'MAKE LOVE NOT WAR'; AQUINO TAKES CONCILIATORY TONE TOWARD CRITICS 

JULY 22 --PHOTO: THE BIGGEST DOME — Thousands of Iglesia Ni Cristo (INC) officers and members wave their INC flags during the inauguration of the Philippine Arena in Bocaue, Bulacan, yesterday. President Aquino is presented with a coffee table book on what is described as the world’s largest domed arena by INC Executive Minister Eduardo V. Manalo.

Make love not war. President Aquino stressed this yesterday as he took a conciliatory tone, calling on his critics to spread love instead of sowing confusion and discord. At the inauguration of the 55,000-seat Philippine Arena at the 75-hectare Ciudad de Victoria of Iglesia Ni Cristo (INC) in Bulacan, the President reminded his detractors to act like Christians and help his government in advancing the common good.

“Mayroon pong iilan na anuman ang gawin ko, gaya ng pagdalo rito, ay maghahanap pa rin ng puwedeng ibatikos. Paalala ko lang sa kanila: Kung kapwa ko Kristiyano, tungkulin nating magmahalan sa ngalan ng Panginoon sa halip na maghasik ng agam-agam at ‘di pagkakaunawaan [There are some who, no matter what I do, like attending this event, will always look for things to criticize. I just want to remind them: If you are my fellow Christians, it is our duty to love each other in the name of the Lord instead of sowing confusion and misunderstanding],” the President said at the INC event inside the 60-meter tall Philippine Arena, the world’s largest indoor arena.

Speaking before a huge crowd of INC members, led by their executive minister Eduardo Manalo, and guests, President Aquino admitted he was awed by the majestic structure that was filled to the rafters of an estimated 55,000 people. “Itinuro po sa akin ng aking ama na kapag magtatalumpati ay lagi akong nakatititig sa mata, ngunit talaga pong napakalawak nito kaya kailangan kong tumingin hangang sa taas ng mga balkonahe,” Aquino told a cheering crowd waving small INC flags. The President, battling criticisms for his defense of the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), said it was expected to make a few enemies while in pursuit of his reform agenda. * READ MORE...

ALSO: Unfazed Palace trusts Congress on impeachment raps vs PNoy 

JULY 22 --Malacañang is unfazed by the two impeachment complaints filed this week against President Benigno Aquino III over the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP). Presidential Communications Operations Office head Herminio Coloma Jr. is confident that the actions of Congress, which is dominated by Aquino's allies, on the impeachment complaints will be for the welfare of the public. "Katuwiran ang dapat na maging pangunahing batayan ng mga kinatawan. Sa kanilang pagpapasya, tiyak na isasaalang-alang nila ang saloobin at kapakanan ng mga mamamayan," Coloma said at a press briefing. Coloma conceded that the impeachment process is a numbers game. "Hindi maikakaila na mahalaga ang numero dito dahil sa kahuli-hulihan magbobotohan kung ipapasa o hindi ang panukalang impeachment," the Palace official said. On Tuesday, youth groups filed an impeachment complaint at the House of Representatives against Aquino on the grounds of culpable violation of the constitution and betrayal of public trust.

Kabataan Party-list Representative Terry Ridon endorsed the impeachment complaint. It was the second valid impeachment complaint lodged against Aquino this week. On Monday, A total of 28 groups and personalities led by militant group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) filed an impeachment case. Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes Jr. criticized Aquino for his defiance of the Supreme Court's ruling on the DAP. "From what we saw, it is clear that Aquino not only violated the Constitution, he has no intention of upholding it. He sees himself as being above the law. He sees himself as beyond public scrutiny. He is a dictator-in-the-making," Reyes said. Party-list representatives belonging to the Makabayan bloc led by Neri Colmenares of Bayan Muna endorsed yesterday's complaint. Under the House impeachment rules, a complaint cannot be entertained without the endorsement of at least one member of the chamber. * READ MORE...

ALSO: Palace downplays criticism  

JULY 22 --Malacañang downplayed yesterday the criticism President Aquino has been getting over the controversial Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) amid calls for his impeachment. Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. of the Presidential Communications Operations Office said only a minority of the people disapprove of Aquino. The President still enjoys the trust of a majority of Filipinos based on the latest Pulse Asia and Social Weather Stations surveys, where he had 55 to 56 percent performance approval rating, Coloma said. In defending the DAP whose salient portions were declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda admitted yesterday that the economic stimulus fund was offered to lawmakers even before the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) was voided by the SC in November 2013.

“Again our position is that DAP is different from PDAF,” Lacierda said. He said DAP funds were given to legislators for the implementation of projects that benefited their constituents. Lacierda said they have asked the lawmakers to identify these projects. Under the 116 projects purportedly funded by DAP, around P17 billion have been released to President Aquino’s allies in the Senate and the House. Belmonte to colleagues: Account for DAP funds Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. asked his colleagues in the House of Representatives yesterday to account for funds they have received from the administration’s DAP. * READ MORE...

ALSO: DAP doled out in small doses 

JULY 23 --The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) dispersed the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) funds to legislators in small doses for indigent patients, scholarships and livelihood programs—a distribution pattern eerily similar to the congressional pork barrel funds before these were outlawed by the Supreme Court. The Inquirer has obtained a 32-page summary of 1,014 special allotment release orders (Saros) covering P150.6 billion in total DAP funds, with some allocations as little as P5,000, to agencies and entities such as the departments of health, labor, education and agriculture, state hospitals, universities and colleges and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (Tesda). Most of these DAP funds, distributed from October 2011 to December 2013, were not specified in the official list of the DAP projects presented by the DBM to the public shortly after President Aquino made his televised speech explaining the DAP and scolding the Supreme Court for declaring his purported economic stimulus program unconstitutional. Saros --The list showed that roughly P300 million in funds were distributed through 180 Saros to the health department for financial assistance to indigent patients.

