 5 percent of GDP, or roughly P625 billion annually, for public infrastructure in order to sustain growth of 6 to 7 percent for many years into the future.

Good-bye dry months

The first few months of the year – January to May — are ideal for public construction, while the third quarter months (July to September) are the worst because of the onslaught of the rainy season.

Everyone, including government authorities, knows the seasonality of public construction. Yet, they failed to implement government projects during the dry months.

The spillover of public construction from the underspending in 2013 and the reconstruction efforts as a result of typhoon Yolanda and other major calamities should have resulted in stronger public infrastructure spending in the first six months of 2014. Yet, no such massive construction took place.

Despite the fact that much has been appropriated for school buildings during the last three years, the lack of school facilities remain unaddressed, especially in Metro Manila and the typhoon damaged areas.

Decent housing for Yolanda and the Zamboanga siege victims has yet to be built. There appears to be a huge divergence between pronouncements by the Department of Budget and Management and the real situation on the ground.

There is a big difference between press releases that funds (actually authority to contract out projects) have been released by the DBM and the actual start and completion of projects. Press releases don’t create jobs and move the economy; actual construction activities do.

Opportunity costs of project delays

There is an opportunity cost for every passing day that government plans and projects do not take off the ground.

The potential beneficiaries of government services —the farmers who benefit from farm-to-market roads, the urban dwellers who benefit from efficient and reliable mass transit system, the school children who benefit from new or reconstructed school buildings, the calamity victims who benefit from new and decent housing, and so on — are denied the benefits while these funded projects are delayed or, in some cases, not implemented.

For a labor-surplus economy like the Philippines, the opportunity costs of failing to create decent jobs for some 3 million unemployed and some 7 to 8 million underemployed Filipinos is tremendous. Think of the many idle workers who were denied employment opportunities because government projects were delayed or not implemented.

What’s worse is when fiscal managers try to masquerade failure as success: trying to get ‘brownie points’ for underspending and taking pride in generating smaller-than-programmed budget deficit.

Dr. Diokno is a former Secretary of Budget and Management.

‘Pork’ raps part of Aquino’s Sona, says MalacañangWritten by Tribune Monday, 09 June 2014 00:00

President Aquino has already started preparing for his fifth State-of-the- Nation Address (Sona), which he will deliver next month, and is expected to include the pork bar-rel scam, a Malacañang official yesterday said.

While Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. admitted the Chief Executive has already discussed with his writers the outline of his forthcoming speech, he, however, stressed the filing of graft charges against opposition Senators Ramon Revilla Jr., Jinggoy Estrada and Juan Ponce Enrile and alleged scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles over the multibillion-peso scam was not rushed for the Sona.

“It (filing of pork barrel scam cases) will certainly be discussed because the President will report the performance of the administration on its important programs and priorities under the Philippine Development Plan (PDP),” he said in a radio interview.

“I would like to clarify that having a speech or the Sona was not the reason (for the filing of plunder cases.”
Coloma added there is an apparent effort to divert attention from the real issue.

The annual Sona is a way to inform the public about the state of the country, the accomplishments and promises by the Chief Executive.

It is delivered every fourth Monday of July at the Plenary Hall of the Batasang Pambansa Complex in Batasan Hills, Quezon City.

The President delivered his first Sona in July 2010, the second in 2011, the third in 2012, and the fourth in 2013.

“Part of the priorities of the government (Aquino administration) is good governance and anti-corruption,” Coloma said in Filipino.

The PCOO chief further said that good governance and anti-corruption campaign are both part of the PDP.

Estrada over the weekend said the filing of the plunder charges against him and his two opposition colleagues was railroaded at the Office of the Ombudsman to rush their being behind bars as a showcase when Aquino delivers his Sona.

But Coloma Jr. said the charges came from the Office of the Ombudsman and that the investigation on
the three senators’ alleged involvement in the pork barrel scam had been going on since last year. PNA


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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