- Posted October 5, 2013 by
A flood of disasters under the Aquino regime
UNLIKE his late mother Corazon, whose government was shaken by natural calamities such as the Ormoc Tragedy, Mount Pinatubo and Mount Mayon eruptions in the early 90s, Philippine President Benigno Aquino III’s regime is facing a different fate.
Two cases in point are the P10-billion “pork barrel” scam and the Zamboanga standoff, which are being viewed by political observers as man-made disasters.
Man-made disasters or not, the unfolding of these two political events came at a time when the present administration was trying to hurdle the fence of poverty through its conditional cash transfer program (CCT) for the poorest of the poor.
The CCT program, which is being undertaken by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) under Secretary Dinky Soliman, has also become the target of intense criticisms from different political sectors.
The CCT program, political observers claimed, is another fertile source of corruption that this government should likewise look into.
But have we booted out the roots of corruption? Is this government trailing the “daang matuwid” to achieve its goal? How far have we gone in this travel towards an honest and clean government?
Going back to the political events hugging in today’s headlines, the Zambonga standoff is viewed as diversionary tactics to sway the public’s attention from the much-publicized multibillion-peso scam. But did it bury the “pork barrel” scam issue?
After the plunder charges were filed before the Office of the Ombudsman against some lawmakers tagged as cohorts of Scam Queen Janet Lim-Napoles, Sen. Jinggoy Estrada dropped a bombshell inside the Senate hall.
In a privilege speech on September 29, Estrada exposed that the government bribed P50 million each member of the Senate just to boot out Renato Corona as chief justice of the Supreme Court. This revelation caught the Aquino administration flat-footed.
Immediately after this chilling revelation, Commission on Audit (COA) chairperson Grce Pulido-Tan on October 1 said the agency would conduct an investigation into Estrada’s revelation.
Back to the upper house, Senate President Franklin Drilon admitted that he received P100 million in "pork barrel" funds following the ouster of Corona on May 12 last year.
Such funds, he said, are part the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) allocated for infrastructure projects.
Drilon denied that the money did not come from Malacañang as a bribe in an effort to oust the former magistrate.
He emphasized that he poured the funds into his home province of Iloilo in preparation for the planned hosting of the Asia- Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in the year 2015.
But the issue did not end there. Like former national treasurer Leonor Briones, former Budget Secretary Ben Diokno is questioning the propriety of Malacanang's DAP.
Diokno said the DAP should be audited as well. He also questioned how the Aquino administration was able to come up with such huge savings taken from the P1.107-billion DAP.
Briones, meanwhile, wants a special audit into the controversial DAP that the Palace used to give lump sums to legislators.
She said she wants the government to clarify the source of the funds. She noted that special funds such as the motor vehicle users' charge, which is off budget, were created by an executive order.
"Is there an executive order? Is there a provision in the Constitution which legitimizes the creation? I also have more questions, the answers should come from the [Department of Budget and Management] and the Executive," she said.
She added: "If the source is from different savings then we have to clarify constitutional provision. Who has power to realign? Isn't it the legislature? After the budget is passed and the President realigns again, how do you call that? It is pork. Clearly, the source has to be clarified as to legitimacy and constitutional basis."
The former National Treasurer said the DAP may be considered a form of pork barrel since it is distributed to the legislators.
"Clearly, it is pork. By definition and tradition and international language, pork is given to legislator. Is it correct? No because it is pointed out that their function is to create laws not implement projects," she said.
Malacañang had earlier admitted it had more "pork barrel" funds for the senators, a few months after Corona was ousted.
According to Department of Budget and Management (DBM) Secretary Florencio “Butch" Abad, the estimated P1.107-billion distributed to legislators came from DAP.
However, Abad immediately clarified that the money was not a bribe for the senators to oust Corona.
"While it is unfortunate that DAP releases are now being maligned to serve some very questionable political interests, we hope that these fund releases are seen exactly for what they are: as a valuable fiscal tool for accelerating government spending and the delivery of public goods and services to the people, not as an instrument for political coercion," he said.
Briones said previously the interpretation has been the President can use the savings of his office -- the Office of the President proper and not the line agencies.
"The way this administration interpreted this provision is the entire government system is the Office of the President. It is too broad an interpretation because the President has his own office," Briones said.
She said the DBM Secretary has yet to clarify the source of DAP since it is not in the General Appropriations Act.
Everything has been said and done by all parties concerned. As the controversy keeps brewing like a storm, we want to ask: “Is there anyone out there who can stop the flood of disasters under the Aquino government?”