These were on top of the estimated 100 Saros granted to Lung Center of the Philippines, National Kidney and Transplant Institute, Philippine Heart Center and Philippine Children’s Medical Center. These were in addition to lump-sum funds declared by the DBM in its official list. About P360 million in extra funds were channeled to the Department of Social Welfare and Development through 76 Saros mostly as financial assistance under the Comprehensive and Integrated Delivery of Social Services.The DBM released about P870 million to the Department of Education and Tesda through over 180 Saros to bankroll scholarship grants and livelihood training programs. Activist lawyer Harry Roque pointed out that the DBM had full control of how the DAP funds were spent as lawmakers were only given a menu by the Speaker and the Senate President from which to choose where their allocations of P10 million to P100 million would go. “The bottom line is the lawmakers’ input if they want their DAP in the form of financial assistance or scholarships or medical grants or livelihood programs. The agencies implementing them have been preselected by the DBM,” Roque said in a phone interview. DBM full report..--* READ MORE...

ALSO GRP blog commentary: Philippine society grew dumber while #DAP funds channeled to Congressmen’s pet ‘projects’  

Public outrage is escalating to fever pitches over revelations that the administration of Philippine President Benigno Simeon ‘BS’ Aquino III (1) baldly refuses to recognise the ruling of the Philippine Supreme Court that the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) is unconstitutional, (2) refuses to release coherent details around the manner with which DAP funds were appropriated and released and, yet, (3) remains adamant that he and his henchmen had used the DAP “in good faith”. Information by the bucketloads has been coming to light. Included in this torrent of incriminating facts are revelations that thousands of DAP-funded ‘special allotment release orders’ (SAROs) had been funneled into the offices of members of Congress. The Inquirer reports that 90 percent of the these SAROs were accounted for by releases to members of Philippine Congress on top of their routine pork barrel allocations. Budget Secretary Butch Abad reportedly refuses to confirm the figures while House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte says that he is not yet privy to a “full accounting” of the funds in question.

The fact that “more research” is required and that proper accounting reports are not readily-available to both of these top-ranked officials of the government already indicates the gross mismanagement of tens of millions of pesos of Filipino taxpayers’ funds that routinely goes unnoticed in the Philippine government. This follows disturbing reports that the Philippines has slipped in ranking again in another development indicator that describes an aspect of its society that is critical to building a strong and prosperous nation. The recently-released Global Innovation Index (GII) for 2014 has seen the Philippines dropping ten rungs in the global ranking to 100th out of 143 countries evaluated. *READ MORE...

ALSO Inquirer commentary: Calling on the rabble   

JULY 23 --The decision of the Supreme Court striking down the Aquino administration’s Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) as unconstitutional was so devastating to his regime that it sent the President on a warpath against the high court, provoking the worst showdown between the two independent organs of Philippine democracy since he took office in 2010. The decision proved to be the catalyst of a potential constitutional crisis in more ways than one, flaring up as Mr. Aquino enters the twilight years of his six-year presidency marked by controversies not only between himself and his political enemies but, more so, between two coequal branches of government.

First, the decision is polarizing the nation along the lines demarcated not by social ideology but by self-righteous claims of Mr. Aquino, who has proclaimed fighting corruption as the hallmark of his governance. Under it, his regime has launched the criminal prosecution of officials and their private cohorts accused by the Department of Justice of plunder and corruption in the Sandiganbayan. So far, the Ombudsman has lodged a plunder complaint encapsulated in the lead cases against Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and Bong Revilla, their staff members and others, and executive-branch cases. These cases have been held out by Malacañang as a demonstration of its resolve to stamp out corruption in government.

Second, the decision has been so marked by acrimony between the executive branch and the judiciary that it generated heated exchanges in legal and political circles. It prompted Mr. Aquino to hurl threats against the Supreme Court, saying the outlawing of the DAP has raised the danger of a possible clash between the executive branch and the judiciary, to a point where the third branch would have to mediate. 

This is clearly a dire and blatant threat of congressional intervention, given that the President’s coalition in the House of Representatives holds an overwhelming majority to overturn the effects of the high court’s cancellation of the DAP as a mechanism to take control of the distribution of the congressional pork barrel to public improvement projects—the lifeblood of congressional largesse to enable lawmakers to stay in office on the strength of the vote of local electorates. * READ MORE...


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‘Make love not war’; Aquino takes conciliatory tone toward critics


THE BIGGEST DOME — Thousands of Iglesia Ni Cristo (INC) officers and members wave their INC flags during the inauguration of the Philippine Arena in Bocaue, Bulacan, yesterday. Above, President Aquino is presented with a coffee table book on what is described as the world’s largest domed arena by INC Executive Minister Eduardo V. Manalo. (Jacqueline Hernandez)

MANILA, JULY 28, 2014 (MANILA BULLETIN) Make love not war. President Aquino stressed this yesterday as he took a conciliatory tone, calling on his critics to spread love instead of sowing confusion and discord.

At the inauguration of the 55,000-seat Philippine Arena at the 75-hectare Ciudad de Victoria of Iglesia Ni Cristo (INC) in Bulacan, the President reminded his detractors to act like Christians and help his government in advancing the common good.

“Mayroon pong iilan na anuman ang gawin ko, gaya ng pagdalo rito, ay maghahanap pa rin ng puwedeng ibatikos. Paalala ko lang sa kanila: Kung kapwa ko Kristiyano, tungkulin nating magmahalan sa ngalan ng Panginoon sa halip na maghasik ng agam-agam at ‘di pagkakaunawaan [There are some who, no matter what I do, like attending this event, will always look for things to criticize. I just want to remind them: If you are my fellow Christians, it is our duty to love each other in the name of the Lord instead of sowing confusion and misunderstanding],” the President said at the INC event inside the 60-meter tall Philippine Arena, the world’s largest indoor arena.

Speaking before a huge crowd of INC members, led by their executive minister Eduardo Manalo, and guests, President Aquino admitted he was awed by the majestic structure that was filled to the rafters of an estimated 55,000 people.

“Itinuro po sa akin ng aking ama na kapag magtatalumpati ay lagi akong nakatititig sa mata, ngunit talaga pong napakalawak nito kaya kailangan kong tumingin hangang sa taas ng mga balkonahe,” Aquino told a cheering crowd waving small INC flags.

The President, battling criticisms for his defense of the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), said it was expected to make a few enemies while in pursuit of his reform agenda.


PhilArena

But Aquino expressed hope that “bilang mga tagasunod ng Panginoon, lagi sana tayong magtulungan sa pagtataguyod ng ikabubuti ng lahat [as followers of the Lord, we should always help each other for the good of all].”

“Lagi sana tayong maging bukal ng pag-asa at paglingap sa ating kapwa, lalo na sa mas nangangailangan [Let us always serve as source of hope and compassion for our neighbors, especially those in need],” Aquino added.

Taking refuge from the latest turmoil engulfing his administration, the President read a few verses from the Bible about God’s love and love for neighbor, which he claimed is demonstrated by the members of the INC.

This drew more deafening applause from the INC members.

Aquino first quoted John 13:34-35, that read: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

His second Bible reference was Matthew 25:40, which read, “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’”

Aquino’s Bible reading drew loud applause from the INC members gathered at the world’s largest indoor arena.

“Alam ho n’yo po, napapag-isip ako, bakit pag nag-quo-quote po ako sa Bible, maski matagal ko nang kasamahan parang, nabibigla ho [You know, I thought why people even those close to me are surprised when I quote from the Bible],” the President said, earning laughter from the audience.

The President’s latest message to his critics came as the administration deals with the fallout of the DAP, which was largely voided by the Supreme Court early this month.

President Aquino had earlier went on national television to defend the legality of DAP and called on the Supreme Court to reverse its decision. The next day, Aquino continued his tirade of the SC ruling on DAP, saying it might place the country’s economic growth under a state of paralysis.

Several groups, however, expressed dismay with the President’s fiery attack of the Supreme Court and urged him to respect the decision. A number of impeachment complaints have already been filed against the President over the DAP. (See related story on this spread.)

Meantime, the President lauded the INC for its significant contributions to national development, particularly spreading the love of Christ. He also thanked the religious group for its steadfast support for his administration’s good governance agenda.

The inauguration of the Philippine Arena is among the series of activities during the year-long celebration of INC’s centennial anniversary which culminates on July 27. The INC was founded by Bro. Felix Manalo.

“Binabati ko po kayo sa nalalapit ninyong ika-100 anibersaryo. Nandito nga po tayo upang saksihan ang makasaysayang paglulunsad ng “Lungsod ng Tagumpay” (Ciudad deVictoria) na angkop sa pagdiriwang lalo pa at sinasalamin nito ang tagumpay ng Iglesia Ni Cristo sa nagdaang isang siglo,” the President said.

“Personal nga po nating sinusuportahan ang isang institusyong tulad ng Iglesia sa maalab na paghubog ng inyong mga miyembro bilang mga tapat na alagad ng ating Panginoon [I personally support an institution like the Iglesia for honing its members to become good followers of the Lord],” the President said.

“Nagsisilbi po kayong tulay upang mapalalim pa ang pananampalataya ng inyong mga kasapi, at maigting ninyong ginagabayan ang buhay ispiritwal ng napakarami nating kababayan [You serve as a bridge to deepen the faith of your members and guide the spiritual life of our countrymen],” he added.

In the same speech, the President hailed the INC for the establishment of the new Ciudad de Victoria as well as the Philippine Arena.

He noted that the new arena’s seating capacity of 55,000 more than double the size of the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California.

Aquino said that the imposing structure was built from the collective love of the INC members which shows that Filipinos can go at par with other countries.

The eye-catching imposing structure, which is built on a 99,200 square meters of land and has a dome of 36,000 square meters, is touted as “the centerpiece” of many centennial projects of the INC for their grand celebration on July 27. It has a floor area of 99,000 square meters and a roof span of 160 meters. The earthquake-proof arena used 9,000 tons of steel for its roof alone.

“Taos-puso po tayong nagpapasalamat sa Iglesia Ni Cristo sa pagmamalasakit ninyo sa ating kapwa; tunay pong ipinapamalas po ninyo ito, hindi lang sa salita, kundi sa gawa [We wholeheartedly thank the Iglesia ni Cristo for their compassion for our countrymen. You have shown this not just through words but actions],” he said.

“Maraming salamat po sa pagiging kabalikat ng ating administrasyon sa pagsusulong ng mabuting pamamahala [Thank you for benig a partner of the administration in advancing good governance],” said Aquino, who enjoys support from the INC that endorsed his presidential bid in 2010.

Before his speech, President Aquino, together with Manalo, unveiled the symbolic marker of “Ciudad de Victoria.”

Aside from President Aquino, among other government officials who attended the event were Vice President Jejomar Binay, his children Makati Mayor Jun-Jun Binay and Sen. Nancy Binay; Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada and Vice Mayor Isko Moreno, Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa, Interior Secretary Mar Roxas, Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr., Reps. Leandro Madrona, Miro Quimbo, Arthur Yap, and Gus Tambunting. Also spotted was businessman Ramon Ang of San Miguel Corporation, and representatives of Populous, Buro Happold and Hanwha Engineering and Construction Corp., which designed and built the arena.

At the Ciudad de Victoria, they were greeted by a sea of INC’s tri-color (red, white and green) – from the lights emanating from the dome, to the seats and the flaglets which the attendees waved joyously during the video presentation showing the INC’s accomplishments for the past 100 years.

Around 400 ushers and usherettes were on hand to assist the visitors.

Speaker Feliciano Belmonte said the Philippine Arena is something that the country must be proud of. He said the facility was built as a venue “for huge worship gatherings (of the INC) but at the same time it is a tourist attraction of our country and we can attract a lot of events worldwide because of this facility.”

Gov. Wilhelmino M. Sy Alvarado, who was among the guests, said “the Philippine Arena is not only the centerpiece of the INC centennial anniversary but is also a gem of pride for the people and the province of Bulacan and the entire nation as well.”

The governor said the opening of the Philippine Arena, which took 30 months to construct at a cost of some $200 million, will further spur economic growth not only in Bocaue, Sta. Maria, Pandi, Balagtas, and parts of Marilao but also the neighboring provinces in Region 3.

“This will usher in a new look for Bulacan which is now on the threshold of growth and development. The Philippine Arena is not only a beacon of strong faith to God but also heralds the dawn of bright future for the province due to its world class characteristic,” he said.

Ilocos Norte Governor Imee Marcos for her part said “talagang it is our pride that the INC called it the Philippine Arena. Isang malaking karangalan na maging bahagi ng pagdriwang na ito. Napakaraming ‘kabsat’.”

Dr. Francisca Reyes, who has been teaching at the New Era University since its establishment in 1975, described thearena as “majestic.” Dr. Reyes, who went to Ciudad de Victoria with her husband, a daughter, two grandchildren, and her son-in-law, said “may effort talaga for God’s glory.”

Cheska Guinto, 17, went to the arena with her friend, Marliza Tapalla. Both left their house in Tunasan, Muntinlupa City as early as 12:30 a.m. to attend a rehearsal at the INC Central Office in Quezon City for choir members. They reached the arena at 3 a.m., after a one-hour ride from Quezon City. They had no complaints, saying the event is “worth po ang pagpupuyat.”

Charles Lastimosa, another choir member, said, “wala akong masabi. Maganda talaga.”

The closing prayer delivered by Bro. Dan C. Orosa, an INC minister, aptly summed up the momentous event “Maraming salamat po mahal naming Panginoon sa paghango ninyo po sa amin mula sa hamak na simula ay tumataginting na po ang inyong simbahan sa buong mundo, salamat po.”

FROM PHILSTAR

Unfazed Palace trusts Congress on impeachment raps vs PNoy By Louis Bacani (philstar.com) | Updated July 22, 2014 - 4:54pm 1 39 googleplus0 0

MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang is unfazed by the two impeachment complaints filed this week against President Benigno Aquino III over the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).

Presidential Communications Operations Office head Herminio Coloma Jr. is confident that the actions of Congress, which is dominated by Aquino's allies, on the impeachment complaints will be for the welfare of the public.

"Katuwiran ang dapat na maging pangunahing batayan ng mga kinatawan. Sa kanilang pagpapasya, tiyak na isasaalang-alang nila ang saloobin at kapakanan ng mga mamamayan," Coloma said at a press briefing.

Coloma conceded that the impeachment process is a numbers game.

"Hindi maikakaila na mahalaga ang numero dito dahil sa kahuli-hulihan magbobotohan kung ipapasa o hindi ang panukalang impeachment," the Palace official said.

On Tuesday, youth groups filed an impeachment complaint at the House of Representatives against Aquino on the grounds of culpable violation of the constitution and betrayal of public trust.

Kabataan Party-list Representative Terry Ridon endorsed the impeachment complaint.

It was the second valid impeachment complaint lodged against Aquino this week. On Monday, A total of 28 groups and personalities led by militant group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) filed an impeachment case.

Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes Jr. criticized Aquino for his defiance of the Supreme Court's ruling on the DAP.

"From what we saw, it is clear that Aquino not only violated the Constitution, he has no intention of upholding it. He sees himself as being above the law. He sees himself as beyond public scrutiny. He is a dictator-in-the-making," Reyes said.

Party-list representatives belonging to the Makabayan bloc led by Neri Colmenares of Bayan Muna endorsed yesterday's complaint.

Under the House impeachment rules, a complaint cannot be entertained without the endorsement of at least one member of the chamber.

* Earlier, Malacañang warned that any move to file an impeachment complaint against the President in connection with the DAP would be futile at this point since it is premature.

The DAP, a stimulus package that realigns government savings to other projects to boost the economy, has been unanimously declared partially unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.

Aquino, however, refused to accept the high court's ruling, describing it as "difficult to understand" and "deeply unsettling."

Instead, the President heavily criticized the SC and openly challenged the magistrates to reverse their decision.

The President's perceived "bullying" of the high court sparked protests from the public and even court employees.

But the Palace sees nothing wrong with these reactions, saying these are signs of a "healthy" democracy.

"Sa isang masiglang demokrasya, hindi natin mamasamain na merong pagkakaiba ng opinyon, merong mga mamamayan na nais magpunta sa lansangan upang ipahiwatig ang kanilang saloobin," Coloma said.

Coloma said the Palace is not seeking for statements of support.

"Wala pong patakaran ang administrasyon na hihilingin pa ito o magsosolicit pa ng ganito. Mas mainam po siguro kung ito ay boluntaryong ilalahad sa takdang panahon na gustong ilahad ng mga may saloobin sa ganyang direksyon," Coloma said.

Palace downplays criticism By Delon Porcalla (The Philippine Star) | Updated July 23, 2014 - 12:00am 1 0 googleplus0 0

MANILA, Philippines - Malacañang downplayed yesterday the criticism President Aquino has been getting over the controversial Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) amid calls for his impeachment.

Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. of the Presidential Communications Operations Office said only a minority of the people disapprove of Aquino.

The President still enjoys the trust of a majority of Filipinos based on the latest Pulse Asia and Social Weather Stations surveys, where he had 55 to 56 percent performance approval rating, Coloma said.

In defending the DAP whose salient portions were declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda admitted yesterday that the economic stimulus fund was offered to lawmakers even before the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) was voided by the SC in November 2013.

“Again our position is that DAP is different from PDAF,” Lacierda said.

He said DAP funds were given to legislators for the implementation of projects that benefited their constituents.

Lacierda said they have asked the lawmakers to identify these projects.

Under the 116 projects purportedly funded by DAP, around P17 billion have been released to President Aquino’s allies in the Senate and the House.

Belmonte to colleagues: Account for DAP funds

Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. asked his colleagues in the House of Representatives yesterday to account for funds they have received from the administration’s DAP.

* Belmonte made the appeal in the wake of confusion on who among senators and congressmen got their share of DAP, and where their funds were spent.

Sen. Jinggoy Estrada had admitted that he received P50 million in DAP money and that many senators were allocated P50 million to P100 million. It was Estrada who blew the whistle on the controversial spending program.

“I have always asked my colleagues in the House to account for their projects and the funding afforded them for these. Each of us is responsible to our constituents and to the Filipino people and should be open to scrutiny in terms of where these public funds are utilized,” Belmonte said.

“I am aware of many House members who have projects actually being implemented and currently benefiting their districts,” he added.

Belmonte said his colleagues tend to “break up whatever funds they get into many smaller projects to spread around their districts,” with the intent of providing more services and benefits to a larger number of their constituents.

He pointed out that this would explain the existence of hundreds of special allotment release orders (SAROs) issued to lawmakers.

“The number of SAROs is not as important as whether the funds were used wisely and legally. We must not jump to conclusions and dub something as negative or ill-intentioned without the facts,” he said.

Belmonte promised to release the list of House members who received DAP funds and their covering SAROs as soon as the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) sends the documents to him.

Budget Secretary Florencio Abad said he was still reviewing the list “to avoid mistakes similar to the error that made it appear that a congressman received P3 billion in PDAF.”

He was referring to the special audit report of the Commission on Audit on PDAF disbursements between 2007 and 2009. The report showed that former Compostela Valley congressman Manuel Zamora was allocated P3 billion in PDAF.

Belmonte also said he is confident that none of the funds allocated to House members ended up with bogus foundations linked to alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles.

“None of that (funds) went to any NGO because when you receive it, there is already a menu of allowed projects to choose from,” he said, adding that the same requirement was not imposed on senators who received DAP funds.

He said DAP-funded projects of House members benefited the people as the money passed through government implementing agencies, unlike in the Senate where some of the funds were channeled through bogus NGOs.

“Ours are small allocations, nothing like that huge amounts given to some senators. I don’t know, I didn’t inquire much,” Belmonte said.

“In fact, they gave me P10 million worth of milk, but I returned it, what am I going to do with that,” he added.

There have been reports that P425 million in DAP funds made available to Estrada and Senators Ramon Revilla Jr. and Juan Ponce Enrile was funneled to Napoles foundations.

The three senators are now under detention in connection with separate plunder cases they are facing before the Sandiganbayan. The charges arose from their alleged misuse of their pork barrel funds.

Earlier, Belmonte admitted that most House members were allocated P10 million to P15 million in DAP funds.

Party-list Representatives Neri Colmenares of Bayan Muna and Antonio Tinio of Alliance of Concerned Teachers have admitted that they received P25 million and P10 million, respectively, in funds that turned out to have been sourced from DAP.

Colmenares was allocated P10 million in 2012 and P15 million in 2013. Tinio said he received his allocation in late 2011 or early 2012.

The two said they were not informed that the money was part of the accelerated spending program.

Caloocan City Rep. Edgar Erice, a Liberal Party stalwart, had admitted he received P40 million worth of flood control projects from the DAP but the funds are all accounted for.

He said he would inhibit from the impeachment proceedings against the President.

Iloilo Rep. Niel Tupas, chairman of the House committee on justice that will tackle the impeachment complaints, said he and his colleagues are verifying whether they received funds from DAP.

DPWH won’t stop DAP projects

Meanwhile, the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) will continue the construction of its ongoing projects funded under the DAP.

Speaking to ABS-CBN News, Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson said the flood control and other infrastructure projects which are being funded from its own savings through DAP are not covered by the SC ruling.

“These are ongoing (projects). I will not stop the flood control projects because I don’t think the unconstitutional aspect of the SC decision refers to projects like these,” he said.

“These are not covered by cross-border funding. We have our own appropriation, it’s a matter of savings, or the very least from the executive branch,” he added.

Singson said the department accumulated P27-billion savings in the last three years.

The DPWH chief said the SC ruling on DAP would not halt the implementation of projects that are part of a flood control master plan finalized two years ago.

“I cannot, in my conscience, stop the flood control projects even if they are funded by DAP. I would rather be jailed,” he said.

The Department of Social Welfare and Development received P1.9 billion in DAP funds to boost the government’s poverty alleviation program, Social Welfare Secretary Dinky Soliman said yesterday.

She said most of the funds went to Mindanao for the construction of day care centers, core shelters and classrooms.

For its part, the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) clarified that no funds outside of what was appropriated by Congress were added to that which government used for the compensation of landowners.

Reports said the administration had used P5.4 billion in DAP funds to pay landowners whose lands were covered by land reform, with the President’s kin getting P471.5 million for Hacienda Luisita.

Agrarian Reform Secretary Virgilio de los Reyes explained that Congress appropriated a total of P7.932 billion for landowners’ compensation for 2010 and 2011, under the 2010 and 2011 General Appropriations Acts, respectively.

A Notice of Cash Allocation for the amount was released to the Landbank on Oct. 4, 2011. Of the total amount, the release of P5.4 billion was facilitated through DAP and correspondingly released to Landbank as part of the government’s disbursement strategy.

“Some groups are trying to make it appear that this is the first time that the government is paying landowners. The DAR has been paying landowners for lands it acquired for distribution under the agrarian reform program for more than 30 years,” De los Reyes said. – With Jess Diaz, Paolo Romero, Edu Punay, Rhodina Villanueva, Artemio Dumlao

FROM THE INQUIRER

DBM doled out DAP in small doses By Gil C. Cabacungan |Philippine Daily Inquirer2:31 am | Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014

MANILA, Philippines–The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) dispersed the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) funds to legislators in small doses for indigent patients, scholarships and livelihood programs—a distribution pattern eerily similar to the congressional pork barrel funds before these were outlawed by the Supreme Court.

The Inquirer has obtained a 32-page summary of 1,014 special allotment release orders (Saros) covering P150.6 billion in total DAP funds, with some allocations as little as P5,000, to agencies and entities such as the departments of health, labor, education and agriculture, state hospitals, universities and colleges and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (Tesda).

Most of these DAP funds, distributed from October 2011 to December 2013, were not specified in the official list of the DAP projects presented by the DBM to the public shortly after President Aquino made his televised speech explaining the DAP and scolding the Supreme Court for declaring his purported economic stimulus program unconstitutional.

Saros

The list showed that roughly P300 million in funds were distributed through 180 Saros to the health department for financial assistance to indigent patients.

These were on top of the estimated 100 Saros granted to Lung Center of the Philippines, National Kidney and Transplant Institute, Philippine Heart Center and Philippine Children’s Medical Center. These were in addition to lump-sum funds declared by the DBM in its official list.

About P360 million in extra funds were channeled to the Department of Social Welfare and Development through 76 Saros mostly as financial assistance under the Comprehensive and Integrated Delivery of Social Services.

The DBM released about P870 million to the Department of Education and Tesda through over 180 Saros to bankroll scholarship grants and livelihood training programs.

Activist lawyer Harry Roque pointed out that the DBM had full control of how the DAP funds were spent as lawmakers were only given a menu by the Speaker and the Senate President from which to choose where their allocations of P10 million to P100 million would go.

“The bottom line is the lawmakers’ input if they want their DAP in the form of financial assistance or scholarships or medical grants or livelihood programs. The agencies implementing them have been preselected by the DBM,” Roque said in a phone interview.

DBM full report

* In a statement on Monday responding to Monday’s Inquirer report that 900 Saros went to lawmakers’ projects, the DBM said it would release a more detailed list of DAP-funded projects.

“Judging the DAP by these figures is misleading to the public,” the DBM said in a statement.

The DBM said when Saros were issued to implementing agencies for legislator-backed projects, it usually involved several Saros all at once.

Under solon’s office

Each allocation under a legislator’s office is used for many projects at the same time, the DBM said. Each of those projects needs its own Saro. These projects include releases to state colleges and universities for scholarship grants, hospitals for medical assistance, and local governments for local infrastructure projects.

“You can’t put all these projects in one Saro. Separate Saros are required because the implementing agencies are different, each with its own set of accountable officers,” the DBM said.

Bulk of DAP went to agencies

Budget Secretary Florencio Abad explained that lawmakers normally use their allocation for several projects to respond to as many of their constituents’ needs as possible.

“It’s not uncommon for lawmakers to use their respective allocations for several projects under various implementing agencies,” Abad said.

Lawmakers, he said, were never given the money. Instead, they were allowed to nominate projects, which the DBM would decide whether or not to finance based on their economic merit.

“Most of the funds released through the DAP were in fact made to National Government departments,” Abad said.

The number of projects per lawmaker supported by a single allocation can “easily” go up to around 20 projects per legislator, Abad said. Multiplied that by the number of lawmakers, the number of Saros would naturally seem large, he said.

COA audit necessary

Senate President Franklin Drilon said the the DBM should release its report on the DAP for the sake of transparency.
“These are public records and it is only right that the public be given access to these documents so that they can scrutinize and find out if public funds were indeed put to public use,” Drilon said in a statement.

Drilon urged the Commission on Audit (COA) to conduct a thorough study on the use of the DAP funds. “Only a COA report would dispel fears that these funds were used for personal gain,” he said.

Sen. Sergio Osmeña III also said the DBM should bring the pertinent DAP records to Thursday’s hearing of the Senate finance committee, which will look into the controversial program. “The burden of proof is on the DBM,” Osmeña told reporters.

PNP got P3.24 billion

Also Monday, the Philippine National Police said it had received P3.24 billion from the DAP covering four activities, according to Chief Supt. Reuben Theodore Sindac.

The PNP spokesman said the first activity was for the 2013 operational transformation program, which received a Saro of P2.8 billion, although P27.4 million was actually spent. This went to “Operation Hilamos,” or the makeover of 810 police stations.

Sindac said the allotment was also supposed to cover the purchase of P945 million in additional patrol jeeps and P883 million in additional assault rifles.

He clarified that the operational transformation program should not be confused with the capability enhancement program, which had a fixed P2 billion allotment in the national budget.

The second activity was the 2012 funding for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao investment plan, which was allotted P136.3 million but only P132.2 million was obligated.

The third activity was the 2012 construction of police stations in regions all over the country, with an allotment of P128.2 million but only P103.7 million was used.

The fourth activity was for the 2011 additional funds for the deficit in P1,000 per capita mode, with P115.5 million in 10 Saros.

Projects on hold

“The PNP receives Saros, but when we receive these we do not immediately know the source. It was only recently that we learned that these were sourced from the DAP,” Sindac told reporters.

He added that of the total amount, only P379 million, or 11.7 percent, was only actually spent or “obligated.”

With the Supreme Court declaring DAP as unconstitutional, the PNP lamented that several of its projects, such as the planned purchase of patrol jeeps and rifles and the makeover of police stations had to be shelved.

“It’s a loss to us since some of our projects no longer pushed through,” Sindac said.–With reports from Paolo G. Montecillo, Leila B. Salaverria and Julie M. Aurelio

FROM GET REAL PHILIPPINES BLOG

Philippine society grew dumber while #DAP funds channeled to Congressmen’s pet ‘projects’ July 21, 2014by benign0


benign0 is the Webmaster of GetRealPhilippines.com.

Public outrage is escalating to fever pitches over revelations that the administration of Philippine President Benigno Simeon ‘BS’ Aquino III (1) baldly refuses to recognise the ruling of the Philippine Supreme Court that the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) is unconstitutional, (2) refuses to release coherent details around the manner with which DAP funds were appropriated and released and, yet, (3) remains adamant that he and his henchmen had used the DAP “in good faith”.


Not enough electricity for a rapidly-dimming society

Information by the bucketloads has been coming to light. Included in this torrent of incriminating facts are revelations that thousands of DAP-funded ‘special allotment release orders’ (SAROs) had been funneled into the offices of members of Congress.

The Inquirer reports that 90 percent of the these SAROs were accounted for by releases to members of Philippine Congress on top of their routine pork barrel allocations. Budget Secretary Butch Abad reportedly refuses to confirm the figures while House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte says that he is not yet privy to a “full accounting” of the funds in question.

The fact that “more research” is required and that proper accounting reports are not readily-available to both of these top-ranked officials of the government already indicates the gross mismanagement of tens of millions of pesos of Filipino taxpayers’ funds that routinely goes unnoticed in the Philippine government.

This follows disturbing reports that the Philippines has slipped in ranking again in another development indicator that describes an aspect of its society that is critical to building a strong and prosperous nation. The recently-released Global Innovation Index (GII) for 2014 has seen the Philippines dropping ten rungs in the global ranking to 100th out of 143 countries evaluated.

* The Global Innovation Index (GII) uses 81 indicators to rank the innovation performance and potentials of 143 national economies around the world. It is co-published by WIPO, Cornell University and INSEAD. Higher or lower grades on the GII suggest weaker overall competitiveness of a country, as a separate Global Competitiveness Index used by the World Economic Forum puts greater weight on nations’ creative economies and ability to innovate.

Within the southeast Asian region, only Cambodia and Myanmar ranked below the Philippines, while communist Mongolia and holiday island Fiji ranked higher.

While not as obvious as the outlandish degeneration of key infrastructure around the Philippines, such as Manila’s derelict (and ironically-named) Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) and flatfooted electricity distribution network managed by the now Indonesian-owned Manila Electric Company (MERALCO), the relentless dumbing down of the Philippines’ ability to innovate its way out of its wretchedness is a wakeup call to the gloom in the country’s horizon.

Innovation is driving much of economic value created in the modern world while labour-added-value is now the province of far more underdeveloped economies. The Philippines has all but lost its place in the club of increasingly-affluent southeast Asian economies in which it was once a proud member. The way the DAP was handled is a case in point.

No less than the President, echoed by sidekick Secretary Abad, has been continuously insisting that the DAP along with his government’s other cash dole-out initiatives have “benefited” the Filipino public. Perhaps this may be true — to an extent that falls short of the real sense of national development funding.

It is a given that the DAP along with its close cousins, the so-called Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), are essentially slush funds used for greasing political agendas. But even if used honestly, funds released through these conduits tend to go to individual politicans’ pet and populist projects meant to temporarily alleviate isolated instances of impoverishment rather than bankroll truly visionary investments that expand the broad underlying physical, social, and intellectual capital base of Philippine society.

The types of public works and projects that build capital at that scale are usually driven by long-term strategic thinking and planning rather than the whimsical lip service paid by politicians to the tiresome chronic neediness of their individual constituencies.

That billions of pesos in Filipinos’ hard-earned money cannot be accounted for on demand by its custodians is a testament not only to astounding institutionalised thievery but also to a lack of a visionary and/or strategic plan to frame the way this money is invested back into the nation.

Where to go from here? It is obvious that the justice system, which struggles to dig its way out of a mountain of pending cases even in normal times, will utterly fail to prosecute ALL of who are culpable for this appalling crime and dereliction of civic duty.

To date, only three senators and a handful of their staff are in prison awaiting trial, while no less than President BS Aquino is covering up the misdeeds of Cabinet secretaries and top agency officials.

Even more disturbing, the nation’s most revered thought leaders — its showbiz celebrities — are scrambling to bring to bear their awesome hold on Filipinos’ minds to shore up the President’s rapidly collapsing popularity.

As the Philippines convulses its way through this unprecedented national crisis, one stark reality comes to the fore:

There is no justice in the Philippines. That much we can ascertain out of this gawd-awful mess as prospects for a convincing resolution, much less a satisfying closure in the face of billions of pesos lost forever grow dimmer by the week.

FROM THE INQUIRER

Calling on the rabble By Amando Doronila |Philippine Daily Inquirer12:09 am | Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014


By Amando Doronila

CANBERRA—The decision of the Supreme Court striking down the Aquino administration’s Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) as unconstitutional was so devastating to his regime that it sent the President on a warpath against the high court, provoking the worst showdown between the two independent organs of Philippine democracy since he took office in 2010.

The decision proved to be the catalyst of a potential constitutional crisis in more ways than one, flaring up as Mr. Aquino enters the twilight years of his six-year presidency marked by controversies not only between himself and his political enemies but, more so, between two coequal branches of government.

First, the decision is polarizing the nation along the lines demarcated not by social ideology but by self-righteous claims of Mr. Aquino, who has proclaimed fighting corruption as the hallmark of his governance.

Under it, his regime has launched the criminal prosecution of officials and their private cohorts accused by the Department of Justice of plunder and corruption in the Sandiganbayan.

So far, the Ombudsman has lodged a plunder complaint encapsulated in the lead cases against Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and Bong Revilla, their staff members and others, and executive-branch cases. These cases have been held out by Malacañang as a demonstration of its resolve to stamp out corruption in government.

Second, the decision has been so marked by acrimony between the executive branch and the judiciary that it generated heated exchanges in legal and political circles. It prompted Mr. Aquino to hurl threats against the Supreme Court, saying the outlawing of the DAP has raised the danger of a possible clash between the executive branch and the judiciary, to a point where the third branch would have to mediate.

This is clearly a dire and blatant threat of congressional intervention, given that the President’s coalition in the House of Representatives holds an overwhelming majority to overturn the effects of the high court’s cancellation of the DAP as a mechanism to take control of the distribution of the congressional pork barrel to public improvement projects—the lifeblood of congressional largesse to enable lawmakers to stay in office on the strength of the vote of local electorates.

* Clearly at stake in this conflict for control of the DAP is a power grab of public patronage resources at the expense of the independence of both Congress and the Supreme Court. The President applied coercive methods to the high court in his nationally televised message last week in defense of the DAP. It was clear that he was bullying the high court for its unanimous decision showing that it was not inclined to be reduced to being his lackey or rubber-stamp.

It was also clear that he resented having been rebuffed by a high court that would not allow his redistribution of the pork barrel according to a scheme designed by the fiscal geniuses in the Department of Budget and Management.

The fallout from the high court’s July 1 decision on the DAP proved immediately disastrous to Mr. Aquino’s public opinion standing. On the heels of the decision, his trust and approval ratings plunged to their lowest levels since he took office in 2010. The plunge shocked the President that his popularity rating was vulnerable, not irreversible.

The results of the surveys clearly told him that after an overextended honeymoon with the public, he was standing on a precarious perch and that the only way to go was downhill—a plunge helped by his arrogance of power in dealing with the two other branches in the tripartite system of checks and balances. Mr. Aquino does not seem to have understood the dynamics of this system during the past four years. It should have occurred to him that there’s a limit to the people’s patience toward the abuse of power.

Mr. Aquino has aggravated matters by calling on public opinion to put pressure on the Supreme Court in the course of the petition for the reconsideration of its decision. Malacañang has a right to appeal an adverse judicial decision.

No one is arguing against its exercise of this right. What’s not right is that it has now tried to agitate public opinion to apply pressure on the high court to reverse the justices’ ruling. It is calling on the rabble to exercise mob rule, to make the high court overturn its own decision.

The extrajudicial pressures resorted to by Malacañang reveal a deep-seated disrespect, or even contempt, for the rule of law and judicial processes that underlie constitutional democracy.

The actions of the President in response to the Supreme Court’s decision on the DAP betray a crude form of populism—a poorly disguised authoritarianism that this country experienced during the Marcos dictatorship.

Mr. Aquino is resurrecting the vestiges of martial-law autocracy without the benefit of a declaration of a national emergency. He is attempting to install a dictatorship without a mandate to rule by decree or by impulse.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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